I have posted a few times about my personalized learning goals for this year, and have received some questions about how it works within the band and orchestra world. I’ll try to explain how some of the day to day activities work within my classroom. You can access my previous posts here: Personalized Learning: Part 1 and Personalized Learning: Part 2.
Things are still going very well! By the end of the second quarter, 51% of the orchestra students met their goals (compared to only 27% in the first quarter), with 12% of those students actually exceeding their goals. 90% were able to show progress from the first quarter. While some might say that 51% isn’t a very good number, I am quite happy with it for halfway through the year. Considering the students are asked to be very independent learners, especially compared to the other aspects of their school experience, it’s great progress.
I have made a point to talk to students each class period to have them identify the skill(s) they are working on. This has helped them understand better that the learning targets are skills they need to master, not songs. Students have also started to look at feedback on videos that did not receive a passing score, to figure out what they need to fix. Once again in the second quarter, there were a small handful of students who made amazing progress! For me that is the best part of this project, seeing students who always do what you ask but nothing more, become inspired to push themselves beyond the status quo.
Here are a few tools and strategies we are using to make this all work:
Essential Elements Interactive
All students have school-issued iPads and we have installed the Essential Elements Interactive app, which corresponds to the lesson book, Essential Elements. Within the EEi app students have access to recordings of all book songs, fingering charts, and more. The recordings can be played many ways, which the kids love: melody alone, melody and metronome, or the melody with a choice of 4-6 different accompaniments! Students can even choose to make the piece slower. Students who actually practice using EEi love it and are making great progress. The app also has the capability for students to record themselves playing along with the accompaniment and submit it to me, but since we use Canvas as our LMS that function isn’t necessary. The EEi app has been great for my purposes because it gives students something to reference when struggling with a specific skill, such as rhythms. The students also love being able to change the accompaniment, and I suspect often play pieces more times just to hear the various options.
After learning more about classroom design over the summer I decided to obtain some flexible seating options for my students. I talked about this in my first blog post in September. What I’ve discovered, is that students enjoy having a choice in where to practice! Many have settled into their favorite spots, and several seem to prefer standing, which is always fine with me. My biggest concern about giving students options of how to sit (on the floor, on a stool, with a pillow, etc.) was that there would be posture issues. The reality is, kids who have posture issues on a chair have posture issues on a stool or sitting on the floor! So while alternative seating options didn’t cure any posture problems, it didn’t create any new ones either. Those students continue to receive posture guidance from me throughout the class. During lesson time when students are practicing alone or with a partner, they appreciate having the option to find their own workspace within the room.
I talked about the Recording Studio in my post about Flipgrid but students use it just as often to complete Learning Target recordings. The Recording Studio is a corner of my closet that gives students a quieter place to record their videos. During lessons, students are frequently working on all different things so the room can get loud. This helps to reduce some of the background noise and adds a bit of privacy to the recording process.
The Clothes Pin System
I’m not completely sure where I got this idea, but I have seen others do similar things with cups on student desks. Each student or group gets 3 clothespins: a green, yellow, and red. They clip the green clothespin to the top of their music stand. Students can switch to yellow if they have a non-crucial question, and switch to red if they cannot move forward without help. This keeps students from following me around the room and interrupting time helping others. It then allows me to focus on who needs help next. The best benefit is that often students will solve their own problems while waiting for me!
Many things with the project are still evolving, which is to be expected. For example, I have decided for the 3rd quarter, students who did not succeed in meeting their goals so far will need to come up with a detailed practice plan. Something to help hold them accountable. I’m sure there will be other tweaks and adjustments along the way. It’s a learning process for all of us!