Five Ideas to Try After a Concert

5 Ideas to Try After a ConcertThis is the time of year where I start seeing posts on social media about what to do after the concert, what to do during testing, and even, what to do when your students aren’t allowed to play because of noise during testing! So, whether any of these scenarios resonate with you, or if you are looking for something different to try, here are five ideas that will motivate learners, tap into creativity, and help you move towards a more learner-centered environment.

Reflect

Reflecting is an invaluable tool that we do not use enough – with our students or as teachers – but the fact is, it’s essential for a learner-centered environment. If reflecting is not already a part of your routine, following a concert or performance is a great time to try it. Students should reflect not only on their performance but also on their preparations leading up to it and how it will impact their future learning. This process of “thinking about thinking” is known as metacognition. It allows students to take their learning to the next level.

If your students are new to reflection, you might want to begin with sentence starters to as guidance. “I was good at_____.” “Next time I might_____.” “I still struggle with______.” You could also try providing students with graphic organizers such as a PMI chart: Plus, Minus, and Interesting. Students are instructed to fill in items for each category.  Remember – when reflecting, the process is as important as the product.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey

Student Leaders

For many teachers, especially those with ensembles, the majority of our rehearsal time is teacher directed. After a concert is a great time to try giving students the opportunity to stand in front of the ensemble. I have had students conduct our performance pieces, run warm-ups, teach new skills, or introduce lines from the method book. And they love it! Students should get the opportunity to have their voices heard, and allowing them time in front of the ensemble gives them a new appreciation for how an ensemble works outside of their sections.

fullsizeoutput_320

Makerspace

The Makerspace movement has been finding its way into classrooms around the world, but how many music teachers have tried it? A Makerspace project is an excellent choice for a day when playing instruments is not an option. For those that are new to the Makerspace concept, it is primarily intended for students to create, invent, and learn. Some Makerspaces are very involved, including things like 3D printers, electronics, and computer software. Others are more simple and contain found objects and art supplies, such as cardboard tubes, rubber bands, string, etc. This was the type I created for my students for a Makerspace Instrument Challenge. Their task was to create an instrument that could produce a sound. They were given 5 minutes to look at the materials and plan their instruments, 1 minute to “shop” for materials, and 10 minutes to create. I enjoyed watching the students work, and their creativity was evident throughout the project. Here are the project details, feel free to make a copy: Makerspace Instrument Challenge. I guarantee you will love the results! Pair this with an exploration of sound or instruments families to make it more cohesive unit.

Composition

I love having students work on composition projects. Composing is an essential part of being a musician. It’s also another way to build creativity and give students ownership of their music making. There are many different ways to do this. Here’s an example of a composition project for beginning and intermediate string players: Kimble Strings: Composition. This year I took my composition project another direction and incorporated a Design Thinking strategy, the LAUNCH Cycle, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. The finished products had some similarities to previous years, but using the LAUNCH Cycle, students started the process with empathy and conclude by receiving peer feedback and making revisions based on that feedback. It is definitely something I will try again. This document explains the details of the project: Music Composition Project – Using the LAUNCH Cycle.

Genius Hour

“Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.” A.J. Juliani

To be completely honest, I have not tried this yet. But I plan on it soon – right after my concert! Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to work on something that interests them. Something they are passionate about, or something they wonder. In music, especially ensembles, students are usually working on music chosen by the director. With a genius hour project that is not the case. The students get to pick what they learn, research, and create. How can this work in music? With a little imagination and some planning. While this is probably the most complicated idea here, I think it could also be one of the most rewarding. Amy Rever, a middle school band director, has tried it with her students on more than one occasion and has great things to say on her blog, The Noisy Room Down the Hall. I think if you are ready to try something big, this is the perfect challenge!

I’d love to hear if you have done any of these things with your students, or if you decide to take the plunge and try one let me know how it goes! Don’t be afraid to try something new. Give the students choice, encourage them to be creative and take risks of their own! The results are worth it.

 

Enjoy what you have just read? Please consider following my blog! You will get an email notification when new posts are published. Email addresses will not be shared or distributed. 

 

 

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student

Then ask yourself, what am I controlling that my students could do for themselves?

I am so excited to share this post, which I co-wrote with Kathryn Finch! 

Empowered Music Student

For a long time, our focus was on engaging the learners and making sure students were “actively engaged” in music making in my classroom. But more recently we have discovered that engagement is not enough. To make an impact and to optimize life-long learning, students must be empowered. The best explanation of the differences between engaged students and empowered students came from Bill Ferriter.

engage vs empower

Which brings us to the question, what does an empowered music student look like? This student

  • has a choice and a voice
  • asks questions (and then finds the answers)
  • is connected (to students and musicians inside and outside the classroom)
  • creates as well as consumes
  • owns the learning process

Has a choice  

Maybe that starts with lesson plans. When planning ask yourself, where can I offer more choice in this lesson? For example, in the elementary music room, students may learn to play classroom instruments with the proper technique by performing instruments during a sound story. Often, the specific words and instruments are pre-determined. But do they need to be? Read the sound story to your students and let them decide how and when instrument sounds would be appropriate. The impact is big. Students love the chance to choose and often perform better when it’s their idea and creation. Once you feel comfortable finding ways to offer more choice in a lesson, the next step is to lesson plan with students instead of planning for students. Take the plunge. Start a project in class and share that you aren’t positive what the next steps are or how long this project will take. Ask for student feedback to plan future music classes.

Has a voice

This could start with rehearsals. When an ensemble (classroom, choral, or instrumental) learns a piece of music, ask: How did we do? What did you notice? What areas should we work on next? This is a great way to make thinking visible. Ask students for the next steps.  Ask them for suggestions. When appropriate, ask someone to begin the piece when the group is ready. Allow students to lead and offer feedback so the activity transforms from being done to them into something they can mold and shape with their own ideas. It doesn’t have to stop there. Sometimes questions come up in discussion or rehearsal. How do we handle that? Do we lead the class back to the main objective because we have a pacing guide and future plans already made? Or do we run down a rabbit hole with them because a genuine, authentic question was asked? When students have a voice in the classroom, they believe their thoughts and opinions truly matter. Teachers who give students voice believe this too.  

Asks questions

Typically in education, the teacher asks the questions, and the students answer. What did you hear in that piece of music? Or, what symbol tells the musicians to get louder? Empowered learners have the opportunity to ask questions and then take it a step further, to find the answers. In a music industry class, students could learn various job opportunities by creating and managing their own bands. The students learn as they go what it takes to start a band and determine their next steps throughout this authentic process. No longer is the teacher the keeper of all information. Instead, the teacher must encourage students to ask questions and empower them to find the answers.  

Creates as well as consumes

We all consume books, movies, YouTube videos, etc. but do we all find a balance of creating as well? This creation could be as simple as improvising rhythmic or melodic ideas, or more complex by writing song melodies or lyrics. It also invites students to use their voice, make choices, and ask questions as they work through the process of creating something musical. As music teachers, we know the value of having our students consume high-quality music, but we must also encourage them to create their own high-quality music. When we create, we invest and share a little of ourselves with the world. We learn to take ownership of our music making. We make decisions and learn to handle bumps in the road. Creating is not only an important skill in music, but it is also a valuable skill in life.

Is connected

Music teachers know well the power of networking. It can be a lonely job at times, with no one else in a school who teaches music. So, we network and learn from others near and far, in person and online. Why wouldn’t we want those opportunities for our students? We strive to be the best for our kids, but we can’t be experts on everything. Nor should we have to be. With a little work behind the scenes on social media, we can invite an expert into our room, in person or through facetime. With the help of technology, we can connect classrooms so students can learn from their own peers around the world. It’s a powerful tool we shouldn’t overlook. Connecting students to musicians outside of the classroom makes the experience more authentic, and therefore more meaningful.

Owns the learning process

When students own their learning, it doesn’t mean they are given free-reign to do whatever they want. It means they are involved in the process and are charged to actively control their own learning. Students can tell you what they are learning and why it is important to them. Students have more questions they want to find answers to, and have determined their own next steps in the process. They are engaged and excited about their own learning. Students are not waiting for the teacher to lead the process, they own the process and look to the teacher for guidance and support.  

So, how do we as music teachers make a shift towards empowerment in the music classroom? Well, first things first. Remember that it’s a shift. It’s not something that happens overnight. Start by giving yourself permission to think about it. Then ask yourself, what am I controlling that my students could do for themselves? When we start to question why we do things, we begin to see opportunities for change.  

 

Links for Further Reading:

How I Increased Voice and Choice in My Music Classes, and Why I’ll Never Look Back

Listen

Next Steps for the Kindergarten Music Program

Learner Centered Innovation

Personalized Learning: Part 3, How it Works

How to Build a Recording Studio

 

Sources:

http://www.spencerauthor.com/empower/

http://blog.williamferriter.com/2014/01/28/should-we-be-engaging-or-empowering-learners/