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Listen to Myself Challenge

One of the wonderful things about blogging is meeting other educators from around the country (and sometimes, around the world!) It's great to be able to read other people's perspectives and to connect with other music teachers.

David from Kansas is one of those teachers; he has a great blog at makemomentsmatter.weebly.com. He was actually inspired by an article I pinned on Pinterest about things you should say to students, and started a linky party called the "Listen to Myself Challenge."


David encouraged other music bloggers to blog about what we hear ourselves saying, what words/phrases we want to add to our teaching vocabulary, or what we've learned about what  we're saying. I love this idea, and will write about four things I'd like to ask students and one thing I will listen for. Here goes!

#1: "What did you do this weekend?"
At my current school, I teach about 500 students. With this many students, it can be a challenge to get to know them on a personal level. In the past, at the end of every class, as students were lined up, I have kept students singing. I've liked doing this because they get even more singing in as we are waiting for their teacher...but this year, I've been trying to ask them questions instead, like "What did you do this weekend?" or "Did anything exciting happen yesterday?" I've asked questions like these during solo greetings, but at the end of the class, I can hear more detailed answers. It's through questions like these that I found out that Logan went to Hocking Hills like my family did, and that Jocelyn plays football. I hear about soccer games, gymnastics meets, and sleepovers. I want to continue to do this as a way to get to know my students on a more personal level, because with only seeing them twice a week for 35 minutes, this can be a difficult task!

#2: "Why?" and "How?"
Lately, I have been trying to include more opportunities for critical thinking in my music classroom, asking questions that involve deeper thinking. In a recent third grade lesson, after reviewing how to conduct in 2/4, I asked students, "Why does a band, choir, or orchestra need a conductor?" to which one of my students answered, "They need a conductor because otherwise...well, they'd be a hot mess!" Ha! Yes, Jadyn, yes, they would! I also had a discussion comparing folk tales to folk songs, which was not planned; I only had the discussion because one of my fifth graders asked if I made all of this music up, leading me to conclude that I needed to have more discussions about folk songs. It is my goal to include more opportunities for critical thinking, to really get my students thinking on a deeper level and transferring their knowledge to a different setting. These opportunities allow students to see the "big ideas" of music: how music is handed down, why we notate music, why we need conductors, why we sing, etc. To this point, I have created some critical thinking sets, which you can view by clicking on the pictures below. The sets include discussion starters like the ones listed above. I'm excited about these discussions, because it's taking my teaching, and their learning, to a different level.




#3: "What did we do/ learn today?"
This question actually stems from my district's initiative to make students aware of their own learning. For a few years now, they have encouraged us to post "I can" statements, and to ask students what we are doing and why. This year, I've been trying to really be more intentional with my review at the end of the lesson. I used to just ask in the last minute of the lesson, "What did we do today?" but then many times students just answer "We played Apple Tree," or "We played Bee Bee!" It's great they can recall that, but even more than that, I want them to understand what we learned. So I ask the question "What did we do and learn today?" If students answer with just activities, then I will specifically ask, "And what did we learn today?" I love it when I get responses like "We listened for the difference between echo songs and call/response songs," or "We learned about sol and mi on the staff." We often do so many things in one lesson, it's great to be able to review everything we did. I think it gives students perspective about how much we can accomplish in thirty-five minutes!

#4: "What would you like to do?"
In an effort to give students more choices, I've been trying to not be so controlled with my lessons. I have the entire lesson written out with detailed steps, but lately, I've been trying to give them some creative choice (this was inspired by Crystal Henricks, who presented a session about student choices and creativity. Thank you Crystal!) For example, in a recent lesson with first graders, we were reviewing echo and call/response, and I asked them what call/response songs they knew. In my written lesson, I intended to have them figure out that "Come back home my little chicks" was a call/response song, and then sing and play the game. But then one of the students mentioned "Shoo Turkey," and I decided to ask which they'd like to play. An overwhelming majority chose "Shoo Turkey," so away we went! I know for some this seems like a no-brainer, but I was trained to write out very detailed, scripted lessons. While this has led to seamless lessons, I've had to loosen the reins of my control so the students have a say.
A couple other examples: sometimes kids really beg to play a singing game. This happened recently with Mrs. Macaroni (Wow, they just LOVE that song...here it s below.)



 So I told them if they had great behavior and we got through everything, I would add it in at the end. I had to shorten a few activities to fit it in, but they were so excited for the reward!
I also had a student make up a game to "Miss White," which was just like the game for "We are dancing" but with lampposts instead of trees. When he asked if he could teach the game to everyone, I made sure to squeeze in the game so we could all play, and then I ended up teaching the game to my other 1st grade classes.
There are, of course, a plethora of ways you can give students choices through creative activities (but that is a whole other topic!) Giving students choices is fun AND gives them more ownership of what we do in music class.

#5: ...And I will listen and make sure I'm not using my voice too much!
This year, I've lost my voice--or have come close to losing it--several times. Fridays always seem to be the worst, after four full days of teaching (and of course, I have to teach 130 kids in choir before school on Friday. Not the easiest with a hoarse voice!) A couple weeks ago, I made a pledge to myself to not sing so much with the students. As a general rule, I don't sing with the students once they know the song, as I want to make sure they are singing--not me--but sometimes I catch myself singing along just because it's fun to sing with them. I love making music with my students...but not at the price of losing my voice every week. So I have been listening to myself lately, making sure I am only singing when I need to, and that I am only giving as much direction as I need to. This is one of those challenges as a music teacher that I didn't know about until I began teaching...you use your voice so much! I also am an instrumentalist, so several years ago, had to take voice lessons to make sure I was using my voice correctly (and truth be told, I could still use those lessons...if only I had enough time in my day!) Singing and talking less will not only save my voice, but will ensure that students are independently singing.

Thanks to David for the linky party! Make sure to click the logo above to read David's informative blog, as well as the blogs of any music teachers who link up. Have a great Sunday!

2 comments

  1. These are amazing things to think about and reflect on as I head into another big week of teaching. I especially love #2 and #3 because I recently took a class on critical thinking in the music classroom and have been really trying to incorporate more critical thinking and leading questions in all lessons.

    I ALSO have to include I CAN statements in my room but I don't think I have to use them quite the same way as you. Do you post new ones fore each lesson? That seems like a lot of work (which is probably why your document on TPT surpassed 600 pages!). I'm lucky that I can post pretty broad I CAN questions so that I don't have to change them so frequently.

    It's also crazy that you posted your comment about I CAN and what students had learned with your link to your TPT store. I had not seen those before on your TPT! I'm guessing your'e using those primarily IN class to be posted on a bulletin board? About two weeks ago I started to make my own "I Can" statements that could be taken home with students to show parents what we're working on. As I said, I have some posters in my room to show students during the lesson, but I'm working on these new short notes to be taken home so that parents know what we're doing (hard to get that info across since so many of my parents don't speak English... how to explain what it is that their child needs to know) and keep students thinking about what they're taking away.

    Anyway, love your post here and am totally inspired for the week ahead! Thanks for sharing and for joining in the party!

    Best,
    David

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    Replies
    1. Hi David! Sorry I'm just now responding. Yes, I have to post "I can" statements specific to each lesson. I post them on my SMART board along with the lesson's agenda, but lots of people in my district write or post them on the board.
      Love your idea about sending notes home to parents! Thanks for your kind words! :)

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