21 August, 2014
Thoughtful Discussions in Music Class

Thoughtful Discussions in Music Class


This past summer, I was fortunate enough to take a class through my district about making thinking visible. We use the word "think" a lot, but it wasn't until this class that I really thought about what thinking means! While I'm not an expert in the area of making thinking visible, I'm going to write about a discussion I had with my first and second graders that I found very insightful.

Thoughtful discussions in music class: Getting students thinking about musical concepts, like steady beat!


When I took this course, I read the book "Making Thinking Visible." The book can be viewed on Amazon by clicking on the picture below. It is a wonderful read!

While I read many of the routines and strategies in the book, I was both excited by the possibilities and worried about how I would find the time to have meaningful discussions. So many music teachers try to fill the time we have with our students with engaging activities, with singing, playing, dancing, etc., and we STILL don't feel like we have time for everything we need to teach! How would I have these conversations with these students and still have time for what I needed to teach?

Well, part of the answer is that through these conversations, students will learn more, and the other part of the answer came in the form of a new schedule for me this year. The number of times I see students is a bit confusing to explain, but I do see the students in grades 1-5 for fifty minutes instead of thirty-five. At first, I wondered how I would fill the extra time (More activities? More instrument playing? More dancing?), and I also worried it would feel really long, but honestly, I like it much better than I thought I would. I don't feel so frantic when I teach...AND I have time for these conversations the books recommend!

I decided to be brave and try a simple thinking routine on the first lesson. Crazy, I know! But after we learned the rules and procedures and played a couple games (and after we finished a beat-keeping activity), I asked my first graders, "What do we know about beat?"

It was kind of scary, to be honest. I've never seen another music teacher try to carry this kind of conversation. What if they didn't answer? What if they didn't answer correctly? Well, to my delight, here were some of their responses (all of which I wrote down on the SMART board so I could refer back to them):

  • The beat stays the same.
  • The beat goes over and over.
  • The beat keeps going.
  • When the music stops, the beat stops.
  • You can change the beat.
  • The beat is different than the rhythm.
  • The beat is steady.
  • It's like the heartbeat.
  • We do motions with the beat.
  • We can hear the beat.
  • We can follow someone else's beat.
  • We can keep the beat on our laps.
  • We can keep the beat in our feet.
  • We can keep the beat anywhere.
This, to me, told me they understood beat at not just a surface level. I know their thinking can get even deeper, but I was excited with this to start!

If you're interested in having a conversation like this with your students, here are some suggestions:
  • Word the question so that it is not too specific. You want some "big ideas" to come out of the question, so if you ask a question that can be answered with "yes" or "no" then those big ideas might not evolve out of the discussion. I had the question "What is the purpose of beat?" from my Essential Questions set on the board, like this, to help guide the discussion further:
  • Wait. I had a few conversations in which it was like listening to crickets at first. NO ONE raised their hands for a while (especially when I had a similar conversation with my fifth graders about rhythm!) Then I would repeat the question, elaborate a bit more, and a brave soul would raise his/her hand. After that, others followed suit. I think it'll be this way for a while, until they are used to these kinds of conversations in the music room!
  • Adapt your instruction if needed. If students don't answer the question in a way that shows understanding, then circle around back to that concept in your instruction.
  • Read the book! I can't do it justice with one blog post, or even several blog posts. The book is wonderful, full of tons of different routines that could work well in the music room, and well worth the read!
Good luck with your discussions, and have a great weekend!

05 August, 2014
My Music Room Set-Up`

My Music Room Set-Up`



Today I am very excited to blog about my music room set-up for this year! (Thanks to Dancing Crayon Designs, KG fonts, and Sassy Designs for the cute fonts and graphics!)


So this year, since our school-wide theme is "Out of this world," I decided to do a space-themed classroom. After making that decision, I got to work and created a space-themed music classroom set, which you can view by clicking on the picture below:


I found a seller on Etsy that makes really cute out-of-the-world signs. Here is my sign I will be posting outside my room:

Cute space-themed sign for your classroom! Blog post includes tons of other ideas for your space-themed classroom!
Isn't it cute?? You can order one for yourself (with several different designs, with your own name) by clicking on the picture above.

Here are a couple shots of my room:

My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!


My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!


Here are my bookshelves. I used the editable word wall template in my set to create labels for my bookshelves. It is the only way I can stay organized (and as you can see, I still have some organizing to do!)


Here is my counter. I bought the black baskets at Wal-Mart, and the plastic bins at Staples. The plastic bins are for organizing my melodic and rhythmic materials. I'm going to buy another one soon to organize all of my centers materials!


I found this magnetic board in Gatlinburg on our vacation, in a gift shop. The animals are magnets by a company called Natural Life (not space-themed but cute nonetheless), but you could use whatever magnets you want. I plan on hanging student work and notes so I can enjoy them!

Here are my music rules, which are included in the set.

Here is my space-themed musical symbol set (which is similar to my chalkboard musical symbol set); the set shown below is also included in the classroom decor set. 
My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!

Here is my word wall, also included in the classroom decor set. It took a while to cut and laminate but I love the way it looks!
My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!

I wrote about using colored bins in this blog post; here is one of my bins. The other three are spread throughout the room; hopefully having them far away from each other will help kids get their materials quickly and smoothly!

In my last blog post, I wrote about this awesome bulletin board set by David Row at Make Moments Matter. I love that it showcases I can statements AND is space-themed. Also, thanks to Lindsay Jervis for the idea of layering bulletin board trimmer. Love it!
My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!

I just created this bulletin board set, and have added it to my space-themed set. If you've already purchased it, you can simply re-download under "my purchases" for the new sets.
My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!
The idea of this set is to first work on the lines of the treble clef. The posters say "We're flying fine...when we are on the lines!" and the flying saucers have the letters of each line (E, G, B, D, and F.) I used monster duck/ duct tape which I found at OfficeMax (looks like aliens!) and made the treble clef out of silver duck/ duct tape. I have black fabric as the background, which made it a bit easier when working with the tape. When I move to spaces on the treble clef staff, I'll change the visuals to say "In space..we say FACE!" and the flying saucers will change to F, A, C, and E.

Here is my last bulletin board. It is out in the hallway; students can post their names there after receiving star student at the end of class (if they get that reward on my SMART board.) I'll keep adding to this board as more star students add their names! I have added the visuals for this to my "Out of this world" set.

Star student bulletin board: Cute way to keep track of who has been star student!

When I decided to do a space-themed classroom, I found this blog post about creating a solar system with paper lanterns. I thought it was so cute that I had to buy some paper lanterns for myself!  I also found a cute black chair and alien pillow (from Wal-Mart); here they are below.
My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!

I found out that I probably can't hang paper lanterns from the ceiling because of fire code, so I hung them off the wall like shown below. I used fishing line, tied one end to a pushpin, pushed that into the square above my white board, and then tied the other end to the paper lantern. The first lantern is supposed to be the sun, so I am missing a planet (and I want to add a ring to Saturn) but I still love the way it looks!

My Music Room Set-Up: Blog post with TONS of ideas for organization and decor in your music and/or space-themed classroom!

That's pretty much it! Make sure to click below to see the other music room set-ups of other music teachers!






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