This semester I had the opportunity to observe and teach a concert band and music theory class. This experience was eye opening to me because I got a look into what it is like to be a teacher. Over the course of my time in the high school I got to observe one single teacher and ask them questions about classroom management, planning, student teaching, and running a music program. The classroom I watched was an accurate depiction of what my first job might be like. The students in the band would talk consistently during class. Even when the teacher would call them out, they would continue to talk. I learned a lot about classroom management, what works and what doesn't, by observing this teach. In addition I have learned a lot about lesson plans and using warm ups and method books to teach certain concepts like dynamics, phrasing, scales, that I can apply to repertoire I select for my future ensembles. This also gave me the opportunity to observe class that wasn't band, orchestra, or choir. The class I observed had a few students who had never read music, and I got to see how the instructor engaged both those with no experience reading music and those with a lot of experience. They used recorders and finale to students learn how to read and notate music. This also allowed the teacher to design activities for students who were more advanced. During a few of my visits I was able to teach, whether that was a small sectional or the entire band. When I taught the whole band I realized how comfortable I was in front of a large group of people. I also realized I still have a lot to learn about engaging students in a lesson before I actually get my own class. Below is the lesson plan I wrote for this class. Reflecting on the time I spent working on Rough Riders march I realized that I became focused on notes and rhythms in the Trio that I didn't get to my original objectives. It made me think about how I can structure lesson plans in the future to incorporate both my own objectives, and other stuff I need to work on during class.
This semesters practicum has allowed a lot self reflection on my courses at JMU and on my own individual teaching. It has allowed me to apply what I learned in class to actual students. Lastly, I have been able to observe certain classroom management, planning, and teaching techniques of one instructor over the course of several months.
This week I observed a concert band rehearsal. In addition I got teach part of the lesson. The instructor started off with a warm up. The band played a D major scale and altered the rhythms to make it more challenging as they go further into the lesson. After they finished their warm-up, they pulled out a long tone exercise from a method book for band. The teacher had them work on tuning and playing as an ensemble. I think this was a good idea because we are often so focused on learning notes and rhythms in pieces that we don't focus on things as small as playing as an ensemble. After this they worked on one of their pieces Don Ricardo. The instructor wrote out one of the main melodies for everyone in the class. They counted the different rhythms out loud, and isolated specific measures for those who were having trouble. The entire class seemed to know all the rhythms and notes. They put all this work into context. One of my peers led this portion of the class, and had the ensemble play the section with the melody they just worked on. However, once they put it into context they forgot some of the rhythms and notes and weren't playing confidently. As my peer was teaching the instructor went around and was counting for students so they could keep up. I think this is something students will begin to rely on, and therefore not bother learning the rhythms themselves because the teacher will give it to them. After they put all their work into context, they moved on to working on the march. The instructor started off by working on the style and differences between certain articulations. This is when I got up to teach the class. We worked on the trio section of the march. This experience allowed me to see what it was like to teach a class that wasn't comprised of my peers. I got my first taste of classroom management, and had to figure out how to be patient and wait for all the students to stop talking. In addition they would continue to play after I stopped conducting which was different than I was used to. Overall, I think my teaching went well and I was able to apply a lot of the concepts I had learned in other classes. After I stepped down the instructor finished the class by working on dynamics and blend for the third piece on their spring concert. The class continued to talk through most of the period and it didn't get better no matter what the instructor said. Observing this class today, in addition to teaching, gave me a good idea of what being a high school band teacher is like, as well as some ideas about classroom management.
This week I got to observe a music theory class. This was interesting because the teacher began instruction on guitar. The instructor started by drawing the different strings on a white board, and explaining what note corresponded with each string. She then explained the different notes on each string and drew them on her diagram on the board. I think this was effective because she was able to engage both auditory and visual learners. After she finished explaining it the students took a quiz she made through Musictheory.net This allowed her to design the number of questions the students got and see a complete report of every question they missed. As the students worked on the quiz she has two of the students who play guitar teach their peers, and allow them to play. This engaged the students who already knew how to play guitar, and allowed the other students to play around on the guitar. If students finished the quiz early she had them review what they worked on last class with key signatures. This ensured that none of the students were sitting there at all during the class, or working on homework for other subjects. After all students had a turn playing guitar, and finished the quiz the teacher had all the students work on rhythmic and melodic dictation. Since some of the students in this class had never read music before, she had to keep it pretty simple. She gave them all the rhythms included in each excerpt. She sang or clapped through the entire thing and then broke it down measure by measure to make sure everyone was able to keep up. A lot of the students were able to dictate each of the melodic and rhythmic dictations. Overall, i liked the way this class was run because there were activities that reached students of all abilities and kept everyone engaged throughout.
This week I had the opportunity to observe a Music Theory class. This was very interesting because most of my observations had been band or general music classes. The first thing the teacher had the class do was play recorder. Since some of the class has never played an instrument, she uses the recorder to teach rhythms and note reading to those students. It also presented something new to learn for those who had already learned an instrument. The teacher allowed us to play along with the class, so we got to learn along with class. After they went through several songs, the teacher had them do a little bit of listening. For every piece, or song they listened to they had to write down the tempo they thought it was, the style, why they liked it, and why they think the audience would like it. I really liked this activity because the students were engaged, and the teacher made sure that they knew that this was their opinion and there was no right answer. The last activity they did involved a chord progression they completed last week. This activity involved putting their chord progression into finale. This helped them learn what chords can go to wear, how to write out major and minor chords, and how to put all of this into Finale. I really enjoyed this class. The students were very respectful. In addition, because of the size of the class, the teacher was able to answer all individual questions, and they were able to have a lot of fun while learning. The instructor did a good job of planning out her class, and sequencing her activities so they built upon each other.
This week I had the opportunity to observe a concert band class for the third time. The instructor gave me the chance to teach a sectional during the class. The teacher had the class play scales at the beginning in the sixteenth note triple rhythm so they could apply it to the piece they were working on. After their warm up I had 15 minutes to work with the flute section on the beginning of one their pieces. Since I didn't have a lot of warning I had to come up with what to do as I was teaching. It was challenging because I was trying to explain rhythms they had never seen before, and I had never seen the piece prior to this. The section had a hard time grasping different rhythms so while some of them got it, a lot of them were just trying to follow along. Another reason it didn't go well was because some of the students didn't want to play. They would just stand there, and not listen when I asked them to play. It was frustrating because we could have gotten so much more done if the students just paid attention and played. However, we were still able to go over all the rhythms and notes we were supposed to. After the sectional, the instructor had the whole band play the sections we went over. Since, we had just worked on it, they were able to help the rest of the band who were reading it for the first time. The teacher ended the class by finishing reading their pieces for the spring concert. Some things I noticed during class was how many of them were inattentive. Some were on their phones/computers, eating candy, or talking over the instructor. The instructor would try to get their attention by shushing them, and it never really worked. She also continued to talk over them, which it didn't help the talking either. Overall, I think the class went and the sectional I taught went well. However, some of the student's inattentiveness and talking during class inhibited the amount they were able to do get done during their time together.