This week I had the opportunity to observe a concert band class. This was definitely one of the most unique observation experiences i've had during my time at JMU. The first thing I noticed was how long it took students to set up and actually get their instruments out. They seemed to be in no rush to play, even though the teacher wanted to get started quickly. The teacher started off the rehearsal with long tones and scales. Instead of standing in front the of the room, she walked around and listened to individual players throughout the duration of the class. This was helpful because I think she was able to connect with the students more than if she just gave instructions from the podium the whole time. After a short warm up they got into the music they are working on for assessment. The first piece they worked on was a march. Something I really liked was that she had everyone play a spot in the song they had a similar rhythm. Then when she had everyone agreeing on style and articulation, she put it in the context of the piece. Since they are getting closer to assessment, she was trying to run larger sections. However, since students haven't really been practicing she kept having to stop and go over notes and rhythms. They also worked on another piece for assessment after the march. This one involved a lot of instruments having similar passages of sixteenth notes, so the teacher wrote out the same rhythm and notes for every instrument. When she played this particular part in the context of the piece, the students were having trouble with the notes. She had them pull out the sheet music and went over it measure by measure with the entire class. Then once most of the class could play it she put it in the context of the music. Even though she had to slow it down a lot for them to play all the right notes, they were all playing the correct rhythms now. A lot of what the teacher did related to what we are currently talking about in class about sequencing your lesson. Throughout the period, she went through sequences with each piece she worked.
There were a lot of things that surprised me throughout the class. First of all is how much talking went on. Students didn't seem to care if their instructor was talking, they thought their conversation was a lot more important. A number of them were on their phones throughout the duration of class, even the instructor had already told them a countless number of times to put them away. Lastly, there was some students that just decided they weren't going to play and ended up just sleeping during the class. This surprised me because I wasn't used to students who just didn't want to participate in class, or who were disruptive to an ensemble setting.
Overall, while there were some things about the students behavior that really surprised me, the teacher was able to get a good amount of work done on assessment music in the time she was given.
This week I observed the New Horizons band. It was very interesting to see how much differently this ensemble is run than the one’s I have participated in. For example, the player’s are able to help decide the repertoire they play for each concert. I know that we are just given pieces each semester and expected to learn them. This ensemble only meets once a week for about 2 hours, so there isn’t a lot of time to get the whole band to learn everything. However, I think the director uses the time he does have efficiently. His warm-up lead into the first piece they rehearsed. He was also able to address tuning and ensemble blend while having the group play a Bb chromatic scale, or an Eb scale.
One tool the director used throughout the rehearsal was singing. He sang rhythms, or pitches that the players were having trouble with. This provided players with a different way of hearing what they were trying to play. In some instances he had the members do air patterns along with him. I think this was smart because it was efficient than having them use instruments and have to worry about playing the right notes.
I think one thing that was frustrating during the rehearsal was when the group was going over what a whole tone scale was. There was no white board or anything to help them visually so it made it more challenging to the member’s who couldn’t understand what to play. I think it can be frustrating when one person is having understand what we are doing, but in this instance the director was patient and made sure that everyone understood what a whole tone scale was before he moved on.
Overall I enjoyed observing this group. The director was patient with all of the player’s and their questions/confusions. Lastly, instead of just focusing on playing the right notes, he was able to incorporate stylistic and rhythmic concepts in addition to just teaching rhythms.
I had the opportunity this week to observe two piano classes, and a technology class. This allowed me to see a different teacher and curriculum from the normal band, or orchestra class we usually observe. The school I went to is only two years old, and is structured different from other schools in the county. You have to ability "major" in an aspect of fine arts (band, orchestra, chorus, dance, piano, music technology, etc.) This means that you are able to take more music classes. In both the piano classes i observed there were majors and non majors. There were also no levels. Every student had their own tasks for the day through google classroom. Everyday they get a new assignment, or one that continued from last class, and then if a student has already mastered the tasks the teacher can give them additional assignments. On the other side the teacher is able to simplify assignments for those who are still having difficulty. I thought one of the coolest aspects of his classroom was all the technology he had. All of the pianos were connected to a controller, so that he could sit at his own piano and listen to individuals throughout the room, as well as talk through a headset. This way during the class, he can check in and offer advice to whatever their working on, as well as use his own piano to demonstrate different concepts and melodies. This is a good way to assess student's progress without making them play in front of their peers. They also played together so the entire class wasn't spent working individually. If students felt comfortable they were able to play their pieces in front of the class.
The other class I observed was a music technology. This was very interesting because it was different from the other technology classes I had observed previously. All of the students had a website where they uploaded all of their work (songs, compositions, etc.), and then they were all linked to a website created by the instructor. The concept behind this class was one year long live concert. At any time you can look up their pages and listen to the music. Throughout the year students have learned how to use different websites and apps, as well as learn how to record and edit their own work. The student's are able to explore different outlets on their own. In some cases, the students were able to teach the instructor concepts about whatever they were learning.
Overall, I had such a great time observing at this school. I was able to see a different way of running piano and technology classes. Since the school was new they had access to more technology (pianos, computers, recording equipment) that allowed them to be more successful, and collaborate more with other classes. The student's learning was able to be personalized to them based on their skill level, so no student is left behind. These classes have made me realize that I want to teach a music technology class if I get the chance.
This week I had the opportunity to observe 2 classes back to back. In the second class I was able observe and participate in some of the activities with the class. The first one was a self-contained class of Kindergarteners. This class was interesting because it was only 15 minutes, and the teacher only sees this class every 6 days. They don’t get a lot of music time, and when they do it’s so short they aren’t able to do a lot of activites. The teacher started off the lesson by having the students tap the beat for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Almost all of the students were able to follow along by watching the teacher. Following that they sang the welcome song, and the teacher went around to individually sing to each student. I liked this idea because she was able to connect with each student, and you could tell that the students were engaging with her in their own way. She then went through another song with them using the same procedure as the last one. All the students knew the song because they do it every class. The lesson plan for this class stays the same from class to class. This is helpful because the students recognize the welcome song and know that music class has started, and then they recognize the goodbye song and know that class is ending. I enjoyed observing this class because it was interesting to see how the instructor was able to connect with each student. I got to observe the next class as well, which an inclusive second grade class. There were three students with various stages of either autism or Asperger’s, and there was an aid in the class helping them. What I enjoyed about this class was that I was able to participate in some of the activities the class was doing. For example, we were doing an activity that involved dancing with partners, and I was able to help the students with the activity. The next activity involved finding rhythms. It was a game where there were rhythms cards in the center of the circle and two at a time were given a rhythm and they had to identify out of all the options which one it was. I was able to take part in the game and help some of the other kids who were having trouble, or didn’t want to participate. While I wasn’t able to teach a part of the class, being able to participate and aid the teacher gave me more experience working in a classroom that included students with disabilities.
I had the pleasure of observing a general music class this past week. I sat in on a third grade class, that had one student with a disability. The instructor had an inclusive style in her classroom. However, since they have a concert in a few weeks the lesson plan was little different than it usually is. They started with what they usually do which is finding the big and little beats in different songs, and demonstrating it using different body parts. Mrs. P used a lot of call and response and repeat after me when they were going over songs for their concert.
What I enjoyed was that the instructor was able to find ways to make sure that the student with a disability was included, or she made it easier so she could do the same things as everyone else. They were practicing on mallet instruments and Mrs.P made sure that this student got one, and was playing along with everyone. However, she also made sure the student felt comfortable. This student was happened to be blind, and the teacher made sure she was careful with the instruments so this student wasn’t startled, especially when they add a gong. However, I think the instructor had some difficulty including this student today because other students were causing her a bit of trouble. Since they were playing on instruments a lot of the students had trouble just leaving it alone when they weren't playing as a group. Even though there were some issues, everyone seemed to have fun playing and singing.
During the duration of the class none of the students talked to this student other than Mrs.P and the paraprofessional. The paraprofessional was very helpful to this student because she had trouble walking and using her hands. The paraprofessional helped the student move around, participate in the activities everyone else was doing, as well as helping all the other students if they weren’t paying attention or weren’t clear about the directions. I liked the way the paraprofessional worked because she remained kind of invisible until she was needed. I really enjoyed observing this class because it allowed me to see an inclusive classroom.
For this experience my initial plan changed the moment student's started coming to my station. A lot of times the students just wanted to come over and explore how to use Scratch, and we never had to use the story. They played with the sounds, and created their own songs. This was different from my original plan, but it kept students entertained and engaged in a new experience with technology. If I were to alter this plan I would keep the technology aspect, using Scratch, but I could incorporate the Makey Makey and have students create their own song using various sounds from the app. In addition I could find another way to incorporate the story back into my lesson by having students pick a story and insert sounds where they thing it fits into the book.