Monday, January 16, 2012

teaching plans

This year I hope to be teaching classroom music to year 4 (4 classes), year 6 (3 classes) and year 7 (2-3 classes). I'll also have some littlies. Year 4 is recorder (delight!) and year 6 and 7 are ukulele. I see each class for half an hour a week. The year 4s I may nab some extra time with.

Here are my plans.

Year 4 Recorder
I'm writing a graded recorder program called Recorder Ninja. Kids will move from Green Star level (easy) to Black Star level (really tricky). The trouble with differentiating kids on recorder is that it is easiest (least painful on the ears) if everyone is at least trying to play the same song. But that would be boring... So here's what I'm going to do.

The bulk of the class will be at the same level. I'll work with them for 2/3 of the lesson then send them away to do the written work for their level. During that time I'll work with the kids who are more advanced - perhaps seeing them briefly individually or in pairs to teach them the new notes etc. They practice at home, record their songs on mum's iPhone and email them to me. I email back with comments and tell them when they are ready for the next level. Similarly with their theory stuff.

The kids who get quite advanced will get a brief lunchtime lesson in composing using Sibelius (a computer program). They'll be given a composition task to work on during class time or whenever they want. Or if they prefer, they can move from descant to treble (alto) recorder and I'll group them and give them duets to play.

Year 6 and 7 Uke
Ukulele is not a difficult instrument to play. Bright kids who practice learn quite quickly and find it satisfying to choose their own songs and work out how to play them. This is all fine and many take what I've taught them in class and advance themselves at home. But what to do in class to push them further? While most of us are learning to play melodies (like Ode to Joy or something similar) I could put them onto the computers and get them to make up an upper or lower harmony part, learn to play it and put it with the class' melody. Sometimes I'll put them on the drum kit or piano to play along with the class while we're practicing our chord progressions.

But I want to do more than this.

Here's my grand plan.

I want to get a group of 6 or so kids in years 6-7 and get them to write a musical. From scratch.

What do you think?


  1. iPhone? iPhone? - big assumption that 'mum' has one. If I were one of your more advanced student's parents, I'd be turning around and saying that it could be recorded on my Creative Zen music player and I might (might!) be able to direct you to a converter if you insist on using Apple, otherwise you could have it on a cassette tape.

    You might want to consider other recording options.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh but, although we could afford an iPhone, we have no Apple products (and no intention of jumping on that bandwagon) and I expect that some of your students' parents won't either.

    1. I have to agree with the technology exclusivity of the recording thing. Not sure that's what you intend or if you were using 'iPhone' just as a term to convey the idea. Our family is another case of having lots of tech gadgets etc. but are an 'Apple Free Zone' (except for the ones in the fruit bowl).

      I think the recording and email feedback if a great use of technology to accommodate the extension work without taking time at attention away from the majority of the class.

  2. In our context, it is fine to assume that mum will have a smart phone of some sort. Or dad will. Most families will also have an iPod touch with email access or an iPad. Or any PC could be used.

    Kids these days are pretty techy. I'll teach them how to do it, but most will already know better than me.

  3. I don't have an iPhone or an alternative smartphone, or an iPad. We do have a big iMac that I don't know how to record on...but I guess I could work out how to do it if I had to...

    Writing a musical sounds pretty cool, and given the demographic you have to work with, would probably be achievable I'm guessing. Don't know if it would fly at my kids' school though :)

    1. Macs are the easier things in the world to record on.

      I will go through all the options with the kids and send an explanatory letter home. Seriously, the kids won't struggle with the technology!

      I asked each of my kids how they'd do it and they each told me a different way - all would work.

  4. I really like the musical idea. Would you run it as an extra curricular activity outside of class time or during normal class time? It is a great way of giving kids a way to learn and develop skills and learning through a 'real world' application. And would allow kids to work within their strengths and interests within the music content area - ie. some may write the lyrics, other may prefer melody composition, others the story/dialogue that links the songs together.

    1. I'd run it as a lunch time thing. The challenge will come in selecting the kids in the 'correct' way so that parents don't whinge that their little sunshine missed out. I need to write a list of very specific criteria and get kids to apply. There will be grief.

    2. Sounds great! I'm glad I'm not the one having to deal with the politics of selection. I think you're very specific objective criteria will be your best weapon.

  5. My goodness!! That sounds amazing. I am in awe. Will the Ninja books be available to purchase? :-) Our kids have music at our exclusive private school here in Chile. Last year, the recorder players in Grade 6 sat through their double period (doing nothing!) for 13 weeks straight, as the teacher didn't get to them. They were not allowed to talk or practise and had no theory to work on. The teacher prefers to use theory as punishment when the kids misbehave. The end of year concert is astounding. I don't mean that in a complimentary way. The kid who did the guitar solo had a guitar that hadn't been tuned to the keyboard. The criteria to be a singer was volume. Not pitch. Tears in Heaven was extraordinary. I should see if Michael can upload a clip for your listening pleasure! Jo

  6. Jo - the Ninja thing is just packaging. Really, for my sake. Got to get excited about recorder. All I've done is divide recorder program into 6 levels, going from knowing no notes, to knowing all of them. Repertoire gets more tricky (and interesting) for each level. Kids get a ninja star (origami thing) and a pat on the back when they finish a level. Hopefully, everyone will be very motivated and move through all the levels very fast, then we can put the recorders away and do something else.

    Your exclusive private school sounds like a waste of money - musically, at least. Painful.

  7. Ahhh, not only music, Simone! :-)