Week 27/28 – Where does the time go?

First off, my apologies on a delayed blog this week, but I’m sure you survived without it 🙂

Secondly, I wan to thank all the teachers at Hepburn and Leask that I have had the pleasure of working with so far in this our pilot year of providing music education support. You have been very open-minded, willing, and thoughtful as we have tried various new things. I know that this is not an easy thing to ask of teachers who already pour so much into all the other demands that are put on them. Thank you for being risk takers and for allowing us to learn from mistakes and make adjustments to things that don’t always go perfectly. That is invaluable learning and is already having an impact on how we go about similar projects in other schools. This would not have happened without your willingness to take those risks and just see what happens. Thank you!!

A few links to pass on to you which were shared with me by a couple of teachers in Leask.

First from Dave, a primary grade teacher in Leask. Dave had his grade 4 students build bongo style drums. The materials he managed to acquire mostly for free, and he was able to do the cutting of pieces himself. In the photos below you can see his students putting the pieces together and getting them ready to be painted.

But here is the important part, Dave was using this project not in a music class, but rather in his science class as part of the unit on sound. As a result now his students will also have instruments for their music class.  Dave plans to next attempt this with grade 2 & 3’s.

Here is the blog “Wisdom of Hands” in case you are interested:

Dave’s Bongos

bongos 2

Also in Leask, Dan, who teaches PAA has been instrumental in assisting with getting our drumming group started and was involved in the drum building process.  He is now looking into building flutes, other traditional drums, and even guitars!  Great to see how teachers are connecting to music through other subjects.  Please consider how your teaching areas might overlap and how you might connect with other teachers to collaborate on projects.

I also have to update you in regards to the Leask Drumming group.  They began practicing this week and they already have two gigs lined up to attend, one of which is happening very soon.  In addition they have orders to build more drums which the drumming group will sell.  Congratulations to the drumming group of Leask for digging in and going for it.  We look forward to seeing you participate in your first pow wow and we also look forward to hearing about your drum group  name once it has been given to you.

Update in Hepburn…

One of the perhaps riskiest projects we have undertaken has been with the grade 8 class who are currently working on projects which are very open ended and allowed students to pursue their own unique interests, so they are all quite different.  It means that students spread out around the school to work.

There have mainly been two challenges…1) given that the building was not designed with 9 sound proof practice rooms in it, the issue of sound bleeding across classroom walls can be an issue.   This is something that teachers and students are not used to having to be tolerant about.  However, I think it is something that warrants a bit of extra tolerance given the limitations of the building itself; after all music learning is not silent reading.  I think of it a bit like the gymnasium.  Usually someone’s classroom is either next door to or nearby the gym, and quite often sounds like whistles, bouncing balls, and children’s vocalizes will bleed through.  How do we handle that situation? Do we go and ask them to be quiet?  Do we shut it down?  Not usually, but people are so used to it that they have developed a tolerance for it, they have developed an understanding of the situation, and they are empathetic to it.  We need to have this same tolerance for music education.

2) The second challenge is that we sometimes see groups struggle to connect the ideas and concepts we have studied as a class to the actual project.  We give the students tools for how to build a melody and then when they go to actually do it, its like some of them have no idea how to get started; almost like they are afraid to play a single note should it be wrong.  In a way this is not surprising, since research does show that we teach that risk taking and creativity right out of students as they proceed through school.  For example, the grade 5 & 6 ukulele students will learn a chord and then split off into groups to create a song using that chord, and several of them will have a song to perform for the class before the end of the period and will do so without apprehension.  In grade 8 the students struggle to get over this hump.  The good news is that the struggle is worthwhile and patience really is a virtue.  Earlier this week, several of the students in grade 8 were really struggling to get started and even I felt discouraged wondering if this project was just going to be a flop.  But I was there yesterday, and its like a switch had been turned, all of a sudden all the groups seem to have a direction now and managed to make progress.  However, what I have learned from this is that when students are not used to a style of learning that allows them creative and individual freedom, self-directed learning, etc, perhaps it is too overwhelming to sort of go cold turkey from a more traditional style.  Maybe we need to take steps to ween them off of tradition in order to reverse the trend successfully.  So as we attempt now a similar project with grade 10 students in Leask, I am going to try having students practice making melodies using randomly pulled flashcards in the hopes that students will connect the concepts better to actual melody making.  I will let you know how it goes.

Lastly, Ruth had a couple of key paper work pieces which are very effective for guiding the grade 8 learning process in this project.  One was a proposal which the students had to draw up and submit for her approval before beginning the project, and the other is a learning log which the students complete in the last 10 min of each class to record what they have accomplished and what their next steps are.  Both of these pieces have been very useful tools for the students but will also help Ruth assess their projects when they come due.

Schedule for the upcoming week is as follows:

Monday – Open

Tuesday – Leask all day

Wednesday – Open

Thursday – AM Leask, PM open

Friday – AM open, PM DO music meeting

Please feel free to ask for my time for any of the “open” spots.

Have a great weekend!