Thursday, September 20, 2012

Credo in Musica pt. 5

How will I plan and assesses instruction based upon knowledge of subject matter, students, the community and curriculum goals.

Planning and assessing music instruction is a complex process. Every day, at every moment of my teaching career, I will have to demonstrate my theoretical and practical knowledge of music. There will never come a time when I will cease being a musician in my classroom; modeling, accompanying, describing, conducting and rehearsal will form the majority of my classroom experience. My students will learn through imitation of my methods at first, but after they get past the period of imitation the will begin to synthesize their knowledge and create their own music. To prepare my students for the development of true musicianship, I must have a goal for their growth and a plan by which I may achieve this growth.
Lesson planning will be essential to me, not only so that I have a goal for what I want to teach my students, but also as a comprehensive and thorough plan for how to bring about the synthesis of that knowledge. One teacher advised me that it is impossible to over plan a lesson, and the more resources I can pull out at the drop of a hat, the better the flow of a class will be. When preparing at the beginning of the school year I will not have the benefit of knowing my students and their abilities and interests, but I can plan out what I want to teach and the direction I wish the course to proceed in. After planning the skeleton of the school year or semester, I can begin to fill it in with the meat and sinews of specific activities, which I will modify according to the needs of the present moment.
My lessons will, of course, be shaped not only by my interests and goals, but by the needs and interests of my students. Students connect immediately to that which they already know and understand, and thus a good method of arresting student interest is to present them with the material I want to teach them in a format they already recognize, such as teaching musical form using a popular song or doing music history reports on bands they grew up with. If I have certain students who need more hands-on learning experiences, I can modify my lesson plans to afford them those opportunities. If my students are struggling with a concept, it should be an easy thing for me to insert some practice worksheets or learning activities into the class period or substitute one activity for another. If need be, the benefit of long-term planning will help me to adjust the course schedule so that we spend all the time we need to on a given subject.
To facilitate fruitful planning, during the class period I must be attentive to how my students are doing. Every music teacher I observed was constantly asking their students questions to determine how much learning was going on. For example, I can ask students to name the key signature of the piece we are about to play and have competitions to see who can answer first. I want to keep the flow of teaching in my class fairly quick so that students are engaged in the activities I present, and one way of speeding up the learning pace is frequent repetition of material.
To maximize student potential it is important that students know if they are succeeding in my classroom. Lesson planning will allow me the great aid of an organized school year or semester, into which I can place systematic assessment. In most group performance classes, assessment is immediate for the ensemble, and in solo lessons it is much the same. The formative and summative assessments are performances given to me or to the community, and feedback on performances and lessons is immediate. For academic music classes, I shall have to provide ways for my students to reveal their knowledge in more intellectual ways. I like having quizzes every day both to encourage students to do the readings assigned for class and so that I know how much information students are deriving from the homework. I must make a commitment to grade theses quizzes daily so that my students know immediately how much learning they are accomplishing and determine if they need to exercise additional effort to understand the material better.
I genuinely appreciate having standards to which I can mold my curriculum and plan my instruction. I have the unfortunate tendency to get caught up in those aspects of music at which I excel, and having standards which span a great deal of music’s expansive breadth compels me to devote appropriate amounts of time to those avenues of music with which I am less familiar or do not enjoy as much. Not only will standards provide me with a skeleton on which to base my lesson plan, but they also motivate me to keep my lessons moving at an engaging pace.
My lesson plans will certainly be affected by the school’s expectations for the music curriculum. For example, if there has been a spring concert every year prior to my appointment, the school will expect that I prepare the ensembles for the concert. Thus, time will be spent in class learning performance repertoire and techniques applicable to those pieces. If the school pushes many performances, much of the intellectual and emotional side of music must be taught through performance medium I will have to dive into a piece with a greater deal of depth  in order to glean theoretical and historical context for the sake of my students.
Music naturally lends itself to multiple means of assessment. Portfolios, performance, written tests, projects, and essays are all common place in any given music class. Music can be grasped in a hundred different ways, both intellectually and technically, and students will all have their chance to shine at the level and through the means that they know best. At the same time, students will be required to learn how to articulate their knowledge of music in ways that are not as natural to them, and by doing so gain great expressive knowledge. A more philosophical or intellectual child will be able to communicate their knowledge through music history essays and theory tests, but they will also have to apply their knowledge on their instruments and through projects specific to a unit. If I make a true effort to prepare my lessons well, I am certain all of my students will be able to succeed in my classroom.

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