Monday, January 27, 2014

Choices Choices Choices

Do you struggle with older elementary grades like I do?  I have just recently found a trick that, while different from many of my other classes seems to work better.  I have found that my 6th graders this year are really restless and are more silly than they have in the past (not just in music) because they are ready to move onto middle school. It is also funky because of the way band works in my school- where one instrument group is gone for half of the General Music class at band, and then they switch with another group who starts with me- this would be great, except each class also has students who are not in band and are in general music the whole 50 minutes.

I have  noticed that when I give the older kids more choices, they are more in-tune to what we are working on.  I give them choices in a few ways (never more than 2 choices at a time- they choose between 2 things, not 8).  They love it because they feel they have some control over what they are doing while really they are all learning the same concepts- I just work harder to find more than one song that could work in the lesson and let them pick.   I also have given them a structured way to choose partners, because I was noticing that people chose the same partner all the time, and then some were always left out.

Here are some examples of choices I have given recently to 6th grade:

Choice 1:  Sing a partner song and then choose which game to play.  

We are practicing Tom-ti vs. Ti-tom (dotted-quarter eighth) and I had them try to pair Shanghai Chicken and Our Old Sow.  We sight-read Our Old Sow from the board and then thought of a similar song in structure and tone-set but that had a ti-tom (Shanghai Chicken).  After we paired the two- switching groups, etc, I let them choose which of the games to play- the beanbag/ egg game for Shangahi Chicken, or the chasing game for our Old Sow.  Not all classes chose the same game.

Choice 2: Choose which new song to sight-read. 

Pic from Level 3 packet, Capital U
Pic from Level 3 packet, Capital U
In this case, I had 2 songs ready with a picture to project on the SMARTboard of the music.  I told them if they sight-read the song to the best of their ability and learned it fairly quickly (after answering all my symbols questions) we would be able to play the game- which I gave them an overview of.  Again, I chose the songs with the same goal in  mind.  These two had a slightly different tone-set, but both had the dotted-quarter eighth pattern I was looking for- Da Ruma San (staring game) and Dipi Du (hand-clap game).  This time, they all chose the same song.  Yes, it is trickier (but not that tricky!) for me to keep track of who read what if they choose differently- but it makes it      more enjoyable for them when they have some say in the lesson.

Choice 3: Choose which time period to do a report on

We are doing an overview of music history this year, starting with Medieval and going through Contemporary Pop and Classical Music.  Each Student has to do a report sometime during the year on ONE of the time periods.  I am letting them choose the time period as long as there is at least one student from every class doing each time period.  I know a lot are trying to hold out for Modern music, but there have been enough that we have had a few for each other (through Baroque so far) so it hasn't been too much of a problem.  

Choice 4: Clock Partners

I got this idea from the 6th grade teachers.  Each student is given a clock and chooses their 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock partners, writing their name in the middle and the partners name near the number.  I then choose the 1, 4, 7, and 10  and "the universe" (random name chooser on SMARTboard, or even ust pulling from a hat) chooses the other 4.  This way, they get to choose 4, I choose 4 and 4 are random. I then can either choose a number for them to use when we need partners in music, or pull one out of a hat.  The clocks in the 6th grade rooms are displayed for all to see on the walls of the room, but I have mine in a binder now, and plan on making a SMARTfile for each class so they can see their partners easily when it is time.   It is because if I know we need partners where the need to be serious is a big part of the project, I can pick a number that I chose, but if it is just a game or something, it can be a partner they chose.  

Other Choices:

I have also thought about have a few sets of manipulatives ready (that all do the same thing) and letting them choose- for example, rhythm dice, rhythm cards, or rhythm legos.  The same work-sheet would be filled out, but they get to choose the tool to help them.

I am seeing a lot more smiles leaving my 6th grade music room- which is a big plus for me, so I think this choices thing is working out.  The rest of the lesson is still structured the same, where we have 2 main concepts- a melodic and rhythmic- and we work on one at the beginning and one at the end with a pivot song in the middle.   I try to work in the history into these concepts, but sometimes it is just listening as they come in or are leaving with a few questions to ponder before the next class.

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