PLC at Work Institute Reflection

Over this past week, over 150 teachers from my district attended Solution Tree‘s Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute in Minneapolis. Each school was allotted a number of teachers to bring or the three day workshop. Three of us from our Vertical PLC attended as well as many teachers, counselors, and administrators from districts across the country. The Institute is designed to help schools and districts implement professional learning communities effectively. I will explain a little more before delving in to the sessions I attended. Continue reading “PLC at Work Institute Reflection”

Reflection on Formative Assessment

In the past several days, I have been reading a bit of Shawn Cornally’s blog, ThinkThank Thunk. I began with his second post back in February 2010 on Standards-Based Grading. At the time, Shawn was a math/science/programming teacher at Solon High School in Iowa. He experimented with implementing standards-based grading practices in his classrooms and blogged quite a bit about his experiences. He has several articles about standards-based grading, calculus, physics, and a variety of other topics. Shawn is now the Headmaster of Iowa Big Ideas Group, a competency based high school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Many of Shawn’s post on Standards-Based Grading got me thinking about what I am currently doing in my Instrumental Music 10 course (10th Grade Band), Music Fundamentals course (non-AP Music Theory), and brass lessons in terms of implementation of standards-based practices. As we approach the summer and a time to plan out what next year will look like, I wanted to lay out my thinking.

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Collecting Data

As I mentioned in my post about Standards-Based Learning, we utilize Google Docs for the vast majority of our data collection. Each teacher and student have a Google Apps account ( for teachers, for students). We created a Google Form utilizing the pieces of our Wind Rubric and Percussion Rubric to allow for quick entry of information during a lesson. Continue reading “Collecting Data”

Standards-Based Learning

Our district is moving to a Standards-Based Learning model, and our 6-12 Instrumental Music Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) has jumped right in! I wanted to discuss a bit what that looks like for us, what we are wrestling with to improve our student’s learning. If you need a little bit more about what Standards-Based Learning is overall, JumpRope (an SBL software we are looking at using) provides some basic information on their blog. Our district has also released a document entitled Fair and Consistent Practices to detail what this will look like for us. In a previous post, I described our vertical lesson format that is allowing 6-12 grade students to take lessons with a teacher who is a “pro” on their primary instrument. We are using these lessons as our leaping off point for incorporating Standards-Based Learning into our programs.

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Vertical Teaching

I am very excited to be part of a new team teaching instrumental music in a vertical setting. In our feeder system we have four (soon to be five) K-5 elementary schools, one 6-7 middle school, one 8-9 middle school, and one 10-12 high school. In terms of band directors, there are currently ~3.0 FTE for 5th grade, 2.0 FTE at the 6-7 building, 1.0 FTE at the 8-9 building, and 2.0 FTE at the 10-12 building. The same system is duplicated for the other feeder system on the other side of town. I am not sure of the reasoning nor the history, but our school district does not have an orchestra program. Our music curriculum includes K-5 General Music, 5-12 Instrumental Music (Band), and 6-12 Vocal Music. Continue reading “Vertical Teaching”