Things I've Been Reading and Thinking About

There's a lot that has been building up in my Pocket (read it later app) that I have been wanting to share or talk about. Individually, they don't really warrant a full blog post. Let's see if collectively there is enough substance here.

Avoiding New Music Frustrations

Samuel Fritz is a middle school band director at Center Grove Middle School in Greenwood, Indiana that writes about his teaching and the work his PLC is doing. This particular post resonated with me as it addresses helping students meta-cognate the process of getting better at new music. Specifically, he asks students to answer some reflective questions:

  1. What is going wrong?  Do I know the rhythm?  Do I know the pitch?, Can I finger them? Did I remark my part for errors / do I need reminder markings?

  2. How do I fix it?

  3. What specific practice technique will I use?

  4. After practice time in class, What technique did I use to meet my goal?

  5. What did I learn?

I especially think we need to show students how to practice, watch them practice, and give them feedback on how they practice, so they know how to do it effectively! And, in our students busy lives, we also need to understand that they might not always have the time (or choose to make the time) to practice as much as we want. By providing them a structure to do that in rehearsal, we can accomplish that with feedback, like many of our colleagues are doing in non-music classes.

Metacognition in Band

I originally began this post back on May 19, shortly after I finished my reflection on the 2018 Iowa Bandmasters Association conference. Then we got into the thick of finishing up our last lesson cycle. Only 3 more days with students, 5 more days total!

Samuel Fritz just wrote another blog post referencing work by Robert Marzano and Hope Hartman. A clinician at IBA (who I am not remembering now) referenced helping students move parts of their process to "autopilot," and this is very similar. Samuel summarizes it best at the end of the post:

Think of learning music in this process manner:

Declarative - teaching the steps of the process,

Procedural- developing fluency and mastery of the "whole" process,

Conditional - consciously focusing on one of process steps to refine or remediate.

Knowing the difference can help you better understand how your students think. Knowing how they think helps you teach the piece in a more effective and powerful manner.

All Ears: Improvisation, Aural Training, and the Creative Process

Fred Sturm, famed jazz composer, arranger, and teacher, wrote an article about the techniques he uses to teach ear training. This ties in well with the different things I heard from clinicians like Jerry Tolson, Dean Sorenson, and Bob Washut at IBA. Such a great progression from pitch matching to group composition.

Better Together

Michelle Droe, a K-6 Music Teacher from Cedar Falls, writes about Iowa adopting Fine Arts Standards similar to the National Core Arts Standards and how to begin thinking about implementing them in your classroom. Her post ties in with a conversation I had with a colleague at IBA as well as a post I wrote about music standards. I don't disagree that I want students to be able to do the different things listed in the Fine Arts Standards (imagine, plan, make, evaluate, refine, present, select, analyze, interpret, rehearse, connect), but I want them to be literate musicians. I firmly believe we need to focus our time and energy developing their music literacy so they can better do the process components listed in the standards.

Tech in the Heartland: Lending a Hand As DC-G Transforms Its Professional Learning Model

Dallas Center-Grimes worked with the Heartland Area Education Agency to develop "Personalized PD" for their district. From the article:

Personalized professional development empowers educators to choose a topic that fits the district AND their personal professional goals. Staff members research it, implement it and then reflect on their learning and implementation. The theory is when the needs of professionals drive their own learning, the impact on student achievement will be very powerful.

Reading through the article, this sounds a bit like what my building does with our "ITPDP Learning" days. Each teacher in our district has an Individual Teacher Professional Development Plan that lists district goals, building goals, PLC team goals, individual teacher academic goals, and individual teacher behavior goals. The PLC team and individual teacher goals are then correlated to Iowa Teaching Standards and the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. Teachers develop learning goals and action steps for accomplishing these PLC team and individual teacher goals, collecting evidence throughout the year to demonstrate their learning.

Our building has a cycle of professional learning for our Late Start Wednesdays that incorporates what we call Standards First Learning, Differentiated Learning, ITPDP Learning, and Vertical PLCs. The Standards First and Differentiated Learning days are used for our staff to learn and make progress towards our building goals. This year, that was (paraphrased):

By May of 2018, all 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students will be proficient in all prioritized standards and work habits standards of the curriculum as evidenced by standards referenced and work-habits tool reports in all courses.

So much of our learning was on our district's new Work Habits Tool and how to teach behavior. Vertical PLC days allow us to collaborate as a K-12 music team (K-5 General Music, 5th Grade Band, 6-12 Band, 6-12 Vocal).

The ITPDP Learning days leave us free to work towards our PLC team or individual teacher goals. My learning this year was structured on implementing small ensembles within my larger concert band. My only beef with the system is because we cycle through these days, the learning for each seems somewhat disjointed. I advocated for next year that we "chunk" learning into units between Vertical PLC days. For example, this Fall's Vertical PLC days fell on September 20, October 25, and December 6. Rather than cycling (Standards, ITPDP, Differentiated, ITPDP) through between each day, we took the Wednesdays from the beginning of the year up until September 20 to focus on Standards First and Differentiated Learning, and the next chunk of Wednesdays to focus on ITPDP Learning, alternating like this throughout the year?



Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.