Talk it Up!

And Design a Deeper Learning Environment

The following post has been featured in the July edition of VIA, an ezine dedicated for arts integration. I’m honored to have been contacted by VIA’s editor, Susan Riley, who has asked me to write a post focusing on creativity and the arts technique for the classroom teachers. Check out her website which has wonderful arts-integrating resources! If you’re curious about this ezine, download and read the entire July edition for free here (VIA is normally distributed quarterly through subscription). As always, I would appreciate your feedback and conversation!  Happy July!   ~Yoon

While saying good-bye to a happy 5th grade music class, I engaged in a quick conversation with their teacher about what the kids have been learning in my class (song writing: verse, chorus, lyrics, melody, and accompaniment).

And then I asked her, “So what are they learning with you?”
That one question led both of us make time to connect again in the teacher’s lounge and talk about what the students are learning in the classroom. Through one conversation, we discovered how we can connect and build on our students’ learning together. By asking each other questions, we got each other to think about students’ learning at a more in-depth level. The question I had to answer was, “Is there anything I can do to strengthen their learning?”
photo by Kim Davies, Flickr CC
Here is a project that resulted out of that conversation: The Preamble Project (click on the link to listen). The students were learning the Preamble and the US Constitution in social studies. After talking to the teacher, I had to answer the following questions:
  • What would be the best way for the students learn and memorize the words to the Preamble?
  • Would watching a segment in School House Rock be helpful?
  • What musical and thinking skills will the students demonstrate?

I concluded that helping the students write their own original Preamble song was the answer. Rather than just memorizing the words to the Preamble, my students sang the words to a tune they composed. Will they remember the words that precedes the US Constitution? Of course. Were they engaged in their learning? Absolutely!

If you are looking for ways to incorporate music into your lessons, here are some ways you can try:

Don’t be Afraid.
Being fearful snuffs out learning opportunities for you and your students.
As you prepare your lessons, think of a couple ways you can think artistically.
Remember that we are in the classroom to guide the young people in good learning. This means you do not have be the performer. Just create the creative spaces for them.
Start brainstorming arts-infused projects and make lists of possibilities.

Start a Conversation.
Collaborate with an arts teacher at your school. Share what you are currently teaching and ask simple questions to see if there are possibilities to collaborate on a particular unit.

  • Keep communications clear (time lines and goals) and start with simple ideas.
  • Keep a photo/video journal of the project.
  • Remember 2 Things: 1) not all of your conversations will end up as a project and 2) understand that  through the conversations your preconceived  ideas may change.  Keep an open mind!

Look & Listen for Inspiration.
Many teachers in my Professional Learning Network (PLN) share a great wealth of resources and lesson ideas. I read blogs posted by these teachers and see how I can apply their project ideas into my classes. You can do this, too. Look for inspiration in other creative teachers. Also look for inspiration in your students. Many young students are tech saavy and know really good sites for music. Ask them to share their good finds with you. They will be happy to share when they know you are opened to be taught by them. Here is an example of how I listened to my students.

Try.
Did you ever try using applications like GarageBand or Audacity to create your own remixes or mashups? Or have you ever tried playing music related games like Tap Tap? What is keeping you from learning? What would you like to try first?

~ Making an iTunes playlist titled, __________ (fill in the blank, i.e. quiet work time). What music would you include and why?

~ How about a podcast featuring a student and using music in the background?

Whatever the project, give yourself some time to use a specific tool and get comfortable.
Here are some links you can start exploring.

Have Fun :^)
Relax. Take one step at a time and enjoy the process. Your joy of learning will be infectious– even when things just don’t work out. Remember I asked you to journal about your learning process? Now share your journey with other teachers!

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