Thursday, July 8, 2010

Transforming Past Practices

In the future I do plan to transform some past practices into projects as a result of knowing the potential learning outcomes projects can produce. During the course of this week the project my partner and I have been working on is a composition written by students for their fifth grade moving up ceremony. This project will allow students to focus on the emotions surrounding graduation ceremonies and what types of music is normally used during graduations. The students will collaborate with one another and with students at different schools to create lyrics, a melody, and an accompaniment that captures their own personal emotions surrounding their upcoming graduation. The resulting piece will be performed at their moving up ceremony.

This past year for moving up day I was in a frenzy doing my best to get everything done and have students learn a song to perform for their families and friends at the ceremony. It was rushed, unmusical, and the students resisted learning it during the whole process. As a result the students did not connect with the music and many issues with behavior and student attitudes arose because the students did not feel what they were doing was worthwhile or important. It was very challenging trying to create a sense of motivation in students because they felt so forced to learn the songs for the graduation ceremony.

This next year I plan to implement the project my partner and I created because I feel it will allow students to have a sense of ownership over the piece they create. It will also deal directly with the emotions they are feeling towards graduating and “moving up” into the Middle School and how to express those emotions in a creative way. It will also allow the students to exhibit their work in a very authentic way.

Activities I do in the classroom with students also have the potential to become projects. Fourth graders study the symphonic poem Danse Macabre and create stories to go along with the music. If I were to turn this into a project, I could have students writing poetry based on the themes presented by Camille Saint-Saens in his symphonic poem and then create compositions of their own incorporating themes used in Danse Macabre. These compositions have the potential to be video recorded and shared, and student thought processes have the potential to be recorded in a journal, blog, or tweet.

First graders explore the loud and soft sounds within musical pieces. One of their favorite songs is the “Grizzly Bear” song that involves tip-toeing up to an imaginary bear and singing very softly. They also love the “Piano/Forte Game” that involves hiding an object and clapping softly or loudly as a student seeker gets farther or closer to the hidden object.

Turning these activities into a project for young students could involve more exploration into loud and soft sounds students hear all around them. We could “collect” sounds that are loud and soft with audio recording equipment. These sounds could be put into a “sound bank” and collected throughout the project to see how many sounds we can collect. This project can also serve as the springboard into how other people in other countries say ‘loud’ and ‘soft,’ introducing the terms piano and forte along the way.

The possibilities for turning ordinary classroom activities students enjoy into projects are really endless. They allow students to connect with the activities in ways that are personal and meaningful to them. They also allow the teacher to guide students into challenges and higher-level thinking they may not have normally not encountered without delving further into the concepts of the activities. By using these ideas and discarding past practices that have hindered student growth and learning I believe my students and I will be on a better path to learning and creating.

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