Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Things I need to learn about teaching

Sometimes I forget that, actually, I have been teaching for less than a year. Like, a lot less than a year. In true perfectionist form I compare myself to the best educators I have come across and find myself lacking.

While this may or may not be a necessary step in my learning process- I can tell you that I have created a list of things I think I ought to be better at, develop skills in, and just generally learn. I've seen my favorite teachers manage these things and now I want to as well.

1. Develop more of an awareness of where the tykes/kids are at individually:

Are they matching pitch? Are they keeping a steady beat? If not, why? Is there something obvious in the way that I am leading that could explain why they are getting it wrong? Are they getting it wrong in such a way that implies musicality? i.e., are they clapping the off beats? are they singing in harmony? Are they screaming and running around when they're supposed to be playing the drum, but still stopping when the drums are supposed to be quiet? (I actually had a kid do that. Fascinating.)

2. Create a consistent structure and atmosphere:

One of the things that I am having difficulty with currently in both schools is classroom management. I have a theory about that: I think it is because I have not created an atmosphere of paying attention and listening. I think it would help (or at least be worth trying out) to have the same start and end to each class each week (like, a consistent hello and goodbye song). I think it would help to set up very clear and consistent boundaries on playing the instruments out of turn, smacking into other kids/tykes instead of participating, and raising your hand to talk about *anything* other than music (that's nice that your baby sister had cereal for breakfast today, is right now the best time to tell me that?).

A corollary to this one is stop using rhetorical questions! It just opens the door for smart-alec little ones to answer wrongly and then you have to deal with that, taking away even more time from the music lesson.

3. Have entire lesson plans build to a specific musical point:

Wouldn't it be great if every activity we did as a class had a reason?! I'm really keen to figure out how to do this- structure entire lessons around specific educational goals. I do this a bit, but could be so much better at it. Usually there is at least one song just because. Wouldn't it be neat if all of the rhythm work fed into the song which fed into the concept we were working on which fed into learning how to read music? Wouldn't that just be so neat?

4. Use music to cue the class:

For instance: a musical (non verbal) cue to sit down. To be quiet and listen. To stand up. To hold hands. Etc. I feel like my classes have a remarkable lack of music for music classes...too much explaining and wordiness; a lack of anything other than single line singing or playing. Not that I'm expecting part singing from the tykes- but I would like to, you know, have the musical cues be music and not just sounds.

For example- my favorite Dalcroze teacher uses a descending scale pattern with the words "will you please sit down" that she plays on the xylophone at the same time. This ties into numbers 2 and 3 as well because the beauty of this is manifold: there is a clear, consistent signal for when to sit down; the signal becomes something that can be non-verbal (once they know the signal if they hear that pattern- they sit); it is a constant aural reminder of the first 5 notes of a scale meaning that when they start learning how to sing scales- they already have sung them- many times. You can then also add other pitches to that scale set-- crouch down (shorter than sitting) for the leading tone.

Brilliant. I must use that.

(5. Figure out how to make rhythms more interesting)

I've been working these past two weeks on using a rhythmic solfege pattern with the tykes and kids in order to introduce crotchets and quavers (quarter and eighth notes) and the reason this is in parenthesis is because *I* thought the kids/tykes had been getting bored with it and was thinking that I should figure out some way to work it into a story or something activating more pathways in to learning. I still think I should figure out multiple ways of presenting this information- but I am less inclined to think that they're bored since one of the reception teachers specifically asked me to make sure that I did that "song...? The one with all the T's...ta ti?" since her class kept singing it to themselves.

I have no idea if this blog is coherent or not- but thanks for sticking with me through this!


Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with the quantity and quality of thought you are putting in to teaching these tykes/kids. They are very lucky. Love G&Gcoddedi

Matt said...

It's coherent enough for me to understand what you're writing!