Most of you are probably preparing to begin the 2018-19 school year. Here in Mishawaka, Indiana, I’m well into my third week of classes and as such, I’m finally getting around to updating and distributing my class syllabus. I’M NOT LAZY, I SWEAR!
I never start the year with a stack of paperwork and lists of rules. It just doesn’t fit my style and my strengths as a teacher. My priority always lies in building relationships and establishing positive class culture. I always make a point of really getting to know the kids and I TRY to design a new class each year that will best fit the group, evolve with the students, but also improve/build upon the depth and effectiveness of my curriculum/instructional technique. Learning is so stunted when students feel forced. Establish buy-in and build trust. Let the students drive curriculum.
We began the year with hands-on music making. Exploring the functions of our new keyboards and creating synthesized music through digital web-based programs like Incredibox and Soundtrap. We handle a lot of maintenance in creating accounts with these programs, joining our Google Classroom (learning the new updates), and learning how to download/share unique music in various forms (share links, mp4, wav, etc.).
Eventually we do talk about the purpose of our class and what we, as a cohesive group would like to study in order to make the best use of the scientific benefits music brings to expanding brain function. This also leads organically into a class discussion on the power of music in establishing pathways between neurons, initiating better use of left-brain/right-brain, and accessing different brain functions simultaneously. I usually show this TED talk on the benefits of playing an instrument: How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.
I’ll wrap up this discussion or week with a brief look at our syllabus. Please, do us all a favor and DON’T read this document word-for-word to your students. Use it as a reference for establishing and reaffirming a culture of student-focused curriculum.
As you go through the motions of this year, consider what you are doing and why. Map your curriculum. Reflect. If you happen to work with a future-ready, arts-supportive school district consider requesting time to meet with music district-wide and go through the reflection process together. Discuss your curricular and instructional struggles, align vertically and build the quality of your program. Check out some curriculum map examples in the resources section of this blog or revisit my brief discussion on mapping here.
Good luck and as always, ask for support!