Monday, November 28, 2011

Let the Creative Juices Flow...

I'm staying at work far too late today, but it's okay.  I've had a surge of creativity in how to arrange my classroom, how to motivate my students (at least until the Holiday Break), and a way for me to deepen the lessons I've been teaching.  Yes, it's been that kind of great idea day.  I love these days.

First, the arrangement of my classrooms, yes, I have two.  One for each campus.  I rearranged one of them the week before Thanksgiving, with great success.  I'm still cleaning up some of the aftermath of that massive adjustment, but when it's all finished Wednesday (the next day I'll be at that campus) I'll take pictures and post them.  I had been mulling over what to do with the other was time for a change, and I was beginning to run into some shortcomings in the arrangement I made at the beginning of the year.  As with the other campus, this process began the week before Thanksgiving, and now I'm finishing what I started.  I'll finish this campus tomorrow - pictures to come!  I'd narrate what I've done with both rooms now, but it will make FAR more sense with visuals.

Second, motivating my students until Christmas.  I stumbled upon how to do this with my W-F campus the week before Thanksgiving as I was rearranging and attempting to decorate my room for the holidays.  A prior teacher in that room left a bunch of decorations, including a tree, so I definitely wanted to take advantage of it.  Realizing that I could not possibly do all of that work myself in a reasonable amount of time, I decided to take another tactic - every time I wanted to recognize a student for behaving extremely well and having awesome classroom participation, I handed them an ornament to put on my class tree.  Most of them are plastic, thankfully, and shatterproof!  I kept an ornament in my hand (their eyes were then glued on me), and eventually handed it to a worthy student.  Keeping an ornament in my hand kept me from forgetting to award one from time to time, as well as helping to hold their attention and motivation.  So two birds with one stone - my tree was decorated heavily by the end of the week, and my students resolutely on task.  They all participate in the annual campus Christmas Program, so they have no shortage of work to accomplish these next two weeks (their program is on the 14th).  I was thrilled.  At my other campus I don't have a tree, and I didn't quite have time to make other decorations to put up...and today I didn't have time to make it to where I had an easy way for the kiddos to help me with it either.  SO...enter tactic number two.  Only my Choir has to perform a Christmas program at my M-T campus, so our lessons are not the same at both places right now.  Without having a performance deadline looming over them, and without a convenient way for them to help me decorate - I set up a friendly competition between the classes, with the Grand Prize being that the winning class gets to watch the Fantasia segment of The Nutcracker Suite during their last music lesson before the break.  Result?  The K-3rd grade classes really got into it.  4th grade didn't care for it much, but that's alright, I have to start them on their January program music next week anyway.  5th grade is working on their Recorder unit, so they're already highly motivated!

And finally, a way to deepen my lessons and make them more entertaining too!  This is actually an extension of some things I learned in my Kodaly certification classes.  My district elementary music coordinator gave me 8 signs to put in my room at the beginning of the year.  They read:  Spider Patsch Beat, Sing Text, "5 & 2", Sing Rhythm Syllables, Sing Solfege, Audiate, Form, and Conduct.  They also have cute clip art on them.  Each sign stands for a different set of instructions on activities that can be used with nearly any song.  She demonstrated with my Kodaly class how to use them, and how you can up the difficulty of a simple song by changing the directions mid-song by merely pointing to a new sign.  I used these pretty well at the beginning of the year, but I've fallen off the wagon a little bit lately, and I wanted something more too.  So today I designed three more signs which read:  Write (Dictate) Text, Write (Dictate) Rhythm Syllables, and Write (Dictate) Solfege.  My administrators keep refusing to check the box on our walkthrough evaluations that deals with "authentic literacy", in part because my students are rarely writing anything down.  This will help solve my problem with that, while I can then be teaching and assessing more MUSIC literacy.  I have a bunch of small whiteboards in this room that were given to me by a retiring teacher friend, and I have a mind to put them to good use now that I have an idea HOW.  I just need more dry erase markers.  I'm also going to turn it into a team game to review and go further into depth on songs they already know, rather than use the cards to initially teach the songs.  This way, I can have a segment in each lesson that pushes my students farther into the musical literacy of songs they know, without it getting dry and boring.  I also will need popsicle sticks with the titles of the songs we've learned written on them (and empty coffee cans or similar containers, one for each grade level), so they randomly draw the song for each lesson, and also which "event" they will compete in.  I need to finish setting up my scoreboards too.  So much work to do...but this is going to be so worth it, I think. 

I really wish my phone weren't completely dead, or else I'd post some pictures tonight.  Oh well.  Later this week, then.

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