Studio to School

Reflection #7

dsc_0975How did your team define success with regards to student learning?

Success was defined those these criteria:

Can the student demonstrate proficiency with the material he/ she has been asked to learn?  Are we moving along through new material?  Are they asking questions related to their instrument, or the music at hand?  Are they attempting to learn new material during their own practice time?

dsc_0819What evidence did you expect to have per your plan?

We expected to see increasing ability coming from the students week after week. Since the teaching was/is sequential it seemed reasonable to see the progression.

A specific example of this comes from instructor Thomas Barber who said, “I tried to give each student a task to work on during their private practice time. Examples: chromatic scale from low C to middle G.  Listen to Louis Armstrong perform When the Saints Go Marching In, and write down 5 comments or questions about the performance.  Practice this exercise 5 times in front of the mirror so that you can tell if your embouchure moves or not.  At the end of the week, it was very easy to tell if the student worked on their assignment or not.  I tried to tailor each task to the level of the student, since we had so many varying ability levels. 
dsc_0921How did you track or measure student learning this year? (share any tools).  In general progress was measured through: Basic sight reading skills, rhythm, musical notation, control of their instrument. As we moved through the year we began to incorporate definite goals for each week. The students were given more concrete instructions for the goals set by the instructors. On each Friday, the students were then asked to individually demonstrate their progress by playing a song or a section of a song.

Students were asked to demonstrate knowledge of a song or concept both as a group,
and one person at a time. 
 We isolated problematic musical sections and repeated the trouble spot, starting at a slow speed, then gradually increasing tempo.  We placed a strong emphasis on encouraging proper practice habits.  As the tempo increases it is easy to see who is still having fundamental problems with the material. 
 Back and forth games were initiated between the instructor and the student.  (instructor plays the phrase, student repeats it to the best of his/her ability.)  Thomas used this approach many times in trumpet sectionals and individual lessons, as it allows him to make small comments on the performed material each time we go back and forth. 
dsc_0939Have you seen and collected evidence of student learning? Share a summary or examples of evidence of student learning.

Weekly playing tests resulting in no official grade to them.  Moving farther along in the workbook, and preparation and performance of additional material.  (Freddie the Freeloader, C-Jam Blues, etc.)
For the recorder class, progress through the worksheet, recognition of rhythms and pitches on the written staff.

Yes, I (Thomas barber)  have witnessed students learning.  This year, the core band class started the year reading single, unison melodies with simple rhythms, and by the end of the year had progressed to 3-part harmony, complex 8th note rhythms, counter-melody, jazz inflections, and rudimentary jazz improvisation. Those students that started the year late have (mostly) gained familiarity with basic rhythmic concepts, command of the instrument, basic sight reading, and memorization of certain jazz tunes.  Two of my trumpet students have excelled in almost every area.  Bella, in 7th grade started playing a year behind the other trumpets in the core class.  She took the concept of regular, consistent practice (which we stress to every student) to heart, and in a very short time was the top performing trumpet player in the class.  I had to start scheduling private lessons with her to keep her challenged with new material.  Io, a third grader, walked in to the band room in February with her father in tow and demanded to play the trumpet.  While it is unusual for 3rd graders to be admitted into the program, she was dead set on starting the instrument, so we gave her the horn.  Since then, she has demonstrated a near insatiable appetite for material to work on.  She is the first student in this program that I had to have a talk with about practicing too much, for the sake of her embouchure development!  She averages 30 minutes to an hour a day, and I come up an extra day every week (on my own time) for private lessons.  We are currently covering rhythmic concepts, major scales, blues scales, chromatic scales, jazz improvisation, transcription, articulation, a wide array of songs, rudimentary lip slurs, and a rigorous attention to proper practice habits.  Her parents have asked me to increase our private lessons to 2 times a week over the summer so that she can continue at the same pace that she has been meeting during the last semester.
Several of my more remedial students, that arrived in the program midway through the second semester, have also displayed very satisfactory improvement in tone production, embouchure placement, articulation, and range on the trumpet.

What did you learn about tracking or measuring student learning this year (either about the process or the results) did you discover anything unexpected? Was anything particularly challenging?

The most challenging thing for me was finding ways to reach every student to enforce WHY it is important to practice their instruments in a consistent manner.  Even some of our best students would just “not feel like it” every once in a while, and especially over long weekends or holiday breaks, forcing us to fall back on older material in order to catch everyone up.  When this occurred with the older, more advanced students, it set a very bad example for the newer students.  It felt to me that several students were never really able to grasp the commitment that is inherent with learning a musical instrument, instead viewing it as a hobby or from of temporary entertainment.  While I try to make playing the trumpet a fun, adventurous thing for them, several students were unable to meet the needs of the instrument, either because they were unwilling to play the horn on their own time, or their parents/ family was not supportive of the practice process.
I would say that the main impediment to progress this year was a consistent practice regimen outside of class.  I tried to be very careful not to overload students, and a great deal of effort was spent breaking down musical material so they could prepare the music efficiently and effectively, but with no grade for the class and no real consequences for them if they didn’t practice, it was too easy to brush off the workload and try to pick it up during the next class session.

dsc_5315How will you use what you learned to inform your efforts next year?

We will continue to use very set goals for each session. We visited the band program at Beaumont Middle School and found it to be very motivational for our students. We plan to use some of the techniques we observed to incorporate more playing time.
I would like to implement a practice worksheet that needs to be signed by the parents.  1 hour a week or something that can be broken down into a reasonable daily investment.  Weekly playing tests (more like solo performances) of the material.   Larger performance goals!  (spend part of each class preparing challenging, level appropriate music that will be performed.  Give the students a month or two to prepare this music, and make sure that it incorporates all the musical concepts that we cover in class, like dynamics, repeat signs, complex rhythms, etc.)

Stronger emphasis on playing, less on talking.
More emphasis on proper band etiquette during rehearsal.  (no talking, don’t play unless the conductor has signaled to, etc…)
Continued emphasis on positive energy, positive reinforcement, and encouragement to work through difficult material.

– This post was written by Susan Addy and Thomas Barber.

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