Sunday, January 27, 2013

Teacher Evaluations... Had one lately?

Recently, a colleague sent an email to all the elementary music specialists in my district asking for help in determining why she might have had received a low evaluation score on her latest administrative observation.  When she questioned her administrator, she was told that her lessons were “not aligned.”  Several other music teachers joined the discussion and we all agreed that we shared the same situation. 

On the surface, alignment seems to mean that the lesson objectives, goals, and assessment are aligned with the Texas Essential Skills and Knowledge (TEKS) and National Standards in music education.  But when I started to “dig” a little more, I realized that it was much more that that.  I began to connect the evaluation results with what I had been researching regarding the quality of teaching in the general music education classroom.

The problem for music educators is that the best practices of our field have centered around methodologies that were developed well before the current trends in research in education. I was well versed in these methodologies and depended on the resources and materials that I purchased or were provided by my district for teaching in the elementary music classroom.  

But they did not line up with the language and concepts covered in the state's teacher evaluation system. This was quite frustrating since no professional development courses were offered to music educators to remedy this gap in education theory and practices.

Recently, during an Elementary Music Educators meeting, several teachers complained about their teacher evaluations and how they did not feel they were being correctly assessed. Right away, blame was cast on the system of evaluation and on the administration’s lack of understanding of what goes on in the elementary music classroom.  

Several said that the district should offer training sessions for administration and principals to teach them what a music classroom looks like and what should be expected when they observe.  

Most music teachers feel that they are doing a great job with lesson planning and teaching.  They see their students engaged and think that they are "getting it."


How do you KNOW FOR SURE your students are learning? Can you prove that you are actually teaching the objectives... in fact, what ARE your objectives for this lesson?  Do you use HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) in your lessons?  Do you use formative assessment?  Or any kind of assessment at all?

Are you overwhelmed yet?

If you are like me, you are.  And have been for awhile.

I have searched and searched for resources, books, lesson plans, curriculum that translates all of this (stuff that is on my state's teacher evaluation) into the elementary music classroom. 

And there are few.

I am at a school that uses and urges all teachers to use:
  • collaborative learning
  • formative assessment
  • quality questioning
  • the New Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Critical Thinking
  • instructional strategies such as "No Opt Out" and "Think/Pair/Share"
  • Think Time
  • Deeper Learning
  • assessment strategies such as "Exit Tickets" and "Think Ink"

Ever heard of any of those?  Do you think they aren't important in the music classroom?

Think again.

You're gonna hear more about this in the next few years, I can guarantee.  

If you want to stay on the cutting edge, follow my blog.  I promise to write more often.  And I will be focusing on better lesson planning...

Why?  Because I am now a doctoral candidate working on my EdD in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mapping out the Year

When I started teaching Elementary Music, I heard a colleague talking about "mapping" out the lessons for the year and how daunting it was.  I was in the same boat - scrambling to put together lessons each week and just to stay ahead a little was a challenge.

Each year, I've added more to my "arsenal" of lesson plans and have a better idea of what I should be teaching and when.
I had created a "Year at a Glance" spreadsheet during my Kodaly training 5 years ago and I had referred to it briefly a time or two when planning lessons.

Finally, this summer, I sat down and revised it because Texas had released their "rough draft" of the new "Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills" for music classrooms.  So I sat down and created my own chart and came up with a very nice "map" of my year.

I included a number of different categories for activities that you may not have thought of.  My school is a"Success For All" school and focuses on collaborative learning.  So I have included a category for me to describe activities where I am grouping students to work together on the concept.  

Differentiated Instruction is also a big buzzword in my district, so I like to show ways that my lessons are DI (more about that in another post).

I love to incorporate iPods and Student Computers into my lessons, making them like "Stations" or "Centers" at least every quarter.  This is a great way to assess learning and give concrete grades as the students demonstrate their learning in each station or center.

I may not have something for each category in each lesson, but at least I have a place to add it if I think of something!  And I may not always use each category in each lesson and find that I extend lessons over several weeks which wreks havoc with my Year at a Glance!  But, hey!  This is better than not having a map!  Taking a little detour is part of the journey!

Here are some screen shots to show you the first two months of concepts.

Here is the link to download an Excel version of the spreadsheet.

Happy Teaching!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A glimpse of my classroom

Most of my colleagues posted photos of their classroom early in August.  I am just getting around to it! But better late than never since I have included links to goodies!

I transferred to a new campus on the last day of school last year.  I spent part of my summer going through stuff at the new campus and transferring the 10 boxes of my own stuff into my "new" classroom!

Here is my "home away from home!"

I was totally thrilled to have a SMARTboard (although an older version of it, but it works great!). Yes - that is a guitar amp.  I now have an ancient Ensonic keyboard (at least 20 years old) that doesn't have internal speakers.  I will certainly write a grant for a Yamaha as soon as I can!

Pete the Cat

You'll notice the "Pete the Cat" bulletin board to the left.  I love the books and videos (you can find them on YouTube).  But I had never thought of doing a bulletin board until Meredith posted her idea on the Music K-8 email list.  Here is the link to her fabulous Pete the Cat!

Curwen Hand Signs - Solfege

There were no Solfege icons in the classroom, so I was happy when another colleague mentioned some nice Curwen Hand Sign printables available on the internet.  I printed these, glued them to construction paper, laminated them and posted on my wall!  They really are fantastic!

Word Wall
I finally got around to creating a Word Wall.  I had been saving some great .pdf files that I downloaded from the internet of the actual words but decided that I needed "headings" for each category.  You can see that I haven't finished each category... yet!  I apologize that I didn't save the link to the words since I had downloaded those a year or two ago.  You can google music word wall and come up with a number of great files!  Or look on the Music K-8 Magazine idea bank or list archive.

For the "headings" poster that I created...

You can download the SMARTboard file here:

Or a .pdf file here:

Different Voices

Here is a SMARTBoard lesson for Kinder-1st with icons representing the different voices we use.  It is a great way to begin teaching children how to use their voices and to recognize their own singing voices.

Start the class by teaching a chant such as "Bee, Bee, Bumblebee."  After the students learn it, tell them that we use different voices.  Show the SMARTboard page with the labeled icons and point to each and demonstrate how to chant, sing, shout, whisper, think " Bee, Bee, Bumblebee."

Allow them to "try out" their voices with the chant while you point to different icons.  Finally, try to "trick" them by moving more quickly between icons to see if they can change their voice "mid-stream" so to speak.

Click on the link below to download the SMARTboard lesson.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to school!

My apologies for the silence over the summer!  Sometimes in the busy-ness, blogging gets pushed to the side. I tend to "pile my plate" and then get overwhelmed with it all!

Music K-8 Magazine
If you haven't discovered the Music K-8 Magazine, you need to click on this link right away and peruse their wonderful resources!

If you haven't joined their email list, you are missing out on an amazing networking opportunity! There are teachers with many years of experience and knowledge on the list, and they love when you ask questions!

Recently, someone on the Music K-8 email list asked about a resource for a lesson on the artist Joan Miro (pronounced Jo-wan Mee-row) and I happen to have a SMARTboard lesson that I created a few years back with links to awesome video clips of the artist and his collaboration with Duke Ellington. I found the clips on YouTube (don't attack me for this!  It is hard to resist such awesome material made available there!) It is a great lesson on improvisation and the connection between art and music for 5th-6th Grade.
If you are interested, here is the link to the SMARTboard lesson on Improvisation and Miro. 

For those of you who do not have a SMARTBoard, here is the Miro file in PowerPoint.

I worked on a number of SMARTboard files over the summer that I will be posting in the next few weeks.  It would have been nice if I had gotten them uploaded before the start of school so everyone could make use of the beginning lessons, but... life happens.