Saturday, January 19, 2013

Higher Order Thinking: Self-Assessment

Part of the goal of the Common Core standards is to develop higher order thinking skills in preparation for life challenges. We have already been encouraging higher order thinking skills in music in one very important aspect: that of self-evaluation. Our students are consistently evaluating their improvisations, their creations, their choreography, their performance techniques, and even us at times.

This year, I began using an adaptation of a behavior-style chart I discovered on Pinterest. To adapt this chart, I use clip clothespins with numbers that correlate to either a student's class number or their chair number in my room. When we are doing activities, I would have students take their clothespin and put it on the corresponding color, the middle pink being, as I tell them "You're just here. You're not making mistakes, but you're not doing anything, either!". The higher they go, the better. Under the pink are the classroom consequences of safe seat, buddy room, then office. We use the Positive Behavior Management System in my building, and the higher colors can earn them "tickets" that can be saved and later cashed in for prizes. (I only use this chart for grades 2 on up).

The kids would be able to guess, pretty much, what color they would end up on, based on their participation. So, this week, I decided to put them on the spot. For instance, this week, the second and third graders concentrated quite a bit on solfege. I inwardly assess them on their pitch match, or in some cases, if they are trying their best to match pitch, and whether they are also doing the Curwin hand signs. This week, I told them they would not only tell me what color their clothespin deserved to be on, but why. The first person picked, of course, was like a deer in the headlights. So, I gave them prompting questions. "Did you sing? Did you silly sing? Did you use the hand signs? Were you sitting up straight?" The kids quickly caught on, and a few were bluntly honest when they told me they deserved to be "in the pink" because they were not participating. Some kids even pointed out things I didn't even notice, to their advantage. One student said, "I sang with expression". I hadn't used that phrase for a couple of weeks with them, and I was pleasantly surprised! (Of course, everyone else picked up on that right away!). If the student's choice of "color" and mine didn't agree, I would gently tell them why. But in some cases, the students were harder on themselves than I would have been. Some students would pipe up for others. For instance, if I said the student should probably be on the pink, there were times when the other students would point out things I missed that the student did correctly. I loved it!

Fourth graders are currently working on their program and have recently started learning "Waiting for the Light to Shine" by Roger Miller from Big River (arranged by Spevacek). The students assessed themselves on singing in their head voices, and a few were totally honest and said they should be on the green (above the "pink" in my classroom-my order is different than what is pictured), where students earn one ticket. They explained that they had volunteered to sing the descant parts, and a few boys had volunteered to sing on the solo part. They were right. They chose to do more than what was expected, and they chose more difficult parts and really did very well at sight-reading them.

I began to notice that, for the most part, even the kids who usually have attention problems and general "goofiness" problems were doing better when they knew they might be called on to describe their own behaviors. Students are also learning, conversely, not to be so difficult on themselves as they learn that making mistakes is OK as long as they are trying the best they can at that particular place and time.

This activity can be a little time-consuming (for each class, it averaged about 10 minutes or so), so I wouldn't do the self-assessment explanation every day. They could just name their color every day, or this can be a random activity when students don't expect it. It's obvious that it cannot be the first activity in the day. The students also know those clothespins can climb up or down at any given point. A student can be on green, then quit participating or start disrupting the class and start moving down. By the same token, a student can have a rough start, but move up to the orange (on my chart, where students are when they are doing what is expected).

At the end of class, I pick off two clothespins that are in the "orange" or above. Those students are the VIPs for the next music class, get to sit in my "rolly" chairs, and are my helpers (such as putting up the tallies on the Whole Brain scoreboard I use, pass out papers, run errands, or PICK people to do those chores!)  They also get to hold a puppet if they so desire. And, it is amazing how many rough and tough sixth grade football players want to hold a puppet.

I look forward to some of your ideas, or how you can implement these in your own classroom, so please feel free to share!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Oh, No, Late for School!

As today is the last day of my winter break, I can only imagine what it would be like if I overslept tomorrow or totally forgot until the last minute that I was to return. Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) has an adorable book called "Late for School", about a student who sees the clock and realizes that the clock says he's late. His adventures, in stanza form, allows for hilarity AND for some great common core connections for third grade. I selected this book because I'm developing a program called "School Daze", mostly Orff-based. This book, something I had purchased about a year ago, is just the ticket to use for my kids to come in on, rather frantically! So, the next few posts I make is going to cover my development of the book for program use, and its connections to common core.

In the common core third grade standards, the following is found: Reading Standards-Key Ideas: ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text;  determine main idea of a text; describe characters in a text.....Integration: use information gained from illustrations and words to demonstrate understanding, compare and contrast points and key details.....Reading Standards in Phonics: grade level ponics....Writing-any of the writing standards of opinion pieces, informative text, and narratives could apply.....Speaking and Listening: Discussions, including collaborative, asking and answering questions, and determining main ideas.

On Day One of the lesson, open up the topic of being late for an event and allow for discussion. What happens if you are late for school? What are the consequences? What if you're late for soccer (football, baseball, dance, etc.)? After a set time for discussion, read Late for School (but in a monotone). Ask the students to reflect on the reading voice used and whether it fits the mood of the student in the story. (The child is obviously in a panic in the story, so, no! A monotone won't work). Play the accompanying CD of Steve Martin singing the story and ask students to compare and contrast. (This could also be a writing assignment if time permits).

In subsequent lessons, students will learn the words of the song and develop choreography to fit the mood. I will keep you posted on my students' progress!

To order the book, Click here.