Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Singing Voice

Ahhh, General Music and the singing voice. Oh, to be a trained vocalist to handle all the singing in a GM classroom!

Actually, not really. An untrained, but musical voice can be a better model for general music. What?!

Yep, an untrained, but musical voice (matches pitch, has a good tone and quality), can be a better model for kids because it sounds closer to their voices.

Imagine a full power Operatic voice singing the Tree Song. Not. Going. To. Fly. with 1st graders.

Why? Kids have light treble voices without vibrato. Vibrato doesn't happen naturally until sometime after puberty. They have a really hard time matching pitch when a song is being modeled with full throttle vibrato.

I approached my student teaching with all of the lovely sounds of my classically trained Bel Canto Voice. The kids were having a hard time matching my pitches. My co-op teacher pointed out what was going on and suggested I try singing without vibrato. So I did, and it worked! Gradually I removed my vibrato as I taught over the years. I have found that my kids have become better singers because I'm providing a better vocal model, a pleasing one, and it's one they can match.

Granted, when I'm singing Art Songs, or what have you, I put vibrato back in because it's appropriate for the style. But when I want the kids to match me, out it goes. So, it's something a trained singer always has to be aware of. We want to sing the "right" way, but what's "right" depends on the situation.

So not being classically trained in voice may be a benefit for you!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

words from Kerry

My first week of K-6 student teaching was filled with quiet, attentive, orderly students, and I remember it mostly for its peace and calmness. Ahhh….

That’s because the kids were totally engrossed in slideshow pictures and tales from Ms. Taylor’s trip to South Africa!

So my second week, when I was asked to pick a class of kids that I’d like to start teaching, I picked the first grade class. They looked like a safe bet, sitting in the dark looking up at the projector screen, with their tiny legs folded up “criss-cross-applesauce.” And little did I know, I’d just picked a class with some of the most ornery students.

I dove into that class with my lesson plan detailed on paper and locked into my mind. Teaching labs in college, everything went almost exactly as you’d written down…just follow the steps, right? I thought I knew just what pace I would teach at, what questions I would ask the kids, and just about how they respond. That wasn’t how it worked at all for my first lesson! I noticed quickly that the kids were restless and unfocused. I couldn’t seem to capture their attention in the way I’d imagined, and the two hyper ones partnered up and began distracting each other. When it was time to add movements, the class seemed completely crazy. I kept up with the lesson as best I could, and tried to separate the two kids I saw as a “problem,” but I was totally flustered! How could a roomful of first graders seem so intimidating?

After getting some feedback, I was amazed to find out that I had oversimplified the lesson. The kids were capable of much more than I was asking, and their fidgety reaction was a telltale sign. Even the two noisy boys I had separated were actually helping each other out on a partner exercise, and I had separated them right when they were the most engaged. I needed to adjust my teaching so that it was something the students could pay more attention to!

Biggest lesson learned for me: I could write all the detailed lesson plans I wanted, but nothing would replace being totally tuned in to the kids. I learned to let their discoveries and reactions guide the pace of my class. They really want to pay attention to their teacher, and so I should pay just as much attention to them while I teach. Adjusting on the fly made me nervous at first, but I gradually focused less on myself, and much more on the kids in front of me. That made for better teaching…and much more fun!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.
-Richard Kline
No noble thing can be done without risks.
-Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

snow days... what to do?

Here are some thoughts about snowdays:

Just because we are not in school with students, don't forget to keep your mind fresh! Take this as an opportunity to become well planned, organized, and prepared for the rest of your placement. This will be increasingly important after snowdays for one important reason. Your students are now on different stages of your plans. You have some students whom you have taught your first and second lesson to, while you have others you have yet to see. Get the schedule out, take a look at where you are, make a note as to what has been done each day, what needs to be done, and what could be eliminated in order to get your schedule back to a manageable gameplan.

It is often a very overwhelming thing to take over your general music placement's full schedule. Add to that the scatteredness that snowdays cause, and you may find yourself staring at a class to which you have just realized has "already done that" and you have no game plan.

Also, even though many of your planning sources are at school, there are things you can look at via the internet or past course work to aid in your planning. Dig out your methods notebook. Find plans you enjoyed watching or teaching. Go to the WVDE website or THIS BLOG to see the WVContent Standards and guides to assist you in planning. Search for lesson plan formats that may fit your needs more efficiently. Search for lessons on line (although, often this is hard). Go to various websites for sources and listen to recordings.. IE...New England Dancing Masters has a great website with many of the sources your placement teacher may have. You may get inspired for a lesson after listening to the recordings.

Contrary to public opinion.....most teachers do utilize, at least a portion of their snowdays, preparing, organizing and getting prepared for what lies ahead. You should do the same!

Finally, if you do find a lesson that you want to teach from an alternate source, make sure you cite where it came from. There is nothing more embarrassing for a student teacher than to teach a lesson that has actually come from your placement teacher, via another/former student. Remember, most of us have hosted 382 at one point or another, so if you get a lesson from a friend and turn it in, make sure you know where it comes from. IT'S OK to borrow, group plan, and share lessons with peers!!! Afterall, that is what your placement teachers have done for years... Imitation is one of the stages of learning in this placement. Just make sure to give credit where credit is due. It's a great way to learn! It will also help you in the future if you ever want to present that lesson publically. You must reference the source in order to present/publish any material.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

20 pairs of eyes

Thank you so much to Kevin for sharing his impressions.

I had done my first 7 week placement, like many others, in high school band dealing with the normal high school band world activities like percussion ensemble, marching band, concert band, theory classes, and a general mentality where the world pretty much revolves around band. I have to say, I was so wrapped up in that frame of mind when starting my elementary school placement, It didn't even occur to me what exactly I was going to experience until my first day.

I walked into Mason Dixon Elementary on my first day, signed in, and was shown to the music room where Becky was getting ready for her first class. She wasn't in a rush, but was definitely concentrated on getting things set up in a particular way. To be honest, I don't really remember what we talked about for the next several minutes, but I distinctly remember the kindergarten class coming through the door. They were escorted by their teacher, walking in a straight line, hands to themselves, very quiet, and ridiculously small! They came in and sat on the floor and unlike high school, they simply looked to the teacher for what to do next. Becky softly greeted them and introduced me and explained that I would be with them, helping, teaching, learning, for the next couple months and then quickly got them into a circle to play the name game. I joined in the circle with at least 20 pairs of eyes fixed on my every move. We completed the game and went through everyones name, including mine, with an accompanying movement and by this point I was feeling extremely uncomfortable as I wasn't used to being stared at. We then moved to a movement / interpretation exercise set to music in which we had to act out different sounds and I kept thinking how much I felt like a giant and was afraid of bumping into any of the kids. And of course, they never stopped looking at me! Next, we sat back down in a circle while the next activity was being explained and (while I was being closely watched) a boy sitting right next to me tapped me on the should and asked if I could tie his shoe. I shook my head yes and quickly tied his shoe, not thinking anything of it. As soon as I tied it and look up, without saying a word, another girl on the opposite side of the circle untied her shoe, stood up, walked over to me, and held her shoe out for me to tie too!

Now, I didn't think much of this at first, but actually that one silly, innocent action instantly took away my uneasiness and made me feel more comfortable in elementary school. Unlike high school, where the kids have very active social lives and numerous other influences, these kids, who have only been alive as long as you've been in college, want to hear what you have to say, how you act, how you react, how you sing, and most of all, they want to trust you and look up to you! After that, I wasn't really afraid to sing in my "high voice", or dance, or act, or pretend.