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Unit Plan Context

Meadow Brook Elementary School is a kindergarten through fourth grade public school in the
Forest Hills Public Schools district in Kent County. As of 2014-2015, there are 499 students enrolled with
a consistent average of 100 students per grade. The gender split is equal with 251 males and 248 females.
Out of the 499 students, 82 are eligible for free lunch, and 10 are eligible for reduced price lunch,
approximately one fifth of the student body. The community in which the school resides is primarily
residential, although Forest Hills Foods and some other local restaurants and businesses are just up the
road. The demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods consist primarily of white middle-class and
middle-aged people and families as discussed in more detail below. The Forest Hills district seems to
provide opportunities across its school system and assigned area.
In terms of race and ethnicity, Meadow Brook had 335 white students (about 67%), but the
second largest demographic is the 84 Asian/Pacific Islander students (about 17%). This somewhat unique
group is in part due to the fact that Meadow Brook is a 50/50 Chinese Immersion school. This affects
what students do in the music classroom with Chinese words in our welcome song, studying Yo-Yo Ma,
or singing and playing Ten Red Pairs of Gleaming Chopsticks on the recorder for a school assembly.
However, it is not just the Asian demographic that is culturally recognized. The Black, non-Hispanic
segment of 28 students is represented through studies of Black History Month that include Follow the
Drinking Gourd, historical presentations, and the like. There are 17 Hispanic and 33 people from Two or
More Races in the school who are recognized and celebrated as well. 1 Within the Forest Hills district, this
school has a diverse population. For example, 92.2% of residents are white, followed by 3.4% Asian,
1.7% Hispanic, and 1.2% Black alone.2 Many come from the immediate neighborhood seeing as this is a
public school, but Meadow Brook also draws students from beyond its immediate area, especially
because of its Chinese Immersion program. Although other schools may have slightly more diverse
populations by the numbers, this school prides itself of not just being diverse in comparison to their
districts population but also recognizing and celebrating diversity.3
Although the above information is focused more on the entire school itself, the classrooms are
microcosms of these demographics. The music room sees every single one of the 499 students. Part of my

1 Meadow Brook Elementary School 2014-2015 Annual Education Report. National Center for
Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/sch_info_popup.asp?
Type=Public&ID=261461000057. Web. Accessed 21 March 2016.
2 Forest Hills, Michigan. City-Data. http://www.city-data.com/city/Forest-Hills-Michigan.html. Web.
Accessed 21 March 2016.
3 Meadow Brook Elementary School 2014-2015 Annual Education Report. National Center for
Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/sch_info_popup.asp?
Type=Public&ID=261461000057. Web. Accessed 21 March 2016.

lesson called Mystery Musician will be taught to all of the students, and the rest of it is for the fourth
grade classes. The fourth grade class on which I am focusing contains 13 girls and 9 boys. Four of the
students appear African American, five students appear to be Hispanic, one student appears to be Indian,
one girl recently arrived from Japan and speaks no English, and eleven students appear to be white. To my
knowledge, three of the twenty-two students have IEPs and documented learning disabilities and/or
accommodations.
My unit plan is primarily a listening unit based around the Classical composer Joseph Haydn. The
first component that will be taught to all of the grades is Mystery Musician. Each month, there is a clue
every week combined with a listening excerpt of one of the musicians compositions or performances.
Past months have included Yo-Yo Ma, Ella Fitzgerald, Antonio Vivaldi, and the like. Diversity is
considered not only in race and ethnicity but also in style and time period. The current students have not
been exposed to much Classical repertoire, and so Haydn will allow for that exploration. He is a pivotal
figure and like between people like Beethoven and Mozart.
Another element that is important when considering what to teach in a unit is students prior
knowledge of the history of music. The music classroom explores genres from around the world including
African American spirituals, Chinese and Irish folk songs, dance music from Europe, Spanish songs, and
so much more. Linking world and U.S. events to Haydns life reinforces their history schema. For
example, the French and Indian War, the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, and French
Revolution, the beginning of British Imperialism in China, all took place during Haydns life and can be
linked in accordance with it. Showing students how artists and musicians work reflects their context is
vital to deep musical understanding.
Religion in the school reflects the districts ties as well. In 2010, 45.3% claimed no religion,
23.5% claimed Evangelical Protestantism, and 19.0% claimed Catholicism. 4 This being said and the
nature of the public school provides interesting opportunities for teaching in light of Christianity. Much of
the schools focus is on moral or On Track behavior, like respecting ones neighbor, making good
choices, or using kind words. In fact, the entire third grade class recently performed an entire musical
called From the Inside Out that dealt with their personal code of honor, making promises, how
changing the world started with them, and the like. In light of this, a composers religious works are not
disregarded but are treated more in terms of historical significance. For Haydn, the pieces which we will
be engaging are the Surprise Symphony, The Joke, The Farewell Symphony, a work on the baryton
instrument, and a choral sacred work. This is a diverse palette that allows for discussion of the highs and
lows of human emotion, grief, and religious traditions of the time. This unit also allows students to

4 Forest Hills, Michigan. City-Data. http://www.city-data.com/city/Forest-Hills-Michigan.html. Web.


Accessed 21 March 2016.

practice their exemplary behavior through their listening skills as they gather around the stereo or sit on
the floor in front of the marker board, open-ended questions about musical elements like dynamics and
mood, and application of principles they have been learning all year through use of the technology
available like computers and ELMOs. They also will have opportunities to explore theme and variation
through various rhythms on instruments, kinesthetic activities which the open space of the room allows
for, and more intellectual activities. Each week focuses on a new musical skill such as rhythm,
composition, emotion/timbre/dynamics, and arranging. Each of the concepts in the unit uses Haydns
work as a spring board and example to then move into students doing music in accordance with not only
National Standards but also Michigan Music Standards. Creating, Performing, Responding, and
Connecting as listed in the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) standards are all present. 5
The main objective of this unit was to fill gaps in the curriculum like a listening unit, a classical
composer, and an introduction to composition. All of these elements are present and correlate with the
students needs and learning schema thus far.

5 2014 Music Standards. National Association for Music Education. http://www.nafme.org/myclassroom/standards/. Web. Accessed 21 March 2016.