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Observation of Various Learning Environments

January 15, 2012 (5 hours)
School of Education Event  I helped with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the School of Education. This included children from Kindergarten to about 5th grade in a heterogeneous mix. This age group taught me that the younger students are easier to engage in activities. The older children were much harder to convince to participate and to enjoy their time. However, when movement and singing were combined, almost all the children participated and visibly had a fun time in the short time. I also learned that the times before lunch and after lunch create more chaotic classrooms because the students are either tired and hungry or full and tired from eating. These times were much harder to keep them focused and engaged, but the singing and dancing helped keep them excited about the class.  Learning Objectives: The objective of this lesson was to teach the children a song from South Africa and to teach ways not to “turn around,” or be discriminated against. The objectives were stated with the younger groups of students while the teachers would imply the objective and ask more in depth questions for the older groups of students.  The lesson started with the students marching into the classroom chanting “Turn around, No!” and they marched in a circle. Then a song was taught through call and response and new lyrics were added with hand motions. Finally, a South African song was taught in both the native language and in English through call and response. These activities were presented by different students, so it was a little choppy with transitions. The activities

were presented in a way that explained them before beginning, which took up more time that what was probably needed, also.  The students seemed to enjoy themselves when singing, which was a key part of the lesson since the groups came in 20 minute intervals. From feedback from other volunteers, the students really enjoyed the South African song. Because of the short lesson, it was hard to determine if the connection to MLK day was made by all the students, but some were able to talk about connections between MLK day and movies about the Civil Rights Movement.  The most effective teaching strategy that I observed was the use of dancing when singing the South African song. All the students seemed to enjoy themselves as well as learn the songs and dances. In the first song that was taught, students were instructed to choose hand motions to do when the word was sung. For “separation,” students would often move their hands away from each other. This engaged the students physically and mentally. The way that the connection between the songs and MLK were awkward and not effective because, after doing so many physical activities, listening to a teacher speak was anticlimactic and did not yield to much absorption.  Most children were motivated when all the student teachers were participating. There were a few students, however, that refused to participate and the student teachers would try and show how much fun the songs were by singing louder or helping engage them with the rest of the group.  Overall, this was a great lesson for a short amount of time. To be able to teach two songs that related to MLK day was surprising to me, but in a pleasant way. Also the

attentiveness of the students was somewhat surprising, considering that most students in these schools had the day off and I’m sure these students would have rather been home.  I will definitely remember that it is possible to incorporate not only history lessons but also songs from other cultures through call and response teaching.

Feb 16, 2012 (1 ½ hours)
IUCC Choir  I observed an IU Children’s Choir rehearsal, which comprised of 4th and 5th graders. This class was very active group of about 25 students with a teacher and a piano accompanist. This group of students was very active in their participation for the most part. There were a couple of girls that did not participate in some of the activities that did not directly involve singing. It was evident that the boys and the girls still separated themselves from each other, and if a boy and girl were sitting next to each other, there were usually issues with keeping them focused on the task at hand. I also learned that this age group is very sensitive to how “easy” a concept is, and how these concepts are introduced and practiced.  The learning objectives included developing a good vocal sound, as a group and as an individual, sing in a combined choir with an older group, understand and execute rhythms in a 6/8 time signature, and combining music to words, each of which have already been rehearsed. The good vocal sound was stated by the teacher while explaining what vocal exercises they would perform. The group first stretched their bodies before singing, and then did vocal exercises, like vocal sirens. This was obviously a routine for the group, so there was little instruction needed, but the group seemed to understand the importance of this step. The students were initially not as willing to participate, but the teacher involved the students by varying the routine through clapping interesting rhythms and changing the way the vocal sirens were sung. The next part of the rehearsal was combined with an older choir. During this time, the younger singers were instructed to sit between more experienced singers. Since there was only one instructor, this allowed for the students to

ask each other questions rather than having multiple teachers help, or have one teacher be overwhelmed. Again, this was not new to either choir, so they were fairly well behaved. This was in preparation for a large combined concert, so the students were motivated by the thought of having a larger audience. This rehearsal was run by another teacher, who was very energetic and kept a fast pace with the rehearsal. He used his falsetto, which allowed the students to imitate him in the correct octave. He would also break down music before combining the whole section of music, often starting with diction, then pitch, and finally putting the two together with an emphasis on articulation and style. The transitions to different sections of music was slightly choppy, but due to time constraints and the nature of music, the nature of his fast pace allowed for the transitions to be effective.  The students were very responsive to an activity that involved rhythm. In this activity, the teacher first taught (or reviewed) 6/8 rhythmic patterns, then divided the class into teams that would create a musical piece using only the rhythms they were assigned. From observing the group I helped, once one person spoke up with his idea, everyone else gave their ideas. It was easy to tell who the leader of the group was, but the other students tried to give their ideas and have them incorporated. It was difficult for the students to choose a single idea at a time to use, so the teacher intervened to make the students decide on an idea. Most of the allotted time was dedicated to deciding what to do rather than actually composing the piece and rehearsing. The other team seemed to be more productive because the teachers were focused on making the piece and rehearsing. Once these rhythms were applied to music, the students were eager to find the patterns and were able to sing them accurately and with a true understanding of the rhythm.

Overall, it was a very interesting rehearsal to observe. Going into this, I had expected a strictly choral rehearsal with a majority of the time dedicated to singing, but it was run very much like a general music class. I liked this approach because it gave these students not only experience and instruction in singing, but also an extension of music education outside of their regular school days. This helped me understand how to incorporate music theory ideas and activities to a choral or instrumental focused classroom, such as the rhythm composition and the warm-up used.

February 23rd, 2012 (1 hour, 25 min.)
3rd Grade Recorder rehearsal (50 min)  This was a 3rd grade class that was preparing for a recorder concert in about two weeks. They have their music class twice a week. The concert is mostly for 4th graders, but the 3rd graders are very advance on the recorder and are with the 4th graders in the concert. I learned that the students are eager to perform what they have to working on for their friends and family. They are also excited about the music, especially since most of the songs are songs that they have been singing in school for years. Students also volunteered for duets and trios to perform, which were quickly rehearsed. These students were eager to play their pieces that they have been working on for the teacher, but many of them were nervous to play. They all, however, took their solos seriously. This class was right after either recess or a physical education class, so the students were very active and had a lot of energy. This helped with such a fast paced class, because the teacher was able to channel their energy towards the music. The teacher used their excitement to have them answer questions about the form of the pieces and the style. They also answered questions about what the fingerings of harder parts were and how to remember them.  The objective of this class was to play through and touch-up as many songs in the concert as possible. There was no time for the students to goof-off between pieces because the teacher transitioned between pieces rapidly. She would remind the students of the form of the piece, the patterns, and tricky sections of each piece. The students were active in their responses to these elements of the pieces and excited to tell the teacher how much they knew about the pieces.

In particular, I found one of the pieces interesting in the way it was taught. It was not a well-known folk song, as many of the other were, and the sections of the piece were in extreme registers and very contrasting. The teacher made a story that correlated with each section that involved body movements. This was used to help students remember the piece before playing, and was especially helpful since the class only met twice a week.

From my short observation, the recorder lesson seemed to be successful. For such young students, they were able to grasp the concepts of form and patterns in songs. Through this type of preparations, the students were able to play the songs by memory with confidence and with phrasing. The students were also able to respond to how to correctly play the recorders, mostly to blow less into the instrument.

I was very impressed with the class, because the students were able to transition so quickly as well as accurately. The teacher was very fast paced and didn’t allow for any misbehavior.

4th – 6th Grade general music classroom – February 23rd, 2012 (50 min)  This was a 4th-6th grade general music class. This was a large class that was made up of a wide range of ages. From this class, I learned that it is hard to engage a heterogeneous age group. The oldest students were not as engaged in the project as the younger students. Even when they recognized a song, they would try to hide their reaction from anyone and would keep themselves from enjoying the music. As the age of the students decreased, their enjoyment of the activity increased. The youngest students were visibly excited about listening to music of the 1950s and were eager to sing along to the songs.

The objective of this lesson was to analyze the song Lollipop by The Chordettes through a worksheet. The worksheet focused on the rhythm of the introduction, the form, and what voices and instruments were present in each section. They were stated on the worksheet, but the teacher would imply these concepts before listening to fragments of the song. From what the teacher told me before this class started, the teacher had been teaching the students about popular music in America during the 20th Century. They were able to identify popular musicians of different eras, such as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, and were able to talk about the aesthetic of their music. I was impressed by the teacher’s incorporation of popular music from the past into general music theory topics.

The teacher began the class by reviewing other musicians from the 1950s and discussed with the students what instruments were commonly used in popular music of the time. The teacher then played the song Lollipop once in entirety, but told the students to listen for the clapping rhythm in the beginning. The teacher then would do each question individually, first listening to the song excerpt, then asking the class to answer the question. The teacher would play the clip again if the students could not answer the question, but would help answer it while listening a third time.

The students were eager to answer the questions and actively trying to answer the questions. They were applying knowledge from past classes, such as types of rhythms and basic musical forms, so the students were able to answer most of the questions easily.

I found the listening exercise effective because the same phrases were played multiple times, which helped reinforce the concepts of the song. I believe the worksheet was not completely necessary, but it would help with visual learners so that they could visually see the questions. For the most part, the students were sitting or lying on the floor, and I

believe the older students might have become more engaged if there was a physical activity that was incorporated in some way. However, this might have been another place that the older students would not get involved if the activity was too “babyish.”  Overall, I was impressed by the teacher style. From making my own listening lesson plan, I have found that this exercise can be difficult. The teacher, however, was able to engage a majority of the students, making them answer questions and think about how it related to music from other eras.

April 4th, 2012 (2 hrs)
IUCC – First Voices  I observed two preschool and kindergarten aged choir rehearsal. This age group was very willing to sing and participate in the lesson for the day. At times they would be distracted by other students around them or the two observing students in the room, but the teachers would start singing or moving and would get their attention again. These younger students were all comfortable singing in their head voices and in front of each other in solos.  The objective of this lesson was to be able to sing through a song with movements. In the class, they decided when each movement would be done. During the first class, the students were able to decide, but during the second class (who would all be performing together) the teachers led the students to the decision of the first class. During another song, there were problems with certain lyrics and pitches. The teacher would sing incorrectly, and the students would then correct the teacher.  The section when the students became the teacher was very effective because during the final run-through, the students corrected themselves. The teacher would also have the students speak the lyrics before singing a song, which allowed the students to recollect the song, especially since the students would not have sung it in about a week. There was also lots of movement and singing, which helped keep the students focused and not too antsy during the whole rehearsal. During this rehearsal, they learned new movements to a song about dinosaurs and about a squirrel. These two songs would be performed in the coming weeks, so

the teachers focused on making sure all the students were able to sing each part and do the movements.  The use of call-and-response seemed to be the most effective teaching technique. Especially when teaching by rote, this was probably the only way to teach the students songs. However, the teachers were able to keep focus and get the most done as possible by only doing a couple lines at once and highlighting the differences and similarities between sections. The teachers would also keep the class moving at a very fast pace with little time between songs to have the students get riled up. However, the teachers would have to stop class to discuss how they would teach a certain section and the students would get distracted. The teachers would then get them focused again quickly, so not much time was lost in the end. I think this is more desirable than wasting time on teaching in a way that is not efficient.  I would definitely use the technique of getting a class’s attention through singing. In the younger grades, they are so excited to sing that they will be eager to join in with the teacher and start class with them singing. I would also use their encouraging and warm-up like endings to keep the students positive about music and singing.