Guitar 2 really took a turn the past week and a half. Students really enjoyed working in SoundTrap while they mixed the most recent album. As they were working in SoundTrap, many of them asked if we could do a project where they could create their own music. Why not? Music is music and guitar is one vehicle through which we create music.
Here's the cool thing about SoundTrap: it's cloud based, which means it is accessible on any device. There is even a SoundTrap app, so the students could access their songs via their mobile devices. It works on Macs AND PCs. Super cool.
I thought it would be fun if the students created a South High Soundscape, where recorded sounds from our school found their way into their songs. We listened to to versions of Soundscapes: Steve Reich's "Different Trains" and "City of God's Son" While these might push the envelope of a "soundscape" I thought they might provide two contrasting styles.
What the students put together is uniquely them and intriguing. When I asked them what they enjoyed about the project they replied that they enjoyed creating their own music (even if using pre-established loops), that everyone's creation was different, and there was freedom. Although-that freedom was met with a bit of anxiety at the beginning of the project because there was just SO MUCH for available for the students to work with.
Below is the project description along with some of the songs (students gave me permission to use their work.) Some students, like Diego who wrote "Doors" were very thoughtful in their approach. Diego shared that each section starts with a door sound that he recorded. He indicated that doors open and close to different sections of a school and therefore each time you hear the door in his composition, there is a new and different sounding piece. Woah...that's deep, man. (Also, this is Diego's first time being in a music class).
Please enjoy and please feel free to use this assignment in your own classroom. I believe this kind of music experience can work with ANY grade in ANY setting!
Organized chaos occurs on a daily basis in the South High guitar rooms. If you were to come into my room, you might find students working in pairs, groups of 3-4, or by themselves. You might find me working with individuals, mediating groups, or just sitting back and observing the learning that is occurring. Once in a while I may need to re-direct students to the task, but the generally rule of thumb is 80-20. Meaning, 80% of the time the students are on task, focused, and engaging in learning. 80% is a solid number and I think most them achieve that.
Today, I was inspired by the 6th hour class to start writing this blog. I am literally writing this entry while they are working in groups to put together a song. We have been working on "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons. Yesterday they listened to the song, and, as individuals, came up with their own strumming patterns. Volunteers from each class shared their patterns and we learned them from the students. I came up with an easy bass line. Today, they are working in groups to put the patterns together so they make a cohesive whole. So, one person is playing a bass line and others are creating or re-creating the strumming patterns we learned. I am watching students take on leadership roles in their groups, and other contribute their ideas. I am watching two young men work together. One young man who has struggled to find his place in class mentor another young man who has missed so much class that I barely know him. The mentor is an excellent teacher!! I am watching four girls who speak four different languages work together to figure out the song. It is really incredible. I am just sitting back and observing and watching the learning take place.
What happens when we get out of the way and let students experiment? There are eighteen different students in this class, eighteen different musical backgrounds, and eighteen different learning styles. These students are sometimes much better teachers than we will ever be, and it is important to let them take on that role.
"Remember focus on the music. Listen to what you are playing."-WOW. That just came from a student who has never had any "formal" music training. That's amazing. That is beautiful and so encouraging. I am going to steal that from him.
I LOVE making research posters. For some reason I find that this is one of the few ways I can create something visually appealing and I find satisfaction in creating posters. Call me crazy, but sometimes it is a nice change of pace.
I also love research poster sessions. I love chatting with researchers, hearing what they are working on and having meaningful conversations about research. So, why not create a research poster session for the Music In America crew? However, I felt the need to amp it up a bit and create an interactive poster session. Obviously the students (or researchers) would be interacting with other students, but why just stop at a poster? Why not have the poster linked to a website they also created?! WHHAAAA?! So that is exactly what we did.
The posters and websites varied in terms of completeness and "tidiness". However, I can say with authority that all the QR codes and tinyurls DID work (whew....). But just to be on the safe side, we had computers with the websites up and ready to go in case the sound files and videos did not work on the variety of phones that student have (or don't have). For many of these students, creating a website is an entirely new venture for them. In fact, many of them are just learning how to use computers altogether.
I coordinated with the media center and a couple classes came up and chatted with the researchers, explored the websites and asked some really great questions. They thought it was cool that they created websites as well as the codes to link the posters to the websites.
Today I asked the students about what, if anything, should I change about it (they are pretty honest with me). All of them said they enjoyed the project, the ability to go further on a topic that interested them, but what they can work on as students is time management. So, I figure that is success.
Here are links to some of the websites. We used Google sites which, for the most part, are pretty user-friendly. But, like most things technological, there are always glitches.
Social Effects on Music
Transgender Figures in Music
A lot of what we do in the South High guitar room is based on inidvidual or group creating. We create our own lyrics, we create our own melodies, we create arrangements of songs. This week, we are taking pre-existing poems that students picked out and writing the music that will eventually turn the poetry into a song. The students were very thoughtful in the poems that they picked out and we tried to have a variety of books that students could choose from including African-American poets, female poets, Native American poets, Latino/a poets and Somali poets-which basically represents the students that come into this classroom. We wanted to have a variety of resources and eras for students to choose their poetry.
Students have learned a variety of chords and songs throughout this semester and how they work within the context of a pre-existing song. Now they are in charge of making the musical decisions about what chords to use, what strumming patterns to incorporate and the melodic flow to their song. We haven't necessarily studied these concepts in depth, but students have a basic understanding of what these are as individual components and we can discuss what a melody is, but this is a great way for students to demonstrate their understanding of melody. They are not being asked to notate it, but they will be asked to express their lyrics in some way-that can be through singing or rapping (which is a form of rhythmic melody).
As a teacher, I really enjoy how this class has unfolded this semester. The students have embraced a project-based learning approach rather than being told what to do all the time. However, rather than me sharing what I have noticed, I thought I would allow a couple students to express some of what they have learned in the class. (Excuse the loud interviewer......)
What does this phrase mean to you? As we approach, or have started, a new school year, how might you consider this phrase when working with your students. In our own school, our students participated in rallies, sit-ins, and marches-during and outside of school. This summer, our neighboring community, St. Paul public schools, lost a member of their support staff to what has been best understood as racially charged violence. Our students at South are a very diverse group, whereas our teaching staff is not. However, what is wonderful about the teaching staff at South is that we recognize this disparity and we are doing the best we can to bring these conversations to the forefront of what is going on in the classroom. Some people might say that this is anti-racism education, which, in itself, is a much more in-depth pedagogy than just talking about differences.
Next week, students are coming into our school. Some of them may be returning to South, some may be brand new to South and our culture here, some may be brand new to this country and don't speak a lick of English. It is our job as educators to embrace these differences and encourage student's to use their voice, their experiences and backgrounds in the classrooms. Dare I say, sometimes the content is less important than the experiences of building relationships with our students.
There are a few of us that are working on getting this phrase made into poster and underneath having "South Teachers for Racial Equity" added. Many of our students have felt silenced or discriminated against because of their cultural or perceived racial identity, and we want them to know that we do see them, we do hear them, and we believe IN them. What would happen if we adopted this mentality in all of education.
I just completed my oral exams for my written comprehensives this past Friday down at ASU. I have found that this part of the journey is different for each school. I am thankful that my professors allowed me to write my own questions, so there weren't any surprises. Each test (there are three of them) is timed-four hours of writing. They were extremely intense, but I learned SO much from the overall experience. I have learned that I found some new pedagogy interests as well as research interests. Additionally, I have learned via Friday's exam, that I need to start thinking more deeply about what I am reading and interrogate my own beliefs, what has been written and what could be written. There were times when I thought I understood certain concepts and ideas, and I think I do understand concepts (read: hegemonic norm) but it's now time to start digging further.
In preparing for these tests I kept going back to several books. I have found that sometimes we don't read books cover to cover!!! Gasp! In fact, there is no way that I could have survived if I would have read these cover to cover, but I definitely read a good chunk of them and have found them invaluable resources in my research and in my thoughts about teaching. You are not reading a literature review here, not even a summary of these books, but just my two-cents.
The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education is in my mind, probably one of the most important books to have been published recently in music education. It brings together some of the top thinkers in music education, as well as non-music educator thinkers and confronts social justice issues head on. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is teaching K-12 or higher education.
Randal Allsup's 2016 book Remixing the Classroom: Toward and Open Philosophy of Music Education is a beautiful book. I first became acutely aware of how much I appreciated Allsup's philosophy on learning and teaching in his 2015 MEJ article "Our Both/And Movement" (another recommended read). This book continues that conversation, but also suggests that we are not preparing teachers to teach in an evolving classroom. I'm not done with this book quite yet, but am looking forward to continuing the journey.
Drs. Vicki Lind and Constance McKoy published this book early 2016 and it is a gold mine of information. It presents the historical elements of culturally responsive teaching and provides rich pedagogical implications as well as realistic applications of culturally responsive teaching in music classrooms. I am excited to continue reading this as well as the school year kicks off.