Ashley Hall's Professional Education Portfolio

K-12 Certified Music Educator

Substandard A

4. EFFECTIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Management and monitoring of time, relationships, students, and classrooms to enhance learning, including the ability to:

a. Engage students in meaningful learning experiences while maximizing the use of instructional time;

This substandard addresses the teacher’s ability to modify the schedule and make instructional decisions based on the changing classroom dynamics; this includes planning core curricular activities that operate at multiple levels to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Time management and music go hand in hand; and I don’t just mean the management of the “beat.” Unlike core curricular classes, like an English course where you might read texts and change for one unit plan to another consecutively, secondary music classes teach 4 to 6 unit plans at the same time. I use the term “unit plan” loosely but I stress all the same that there is an approach to teaching music just like there is to teaching any subject that requires the use of a unit plan layout.

The first thing any instrumental music educator needs to consider before creating a unit plan is the make-up of their classroom. The teacher needs to be aware of their instrumentation (that’s the variety of instruments and number of players per section in the ensemble). This is the same idea as when a core subject teacher looks at their classroom and analyzes their classes’ make-up of diverse learners, special-needs students, ethnic back-grounds… Once the music teacher understands their own make-up, only then can they start picking materials that are technically appropriate for their ensembles. Imagine trying to perform Stars and Stripes Forever without a flute/piccolo section; who would stand at the end?

Also important to consider is the current musicality of the ensemble you’re choosing music for. You can’t give a beginning band a grade level 4 selection and expect them to succeed; that would be like giving a 3rd grader a 10th grade reading level text and asking them to read it to the class aloud. Sure, they could manage a few words, but the text would fail to convey any meaning and the student wouldn’t understand where their frustration came from.

I’ve seen directors who purposely choose music beyond the level of their ensembles, hoping that the difficulty in the technicality will force their students to practice and become better performers. But it rarely ever works. The students who are struggling the most in rehearsals will quit, while the ones who are embarrassed by what they view as failure on their end will loose self-confidence. Directors should observe what their ensembles can do now and set realistic goals for where they are and what they can accomplish in a semester’s time. By setting single, short-term goals for individual performers or sections, such as mastering light-tongue articulations in the clarinet section or legato expressive playing by a particular baritone player, your chances of achieve success improve drastically.

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