In my school district, only fourth graders learn to play the recorder in preparation for the switch to band or orchestra in the fifth grade (and choir as well). Our elementary schools are set up K-4 while 5-6 are at the intermediate school. Once I had my students either A) Get their own recorder from home approved by me or B) buy their own recorder through our school, I began to set up a Schoology folder for the recorders in their music courses.
The folder that I want to have the most attention today though, is the Practice Songs and Video-Lessons folder. It is in this folder where the self-paced self-taught aspect of personalized learning is really present. In this folder, I created videos of myself teaching each of the notes that we are learning, with where they are located on the staff, how to play them using the recorder, and then I play through some practice songs with them (not Recorder Karate Songs) to highlight just the note we are working on. Students have the option to play these videos and use them to help them learn to play at their own pace. They can move through the new notes as quickly or as slowly as they need to in order to be successful. Below is a sample video of me teaching a quick lesson on how to use the recorder properly:
Testing for Belts:
Students have two options for belt testing, they may come to me and play their recorder karate song live or they may record themselves playing it using their iPad as a video camera and upload that video to Schoology. If they test for me they get immediate feedback and suggestions for improvement if needed or they earn their belt right away. If they choose to send a video, they need to watch for me to comment on their video with feedback letting them know if they earned a belt or if they need to try again and where they need to practice and show improvement. Students are welcome to test at their OWN PACE. All I asked is for all students to complete at least level 6, and if they are unable to get there, then together that student and I will figure out a goal together to find success another way. Students may not test every time they come to my class. I only do face to face performance tests once a week.
Classroom Management: Are they really being productive?
I would say 95% of my fourth graders are really trying to be productive during each class period. There are just a few here and there that get lazy, or try to procrastinate their way out of doing things. The beauty of personalizing the learning is that the students first hand will find out that procrastination and laziness will not lead to success in the long run. At first they will think they can get away with it, but as their peers move farther and farther ahead in the learning process, the few that are behind begin to be more aware of it and start to realize the mistake of waiting too long to start practicing. It is a good lesson to learn in elementary school to help students prepare for the world of instrumental music and the expectations as they get older. In order to make sure they don't get too far behind, once a week (the non-testing days) I call kids to my desk to "conference" with me. The "conference" is a 2-3 minute check-in where students discuss what they have been working on and show me a little bit about what they know. I am not asking them to test, I am just asking them to demonstrate that some understanding about the note reading, the connection to the pitch and the placement of the hands on the recorder, and the understanding of rhythms. This seems to keep most of my kids on task during class as they never know who is going to get called or when they will get called. Not every student will get called to conference during a check-in day and I usually try to call kids at random, or at least call who I notice needs to conference. It also gives me a chance to try to mini-lesson one on one with students who might need that extra help.
The way I have set-up this unit on recorders allows students to choose what they want to learn about with the recorders and when they want to complete it. They come in and decide what they are working on, set their daily goal, and work to complete it. They check in with me semi-regularly, they get to work at their own PACE. It gives them a little freedom and helps to relieve the stress for both the students who work faster than their peers and don't want to be stuck doing something they are well able to do, and for the students who need a little extra time but don't want to embarrass themselves by asking for it. Each student is responsible for their own learning in their own time. I just set a deadline for April 15th and allow students to work toward that on their own. I will keep posting here to update you on how this particular unit is going, as it is experimental for me too!