Last week, my third graders came into the room and instead of having everyone practice together and play the same part, I put out Tubanos, Bass Xylophones and Metallophones, Glockenspiels, Alto and Soprano Xylophones and Metallophones. I reminded students of the instrumental piece in our concert from the month prior that featured certain students on various instruments. I then asked those particular students to stand with the instrument that they played during the concert. I asked them to coach for me. Those students would be "coaching" other students to success in playing that particular instrument part. I instructed the rest of the class that they would be choosing which instrument part they wanted to learn and play for me. They had the opportunity to decide which part they wanted to learn and then how long they needed before they came to play for me. As long as they played for me before the class was complete, they could take as long as they wanted to practice. Below is what this looked like in action.
As you can see from the video, students began to collaborate with each other. The "coaches" were really paying close attention, analyzing and evaluating their peers' performance and then coming up with constructive criticism as well as offering suggestions to help them with their success. Being able to listen to all of their comments to each other was amazing and even the students who usually do not participate or are reluctant to complete the task assigned, were fully engaged in the learning process. When it came time for students to come and play for me, "coaches" would often come with their "student" wanting to be there to encourage them and congratulate them on their successes. Throughout the whole lesson, I saw 100% participation from students. With 21st century skills, I saw critical thinking and creativity on the part of the "coaches" as they watched and adapted their instruction based on what they saw and heard from their "students'" performances. I saw collaboration from all students, citizenship in the way they tried to work together and use respectful language to help each other, and the process of using effective communication to get their ideas across. In terms of music standards, I saw students evaluating and analyzing performances, figuring out ways to improve the performance, and accuracy in both melodic and rhythmic aspects of their instrument part. As I listened to students perform, I was able to give all of my students a proficient rating on their particular rhythmic and melodic performance, and I really didn't have to do much, just set the expectations, let them know what the outcome was and then let them figure out how to get there.
Issues in Instruction:
Yes there were some aspects of the lesson that didn't work well for me. The very first class I attempted this with struggled to understand the expectations. I had to do a lot more one on one prompting to help them get started. I realized later that this problem arose because I did not give clear expectations. I let them start the process of figuring out how to be successful without giving them the tools and strategies first to help them be able to do this independently. I also did not have a clear expectation of what was to happen when they had finished playing for me. I corrected this in later classes by having students get their iPads and begin note reading work on DRMSL using the app Noteworks Free. To help them get to the app, I taught one student the process, and then that student went on to teach the other students until I had a whole group of tech coaches who were able to help those who finished their assessment get started on their apps. This led to more independence in the classroom and a respect between my students and myself that I could trust them to continue learning without my explicit instruction to do so. Besides some of the management pieces, overall this was a successful class and I was able to note 21st century skills in progress as well as see musical learning growth!
Feedback from Students:
I asked my students for feedback on this opportunity to learn from each other. Most of my students said they loved being able to choose the part that best fit them and learn from a peer instead of from just me. I even had one third grader use the language of our 21st century skills saying that he, "liked that he could collaborate with people to learn the parts". This was the most telling statement to me because I could see that not only did my students see value in what we were learning, they also could see that they were learning skills outside of just musical standards.