Monday, December 28, 2015

Question of the Week




Question of the week orchestra



The last thing that we do in full orchestra each week is the "Question of the Week."  I read the old question, share the answer, and then draw a correct response out of the bucket.  Then I read and post the new question.  Students have until the beginning of the next week's full orchestra to submit their response.  This is totally optional for students, but it gets them thinking about lots of different aspects of music and how to use their resources to find the answers.  It also provides structure to our full orchestra rehearsals; students know that we do question of the week at the end and that it's time to start quietly packing up so they can still hear the answer.

Students know that good times to enter responses are before/after school when they are dropping off or picking up their instruments or before/after class--not in the middle of orchestra.  They also know that I do not say if their answer was correct or not--my lips are sealed until the end of the next full orchestra.

Slips are color coded by grade so everyone can all use the same bucket to drop their response into.

The prize?  I write the winner(s) a composition that they can play on their instrument, and I have it waiting on their stand at the next full orchestra.  It doesn't cost any money on my end, it's personalized for each student, and it shows that I am a composer too, just as they are.  Some weeks lend themselves to having more than one winner, but I usually keep it at one winner.  If a question has two parts (a bonus point) and the winner gets both parts, I'll write them a duet to play with a friend.

I try to include a variety of questions throughout the year--parts of the instrument, composer trivia, music theory, vocab words, a connection with one of their pieces, etc.  I use the same question for both grades each week, so it has to be something that works for both.  The answer may be something that students should already know or in their book or on the walls of the orchestra room or they may need to look up online.  I try not to repeat questions within a two-year cycle so that students are exposed to as many as possible (though there are a few questions that tend to be used each year).

When I draw the winning slip, I don't read incorrect responses (or the name of that student) out loud; I just keep drawing until I find a correct answer and congratulate that student.  I don't want to encourage silly answers or embarrass anyone for putting in the wrong answer.  Students may win more than once each year (I don't want them to stop participating once they've won), though I may draw a second winner that week just to get someone new too.



Question of the week orchestra question and response bucket



Question of the week orchestra question




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Look at These STAR Musicians!




Star musicians bulletin board orchestra



At each of my schools, I have a place in the classroom showcasing orchestra members.  I post pictures of all my students playing their instrument (either from their small groups or during full orchestra), which I update a couple times a year.  I also post their most recent compositions and the winning responses to the question of the week.  The mascot for one of my schools is "Stars," hence the "STAR Musicians" title.

I want the word "musician" to be a part of each of my students' self-image, and I like to think that seeing these images every time they walk out the door of the orchestra room helps my students with their own musical identity.



Star musicians bulletin board orchestra



Star musicians bulletin board orchestra



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Concert Reflection Bulletin Board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



After the winter concert, I typed up student concert reflection responses and posted them for all to see :)  It's so neat to read through what students are proud of with their work in orchestra and which pieces held the most meaning to them and why.  When reading through their responses, it is clear that music is making a positive impact on my students and that they hope they're having a positive impact on their audience members too!  Enjoy!




Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Winter concert reflection bulletin board



Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Concert Reflection



Winter concert reflection



After our first concert of the year, I have students share their thoughts about their experience through a concert reflection sheet (which I based off of what was already being used by our elementary band teacher).  During the first full orchestra after the concert, I have these reflection sheets plus pencils already on everyone's stand, and then after our warm-up, I turn on some background music while everyone is writing.  Depending on how long it takes for students to finish and the class atmosphere at the moment, I may have a couple of students verbally share some thoughts; otherwise musicians just turn these in when they're finished and start practicing the next piece while others are still working.


These are so much fun to read though.  While we may talk a little bit after the concert or during small groups or when a student is dropping off his or her instrument in the morning, I learn so much more about what really made an impression on my students and how they view their learning in orchestra and how they see themselves as musicians by reading through their responses.

Then, since we music teachers are also advocates for music and music education and our students, I share these first-hand accounts of music making an impact on our students with as many people as I can think of :)

I type up many of the responses as a bulleted list after selected reflection questions and include that in the weekly email to orchestra families.  I also email the list of responses to the entire school staff and post it on a bulletin board for the whole school to see.

Not only is this a way for students to process their thoughts about what may have been their first experience performing on a stage in front of an audience, but it's also a way to use writing in a performance-based class and a fantastic advocacy too.  Concert reflections are definitely worth the few minutes it takes in class, and it can be nice to go through the questions each year change out a question or two for something that is more meaningful for this particular concert or group of students.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Concert Bulletin Board



Winter concert bulletin board



The orchestra bulletin board was due for a change, and advertising the winter concert was the direction I ended up taking.  This bulletin board idea actually came from a picture I saw on Pinterest, with the "One Night Only" bit about an upcoming school concert.  The time and date of the concert is posted for everyone to see on their way to and from music class to build excitement (and awareness) for the winter band, orchestra, and choir concert.  There's a list of some of the pieces that will be performed along with some winter art.  I eventually filled up more of the empty space with pictures of the students playing their instruments on pajama day, a few flyers decorated by students, plus a batch of student compositions (not pictured).  This was a pretty quick and simple bulletin board to put together (and timely too)!



Winter concert bulletin board



Winter concert bulletin board



Winter concert bulletin board



Winter concert bulletin board