We had a Google rep come and visit out school a couple of months ago. He was talking up all the great projects that Google has going on. And he mentioned Google’s 20% time – where employees get to work on their own projects for 20% of their work week. (Article with more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/jobs/21pre.html?ex=1350619200&en=f4b2cd9d18f162bb&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink)
Then one of my colleagues tried the same thing in his classroom. Kudos to Gene Quezada for trying this project and Phil Rynerson for writing it up. http://estech.esblogs.aes.ac.in/2013/03/17/5qs-version-of-twenty-percent-time/
If what I want for students throughout their lives is that they internalize curiosity about music and musicianship and they become self directed learners, then Google’s approach was worth a second thought for my music classroom. Since I value thinking/reasoning in the music classroom, and I know that choice bring motivation to learning, I started to wonder what 20% time in the music classroom might mean. How can I offer students more choice in their own music learning – and the opportunity to share their learning and expertise with others?
I also have a healthy number of questions like
- How do I make sure students are still actively MAKING music (singing, dancing, playing instruments)? If they don’t do it with me, many of them won’t be active music makers at all.
- How I ensure that the critical thinking and connections to what they are learning in class are there? And how do I help them transfer their understanding of the skills (verbs) and knowledge (elements of music) to what they are choosing to learn? (Relevance and transfer.)
- How do I set up a project that keeps music at the center of the process – and technology a tool . . . not the other way around.
- How does this fit in with the larger curriculum?
The reality is. . . I don’t how this is going to turn out. But I checked with my colleagues and administrators, and they were in favor of my taking the risk. In fact, they all asked how they could support me. (I realize not everyone is fortunate to have the same reaction from colleagues and admin when they want to take a risk.)
I always encourage my summer masters students to take risks during their courses with me – and that the class and I are there to help them. I decided to practice what I preach!
*** I also want to add that although I fear there will be less active music MAKING in the classroom the last 6 weeks of school, the students just got done with a gargantuan performance in February where each child performed (and some composed) music and danced, so most of 3rd quarter was sort-of a “perform” unit, based on the expectations of this particular school.
At the center of my classroom are the artistic processes of create, perform, and respond. (See previous post about classroom visual). So I knew I wanted to structure the beginning of the project around that. I wanted to their choices about studying to arise out of curiosity and questions.
The first question I posed scared me a little. I thought it was too big. Too broad. Too obscure. But as ofter happens, the students rose to the occasion. I asked, “What do you wonder about music? What questions do you have about music?” After the stunned silence passed, they started talking with their assigned partner. And these are the questions one of the classes shared:
- Why is music called music?
- Who discovered music?
- Why did music start?
- How did people discover music?
- When did people start music?
- Why did people start music?
- What is the history of music?
- What is music?
- Why don’t animals make music?
- How is rhythm created?
- How did they name the different genres of music?
- How do songwriters choose their notes?
- How/Who/When/Where/What invented the piano?
After they lost some steam, I asked them to focus their questions a little differently. We started with performing music, one of the artistic processes. And underneath perform are the verbs sing, play, move. I asked, “What are some music jobs? What do REAL performing musicians do? And what performers do you know?”
I then posed the following questions, “If you could ask any of the performing musicians you just named/mentioned a question, what would you ask?” Here is a sampling of responses from 2 classes:
|Real-life Performing Jobs:
||Questions we have about performing:
All in all, I was impressed with their questions. May of them were asking questions that, with some research and resources, had the potential to transform their lives as music makers, creators, or responders. And some questions are very evident of their stage of development as 5th graders.
With the first two classes, I created a template (like you see above) and we generated jobs and asked questions as a large group. After 4-5 questions were generated for the right-hand column, I ask the students to work in pairs to write questions on post it notes. I later typed up their questions so they were all housed in the same document. With the NEXT 4 classes, I am going to check out the classroom set of iPads and using either Socratic (app) or google docs, have the student type in their answers. (Not a transformative use of technology, but a helpful use for sure.)
My plan for this week:
1) to finish this process with the remaining for 4 classes
2) begin to craft their “planning sheet” or “project proposal” for choosing their topic and planning their path.
3) collaborate with with Gene Quezada (5th grade teacher) and Gary, one of our fabulous tech integrationists, during our planning meeting this week.
My resources for this project are my colleague’s, Gene Quezada’s, planning sheet for his students, edutopia, project-based learning, and Phil Greco’s site “Portrait’s of Practice.” (http://lcdartstudio.com/portraits/)
Stay tuned, if you are interested. More to come. Would love your thoughts along the way . . .