«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
That’s just kind of what I have observed just become part of his style. He just needs to make sure that everyone else is doing it, so… I think in some ways, it has proven to be more effective to let him wander first. At times, I have tried: “All right, go back and get to work,” and he can’t focus then. I think he has to get out all of his people issues before
I asked Ms. Davis about allowing individuals and groups of students to choose how they approached a task, and she replied: “As far as individual learning styles, that gives kids the freedom to use their best method of learning, and problem-solving to get to the solution. So that, to me, is a huge piece of individualization” (CD Think Aloud, p. 5).
Carrie also allowed choice regarding participation, not only whether students wanted to participate but also the form participation would take. One day, a group of third grade students demonstrated melodic ideas on xylophones, but only two of the three boys played the instruments. When another student said they should all play, the boy said he did not want to “…because I su—stink” (CD Field Notes 4-19, p. 3). Ms. Davis said she did not agree (that he stinks) but that she would not require him to play. In a fourth grade lesson, students were allowed to choose whether to sing with Ms. Davis as she taught a new song, to sing in small groups, to sing melody or harmony, to play boomwhackers, sing, and/or play recorders, on melody or harmony (CD Field Notes 4/21, p. 1). I did not notice any students who opted out of any of these activities other than singing in small groups. The students also made sure that the recorder, boomwhacker, and singing parts were each represented without Carrie’s intervention.
Students also could choose their own level of challenge in recorder belt testing (CD Field Notes 5/3, p. 2). Testing to earn different colored “belts” tied on their recorders to reflect increasing levels of skill took place during lunch and recess and was voluntary.
Student choice also was reflected in how long activities lasted. For example, Ms. Davis told students they would have 15 minutes to write their self-evaluations, but the class actually wrote for 35 minutes because nearly all the students were quietly working that whole time. Even after that amount of time, six students chose to continue writing in the hall while Carrie taught a new activity. Sometimes the choices made by students were not as positive. During one wholeclass compositional process, some kids were lying down and seemed disengaged (CD Field Notes 5/5, p. 4). Other students were braiding one another’s hair. These students occasionally contributed an idea, but mostly the composition proceeded without them.
Students working in a variety of groups resulted in differentiation of instruction by learning/work style and sophistication of response. Ms. Davis nearly always allowed students to choose their own groups, “Because they know whom they work well with, and that class, in particular, seems to migrate toward the people who think the same musically” (CD Think Aloud, p. 5). Student choice in groups seemed to result in different amounts of music learning for different students. In one composition activity, I saw responses ranging from exploration (i.e., just pounding the bars or glissandos), to two children who worked together to create something replicable but quasi-improvised, to another group who negotiated a formal composition: a C major scale with a rhythmic motif in parallel and contrary motion, with an ending coda (CD Field Notes 4-19, p. 3). This difference in the sophistication of responses may have been a result of differing levels of music readiness and also might have reflected varying levels of effort or attention.
Although I was not present on a day Ms. Davis used centers, she described centers in a think aloud. It sounds as though centers offered a variety of pathways to music learning and also a number of ways that students could express their music achievement. Ms. Davis (Ms. D) stated that various centers were available different days throughout the year and described a
sample set of centers from a day when she was assessing recorder achievement:
…we had a warm up and play with Ms. D. center, we had a center where they were practicing their recorder piece that they would be being assessed on, together, but they each had a different job to do, they had to rotate. There was someone, they were practicing their conducting, so one person had to bring the other players in. They were checking for fingerings and just doing little brush-ups and things. There was a center where they were given a new piece of [notated] music to decode, together, to figure out on their recorder, to see if they could figure out what song it was… It was fun to watch— to get to that point “Oh, that’s this song!” For them to figure that out. We had--I call it our games station, I have a couple of musical games where it’s like memory with pitches… reinforcing that notation. We had a power point game going over here with recorder fingerings—it was skill day. And over there they were inventing their own games with rhythms (CD Think Aloud, p. 4-5).
Centers-based learning allowed students to work in small groups on a number of tasks with a variety of music learning requirements, modes of expression, and levels of difficulty.
Ms. Davis’s practice of constructivism included several embedded methods of differentiating instruction. Students were allowed to choose their degree and method of participation. Students chose different groups on different days and were therefore exposed to diverse work styles and levels of background knowledge. Ms. Davis designed centers to encourage students to interact with various ways of learning about music and expressing their music achievement. Differentiation of instruction by learning style was a thread that united these subthemes. Addressing different learning styles was mentioned in each of these three contexts and also was evident in Carrie’s varied approaches to whole-group instruction.
Cooperative, collaborative learning atmosphere. The main effect of Carrie’s philosophy and teaching style was a cooperative, collaborative learning atmosphere. Students got their own band-aids without asking (CD Field Notes 5/26, p. 1), policed their own level of talking (e.g., CD Field Notes 5/12, p. 1), helped one another (e.g., CD Field Notes 5/24 p. 1), and shared ideas and critiques (e.g., CD Field Notes 5/19, p. 1; 5/17 p. 3), all typically in a harmonious, happy manner.
Some of it may be the school climate. Teachers ALWAYS greet me in the hall here, and students who don’t know me often say “hi” in passing… There is more sense of comfort in sharing ideas and also more self-regulation than I have seen in other settings.
Perhaps it is Carrie that causes this. She allows the students to talk more, with her and with each other. She encourages them to take leadership and to solve their own problems. The students exhibit caring interactions with one another, and Carrie models caring interactions with them. Today as the third graders were entering the classroom, a girl was taking off her sweatshirt and threw it to the side. The zipper hit another child in the face. She apologized to him, and went to pick it up to put it where she had been trying to throw it. The situation was resolved on its own. I have been in other settings where this would have led to an altercation that required teacher intervention (CD Field
Ms. Davis’s laissez faire management approach appeared to result in different levels of music learning from different people. It also fostered a sense of collaboration. For example, students would perform their group work for one another and offer feedback without being asked to do so (CD Field Notes 4/19, p. 2). Students also were subtle in assisting one another. In fourth grade, a girl asked “Are we on Zippy Toad Slide [one of the recorder songs]?” and Ms. Davis replied, “No, Big Boing Theory” (CD Field Notes 5/5, p. 1). I could see the questioner’s music, and she was on the correct song. However, the two boys next to her had been on the wrong page and were looking very puzzled. She seemed to ask the question for their benefit.
Collaboration and cooperation were apparent especially in students’ treatment of those with special needs. Abigail often withdrew or played with her recorder when her level of frustration with learning recorder got too high (CD Think Aloud p. 7). However, one day another student noticed and helped her with a new fingering by physically placing her fingers on the recorder (CD Field Notes 4/21, p. 2). I do not know if this resulted in Abigail mastering a new skill, but it appeared to increase her level of participation and apparent enjoyment. In a similar situation, the student sitting next to Katie pointed with her finger for Katie to follow in the music (CD Field Notes 5/3, p. 2). I do not think that simply pointing in the music made it possible for Katie to read it, but her level of participation and positive affect increased. I also observed students helping a substitute paraprofessional find the correct bells for Zack to play (CD Field Notes 4/28, p. 2). On another occasion, Zack’s paraprofessional was talking to Ms.
Davis about coding his music (CD Field Notes, 5/3 p. 1). A girl from the class walked Zack to the circle, and he tried to hug her. She firmly said, “Zack, no hug” and touched his outstretched arms in a way that held him back (both voice and touch were gentle and appropriate). He hugged her anyway by ducking under her arms. She patted him on the head and stepped back.
Another girl helped her disengage from him and get him seated between the two of them.
Allowing students to handle their own problems seemed to result in some excellent solutions in these and other scenarios.
Some of this collaboration and cooperation seemed to result from Ms. Davis’s acceptance of behavior that might seem off-task and from her persistent solicitation and apparent appreciation of student ideas. One day, a student arrived 15 minutes late. Other students greeted her verbally, and one girl got up, gave the late student a hug, had her join her group and started to tell her what they were working on (CD Field Notes, 4/28, p.4). If Ms. Davis had intervened to stop the greetings and given directions herself, this opportunity for cooperation would have been lost. In another example, one of the raps a group composed contained a loud raspberry sound (tongue protruded blowing). At the time of composition, Ms. Davis simply accepted this and allowed the students to teach their rap to the rest of the class with that sound (CD Field Notes 4/28, p.5). The following week, some students initiated a discussion about the raspberry sound (CD Field Notes 5/3, p. 4). They did not want to make that sound in a performance. They asserted that their parents would not like it, that the raspberry is not respectful and is a sound that some kids get in trouble for making. The students negotiated a satisfactory compromise, and all of this occurred with very little guidance from Ms. Davis.
However, this negotiation and consensus building came at a cost. The whole class discussed nearly every decision that was made as the third graders designed their performance, from who got what part (CD Field Notes 5/3, p. 4), to which music went with what (CD Field Notes 5/5, p. 3-4), to what everyone should wear and what props would be used (CD Field Notes 5/24, p. 1). This ensured that the performance truly was “theirs” and also resulted in less time for making music. Also, the cooperation and collaboration were not without conflict, particularly as the performance deadline approached. One altercation (a student making a face while another one was singing) derailed the entire class for nearly ten minutes (CD Field Notes 5/12, p. 2). Ineffective leadership from a student “director” led to considerable frustration, some name-calling, and even some pushing (CD Field Notes 5/19, p. 2). The group asked for Ms.
Davis’s intervention several times, and she did assist, but only briefly as she was trying to facilitate five groups that day. In fourth grade, a discussion regarding experiences with a substitute teacher took nearly 25 of the class’s 40 minutes of music time (CD Field Notes, 4/28 p. 1-2).
My plan today was to get students’ reactions to our substitute teacher, [lists four other items on plan]. What resulted was a longer than anticipated review of the sub’s job… Followed by an unplanned review of recorder technique [because] part of the students’ beef with the sub was that she wanted them to play with correct hand placement (CD
Ms. Davis seemed to want the students to feel their opinions and wishes were valued and to foster a sense of ownership of the class climate and curriculum, sometimes resulting in diminished music learning because of the time devoted to discussion of non-music topics.
Summary of constructivism and differentiation. A constructivist educational philosophy seemed responsible for much of the differentiation in Ms. Davis’s classroom. She primarily acted as a facilitator, teaching through questions and by setting up problems to solve, and transferred much of the responsibility for classroom management and learning onto her students. Carrie improvised new lessons or instructional material when she felt that students needed scaffolding or they were socially unprepared for music learning. Ms. Davis offered students choices regarding their level and type of participation, how they approached assigned tasks, and what kind of classroom climate they created. Some of these choices fostered differentiation of instruction by learning style or response mode, and these types of differentiation were also provided through use of centers and flexible grouping.
The main result of Ms. Davis’s role as facilitator and her constructivist philosophy seemed to be a cooperative and collaborative learning atmosphere, which fostered some differentiation of instruction/music learning. Students interacted with each other and with musical material in a generally kind, cheerful, and thoughtful manner. However, sometimes working toward the learning environment she sought may have paradoxically resulted in less music learning, as discussions and consensus building meant a considerable amount of time in music class was spent talking about non-musical topics rather than musicking.