Grade 5 students love the opportunity to choose their own adventure in music. I am all for it, but there are obvious challenges that immediately come to mind. How can I make sure they stay on track? How can I keep all twenty-two students accountable, on track and help them achieve their goals? Did I mention there are two classes?
How might we manage and assess student-directed learning in Grade 5 music? Immediately following the last F2F, I front-loaded what a”My Choice” type project could look like with both Grade 5 classes. We talked about what that would look like and what would not be an appropriate use of the time.
In a Google Form, all students answered these questions. “What would you like to learn more about in Music? How would you share that knowledge, performance or composition? All their responses landed in one of three components; Perform, Create and Explore. Now that I knew the directions the students wanted to go, I took a few weeks to think about what to do about it. We were in the thick of rehearsals and concert performance mode for the last couple of weeks anyway, so it was ideal to take a step back from this for a while.
On the first week back after the break, I gave the students a sticky note and asked them to write their “My Choice” goal and then post it on the chart under one of the following headings; Perform, Create and Explore.
Now that students had their goal in mind, I asked them to think about an action component. How would they share their learning? Who would hear their performance or their composition?
I created a “My Choice Plan” document that contained their goal, the action and the steps they could take to get there. After much thought about the best format for this activity, I decided a hard copy would be the most effective for this. Students need to see this in front of them rather than out of view on a tab on a device in order to stay on track and accountable, especially in my progress conversations with each student.
They filled it out their document in pencil, which allowed for revisions to be made. It also serves as a means for me to offer feedback and to provide guidance for next steps. Some students wanted to collaborate with a partner, so this became part of their plan. Plans can change or take a new direction, within reason.
We have Fridays A and B where all classes have an additional 45 minutes of music every other week. My intention is to use this time consistently, but also have the flexibility to turn to this work on other days, if I am away on PD, for example. How can students keep track of their progress between classes so they can always move forward?
Google slides works beautifully for this. They created a Slide Deck to track their “My Choice” Plan progress. Every class they create a new slide and include the date. On each slide they add links to their research, videos they looked at as well as writing a sentence or two describing what they did or learned about and what they will do next class to move forward.
There have been two classes dedicated to this so far and all students are engaged. Some have chosen a large goal like composing a jingle for York Radio, or a smaller goal to improve reading notation and achieve a perfect score on Breezin Thru Theory. Students like this flexibility and feel that their goals are achievable.
I now rotate around the room or outside in the hallway as students work and I have one-to-one conversations about their goal and how best to achieve it. They ask for guidance about where to find information or how to use various tools or play a particular chord on ukulele etc. They ask me, or one another. Positive teacher-student relationships and student to student relationships are being strengthened. They are asking wonderful questions and sharing new discoveries they are excited about. Next week, the plan is to share their work-in-progress with a peer, get some feedback, which I will also contribute to and then decide what needs tweaking moving forward.
So far so good.