Sunday, September 25, 2016

Grades

I always struggle with grades.  I also struggle with the sheer load.  I carry (depending on how you count it) almost 170 students per semester.  If I give one minute per week to each student I am hitting 3 hours just on grading.  Thats not sustainable (both the 1 minute--and the 3 hours).

We also know that Level 4 of the all important Danielson Rubric requires Student Assessment, Student Rubrics, and Student Designed Learning.

In a music class which is very teacher centered by nature I am making a big leap to give students control of their grade this year.

I will establish five assignments in my gradebook:

  • Performing/Responding (40%).  This is all the instrument specific stuff and the listening/writing/responding.  
  • Sight-reading (20%).  Sight-reading tests, ear training, and dictation.
  • Music Theory (10%).  Vocabulary, chords, scales, harmony, etc...
  • Concerts (20%)
  • Participation (10%).  I felt strongly I needed a column for professional responsibilities which might include having your instrument, designing a practice plan, supporting classmates, etc..
Now here is where things will get crazy:
  • Every two weeks the student will summarize their learning in each category.  They will review teacher based assessments, student designed goals, and assign a grade.  I will review and conference with student if needed.
  • This grade will be put into the gradebook.  The gradebook will reset each marking period.  
  • So...the assignments will be static--but I will edit the grades bi-monthly with the student assigned grade.
  • There will be a ton of assessments archived in MusicFirst, Google, etc... We will assess constantly--but grade only every two weeks.
Some things I hope:
  • That students begin to create their own assessments and learning.  If I was a player in a great band the band director would lead rehearsal--but I would lead the learning.  I would figure out what to do be ready for next rehearsal.
  • That students and parents have a much better understanding of what they are doing in class.
  • That we do not let school "run us over".  That students realize they can control so much.
This is a grand experiment.  I am sure I will screw up something.  But at least we are trying!

Friday, September 23, 2016

MusicFirst--Post #3

Here we go...post #3.

I am getting a bit more used to MusicFirst.  But...

  • Discussions Tasks does not work at all.  There is no "Discussion" as we understand it in Facebook or Edmodo.  A student will submit a comment--but nobody else in the group can see it.  It is very confusing.  They have to choose "reply".  Not intuitive (based on the fact that 1/2 my students did it wrong)
  • I can "attach" a rubric--but I can't save it or add it to my favorites.  I have to retype it each time.  Even worse--I can't USE the rubric.  It does not come up when grading the assignment.  This is an online classroom.  It really needs checkboxes on the rubric to go straight into gradebook.  The rubrics need to be saved and viewable by the students, otherwise--what is the point?
  • When grading a submission I have to make four clicks to get to the next assignment to grade.  Why not have a "Next submission" button?  
  • MusicFirst connects to Musition and Auralia and you can load assignments and quizzes, but you can't include them in categories on your gradebook.
  • Every time someone turns in an assignment I get sent a message and I CANT TURN IT OFF.
  • I need to be able to assign things to multiple classes.  Every other software can do this.  
So, is it working? I think so.  Is it efficient? Not at all.  Not yet.

Friday, September 9, 2016

MusicFirst: Work in Progress

I am a few weeks in on musicFirst.  I am more convinced that this is a pretty good idea--that isn't quite working in practice.


  • I assign a lesson from Musition.  Two parts.  First part is "Introduction to Terms" which is basically just a list of vocabulary words.  Second part is the assessment.  In the student view the "Introduction" does not show up on their task list.  You have to go into their class calendar to find it.  So they just see the quiz.  In teacher view I am thinking I gave some work, then an assessment.  Students just see assessment.
  • Also, if you place "Introduction" on September 8, it disappears for the student on September 9.  They can't use the resource to study for end of unit test.
  • How the "Units" work in Musition and Auralia is really unclear (see above).  Do I just assign a Unit and everything takes care of itself?  Do I need to go into each lesson and assessment and mark due dates?
  • If a student actually takes the assessment it is not graded correctly.  If a student gets an 11/11 they get 11% in the gradebook.
  • Musition assignments can't be put into categories in the gradebook.  THATS annoying.
  • I really wish they placed "Announcements" on the landing page.  
  • There is no "Check" for students that they read/opened an announcement or reading assignment.
  • I still need to learn how to really get Sight Reading Factory rolling.  It seems like Level 1 stuff is a bit too hard for absolute beginners.
  • I don't get the sample lessons on my splash page.  How do I assign them?
  • I can't figure out at all how to get student work into my portfolio.  It seems like all the work I assign has no option for that.
I am getting better at it and hope after a few more weeks I am an expert and the software makes more sense.  All the above stuff is fixable--or I am just doing it wrong (perhaps more likely). 

A few other notes:
  • Messages is working well for me.  If we could merge Messages and Discussion that would be great.  One place!!
  • They say the true/false or MC tests are graded automatically now.  Not in my experience.  Not sure where/how I am supposed to make this happen.
  • The Support lady who reads my emails has been really good.
In short--this is a pretty good portal to software.  If it is going to be an "Online Classroom" (that charges good $) we have some work to do.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

MusicFirst impressions

I am a few weeks in to MusicFirst.  I purchased the online classroom and sightreading factory.  I spent a bit of time online with a very nice lady in support.

Some initial impressions:

  • You are not able to share announcements/tasks/pages between classes.  So if I write "Listening Assignment" in Choir and add it to "Favorites", it will not be available in Band.  I have to retype it.
  • If you make an assignment to save, and type in the Rubric, add to Favorites--the rubric won't save.
  • If you make a "rehearsal" on the class calendar--it won't show up for students.  For band/choir events this doesn't work.  If you typed "Concert" in band, you have to retype it in choir.  And it wont show up on the student calendar anyway.
  • There is no checkboxes for assigning work.  You have to make a group. (edit: I think I figured it out.  You can assign assessment to individual students)
  • Why do I have to click "Make Visible" for a student to see Assessment.  If I schedule it for a certain date--shouldn't it be visible then???
  • There is really no ability to make announcements (ala facebook or Edmodo).
  • There is a messages function but you can only message one person at a time.  You can't message the class or a group (!!).
  • When grading you can't click "next item".  You have to go back to the grading screen, scroll down, and click the item to move to the next thing to grade.
  • "automatic" quizzes (multiple choice, etc...) do not self grade.  A score is reported, but you still have to go in to change "score" to grade.
I am a bit frustrated.  I feel this might work for sightreading and theory assignments but it doesn't seem to work at all for everything else.  I feel I will have to retain Edmodo and other services.  I was really sold with a "everything in one box" sales pitch.

Obviously, I hope for smoother paths again and I am sure I will end up loving it.  One day at a time...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Choral Repertoire

The 2016-17 school year will feature a choir that is slightly smaller, older, and more experienced than last years group.  I have little knowledge of the freshman except that there are some boys.  I have purchased Essential Elements (Book 1 and 2) and MusicFirst (no more Smartmusic) and will make a big effort this year to solidify our sequence of curriculum.  I expect a diverse group (age, experience, etc..) and hope the mix of the online classroom and the traditional book work will really help us.

I have chosen a few pieces but I am holding off until I know the strength of the freshman boys.  If we transition from SSA to SAB and eventually to SATB it will greatly alter the music we order.  I anticipate this will be a year where I will struggle to find the RIGHT pieces at the RIGHT time.  Thus, I hope to make rep learning a much smaller part of our day--and increase student responsibility for that learning.  Leadership will be everything as we push over our tipping point and move from good to great.

1. Run, Mary, Run by Brian Tate.  This song is fairly simple and allows us to start off the year strong.  The part for men is fairly easy and repetitive and will support them as they develop.  Harmonies are fairly simple and includes short solo opportunities.  I think this will be a great song to work on breath support in the beginning of the year.

2. Lineage by Andrea Ramsey.  Again, an easier to start the year--this time with Chorale.  I hope to perform this at WCSU Festival in October (after maybe 6 rehearsals).  Vowels, vowels, vowels.  It also has a bunch of opportunities to demonstrate our breath support.

3. Goodnight, Moon by Eric Whitacre.  I am making an effort this year to learn 5-6 "recital" songs.  We always sing four of the Italian songs, and many Broadway songs, but I want to go into "traditional" recital songs.  We are having more and more students audition for college and we need to prepare them.  This is a beautiful song, and will be a reach vocally, but I hope the kids respond to it.  This will be a song that probably 1-2 of the students should actually perform, but all can learn from.

4. Ave Maria by Guy Forbes.  This is a reach for Chorale.  If we could sing it at WCSU in October I would be very happy.  This is a piece that the girls will need to say "do the work".  Solid SSAA, traditional (with hint of Whitacre sound).  Gorgeous.



A few other notes:

  • I am going to bring the candle light processional back at the winter concert.  This takes a lot of work, but I think we really have the group for it again.
  • I have scheduled four (!) major concerts.  One per term.  We will move fast.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Final Exam: Band and Choir

Band/Choir Final Exam  Spring 2016

Every student will complete the following exam.  We will work on this during class time and no student will be exempt.

Performance: 50 pts
Perform, record, edit, and publish a multi-part ensemble piece.  YOU will perform ALL the parts on your band instrument or voice.

  • Band choose from the following:
    • Ensemble books OR
    • one of our jazz tunes.  
  • Choir choose from the following:
    • Swingin with the Saints (12/8 section)
    • Star Spangled Banner (our 2 part arrangement)
  • Chorale choose from above OR one of the following:
    • The Climb
    • Parting Glass
  • Record using Garageband or Audacity or similar program.  I will help you get started.
  • Edit recordings, adjust balance.
  • Publish to youTube or Soundcloud.  Student must submit link on Edmodo assignment.  

Students will be judged on your tone, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, style, articulations, and attention to detail.  You will also be judged on your ability to meet deadlines and work with the technology.

Reflection: 20pts
  • Write a reflection on your career in band or choir.  What did you learn?  Please prepare this digitally and submit using Google Docs and Edmodo.  This should be 1-2 typed pages (with PARAGRAPHS).  I will save this and compile for future years.
  • This reflection could include items such as:
    • What should 8th graders know before they enter the class?
    • What do you learn in band or choir (6 rules, social, academic, musical, etc..)?  
    • What are you thankful for? What do you regret?

Sightreading: 20pts
  • All students will complete two sight-reading assessments in Smartmusic

Scales: 10pts

  • Band students will perform all major scales in one octave, all-state pattern.
  • Choir students will perform the All-State pattern scale, one octave:
    • Sopranos, Tenors: Dmaj, and high Gmaj
    • Altos, Basses: Dmaj, and low Gmaj

Friday, April 8, 2016