My Ah Ha Moment in Lesson Planning!
I don’t know if there are any of you out there who, due to LIFE, end up changing teaching positions and always seem to be in survival mode teaching in a new school and/or district. I have moved to several states for my former spouse’s job and was always applying to the new area school districts. Because the grade levels and curriculum (if there was any) was always changing, and I was always learning new students and staff, I didn’t take that first and foremost important task of creating long range lesson plans.
When I accepted a position at a Montessori school with no music curriculum, I spent hundreds of dollars of my own money on a music curriculum series with the hope of improving my sequencing, only to find that that investment left me somewhat disappointed. There was great material so I could never figure out why it wasn’t working for me. It was just a nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away.
Fast forward to 3 states over and 3 schools later. I took a deep breath and decided to apply to a Dallas area school district that was known for its Kodaly trained teachers and accompanying curriculum. I was actually told by an Orff clinician to avoid this district because of my Orff background. But I signed up and paid for the Kodaly Level 1 course at Southern Methodist University and then called up the district fine arts director of the school district. I was hired that week, took my Level 1 class a few weeks later and started in August at the new school. I tweaked my teaching somewhat from what I had recently learned for Kindergarten and 1st grade but pretty much stuck to my old habits for the older grades, heavy on instruments including recorders and presenting pre-established programs for the school.
This summer I finished my level 3 class and it was there I had my Ah HA moment. I had revised my long range lesson plans from last year (see last week’s blog “Long Range Lesson Plans”) but still didn’t know how to get all the curriculum taught to my students, especially 4th and 5th grades. But during one class, our pedagogy instructor had us call out the main 4th grade concepts. We obliged as she wrote them on the board. Then she asked us to call out songs that would prepare, practice or make a good present song for each element. As she wrote these down, we noticed how many songs were duplicated from one concept to the next. Her point was that we didn’t need to teach 3 or 4 new songs for each concept. And to be able to have the entire year’s concepts and songs written on one page was AMAZING! Right then I knew I could do this teaching thing after all!
So when we went back to school last Thursday, I knew I wanted to do that same thing with each grade level. I only did one grade per day, due to meetings and staff development. I wrote all the main concepts in the first column, then the core songs, and sometimes some listening examples in the last column. At the end of the concepts, I included the smaller elements like tempo, dynamics, instrument timbre, all lumped together. I can teach those easily with the other activities, but I wrote them down to make sure I didn’t forget about them.
Now I have 2 pages for every grade level to refer to when lesson planning: my yearly concept page with core songs and listening examples and my long range lesson plans. The long range plans give me the timeline I need so I stay on track. I could write those in on the concept page, but I like the visual effect of them. Be sure to download them if you could use a template.
I am anticipating that this is a game changer for me. I will let you know through the year if this is helpful, but I really think it will help me tremendously. Please jump over to my Facebook page, Crafty Music Maker and let me know what you think or what you do to sequence your lesson plans. I would love to hear from you.