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Monday, September 09, 2013

Just one class

Isn't it funny how just one class can change your mind and attitude?

I was worried about my grade 9 class today. Today was only the third time I've seen them since the beginning of school. The first class was fine, as it was mostly introductory topics such as filling out a questionnaire for me and just chatting and getting to know the students. Two days ago, however, I had a really rough class with the grade 9s. After looking over their questionnaires, I realized a lot of them needed a lot more work with theory - so that's where I started.  I found the class to be talkative, disengaged, and as a whole, generally kind of rude (although several kids were fine). This is yet another class that is 3/4 filled with boys with big personalities. The students know they are going to rehearsing and performing in small groups in this class, and they were chomping at the bit to perform. I left the class feeling badly about my teaching and worried for the upcoming semester.

I talked to my co-teacher today, and we made a plan for our grade 9 classes, and how we're going to alternate "rehearsal" and "written work" times. I was therefore able to give my students a concrete day for their first performance in November, and I explained that we would be alternating weeks with the other grade 9s for rehearsing and doing written work. I didn't really have a plan for today's class, since I hadn't talked to my co-teacher about what to do with the grade 9s until right before the lesosn, so I was kind of winging it. I really don't want to be a teacher who is constantly winging lessons, although it's understandable once every now and then.

I decided to do a listening exercise with them, as I had two tracks prepared from our grade 10 diagnostic test. We listened to Thunderstruck by AC/DC and analyzed the components of the music as a class (instruments, rhythm, melody, form, style, and other). This activity is basically super preparing the students for the IB Music course, two years in advance (I will write a blog post about teaching students to listen at the IB level at some point!). I then asked them to break into small groups and complete the same exercise with Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. We then discussed their answers as a class. I then gave them the last 10 minutes to start talking amongst themselves and forming groups for their upcoming performance.

As a whole, the majority of the students were much better behaved and much more engaged with this lesson (although one boy was falling asleep...but I don't think it was completely my fault?!). Perhaps it's a good idea to start with something more "fun" and "engaging" when first getting to know a class, rather than the basics of music theory? It worked for my grade 8s and 10s, but not for this class. Some of the grade 9s made great observations, and they all worked well in their small groups. I also think that they were able to calm down now that they know rehearsing and playing is in the very near future. I'm expecting that once we get to know each other better, I will hopefully be able to teach an informative theory lesson, especially if I make the theory more meaningful to their small group rehearsals (take rhythms from their pieces, etc.).

I just wanted to blog quickly about this today, because my feelings toward the grade 9 class have almost completely changed from yesterday to today! It's amazing what can happen in just one class (even if it wasn't prepared!)

Shout out to AC/DC and Bob Marley for making today's lesson go much better!

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