Thursday, October 22, 2015

PK-12 Curriculum Overview (Part 2)

Performing Ensembles: Bands.

5th and 6th band:
Young students progress at different rates when learning the basics of their instrument. Some instruments are easier to get the initial tone and fingerings, such as the alto sax, while other instruments are more difficult, such as the flute. Research is exploring the benefits of playing by ear rather than using a book, but I find that a combination of both is the best method. Students should be playing songs that they already know, like Hot Cross Buns, for the first few months. These songs should be taught as part of the lower elementary curriculum. This year, I am experimenting with individualized practice time during the band period. Using this system, students are allowed to work with their peers, they are allowed to progress at their own rate, and I am available to work with the students who need the most help on a given day. Once or twice a month in the beginning, the whole class sits together and we play through the songs in the book in unison. The goal of beginning instrumental music is to develop good tone and technique alongside an understanding of musical notation. The focus is on development, rather than performance.

7th and 8th (JH) band:
Currently, my school has a separate Junior High band during the first semester and a combined 7-12 band during the second semester. This year, I will need to decide on whether to keep the bands separated, or combine them together (a topic for another post). By the end of 6th grade, students should have enough experience to perform beginning band literature that contains three or more independent parts. This music contains plenty of double parts, with the occasional exposed part. At this level, the students should be able to experience music from different genres and eras. "Watered-down" music is acceptable, as long as the original character of the piece is kept intact. Students may still be finding the best instrument for them. Students should be developing rhythmic skills and learning to play scales on the instrument of their choice. Rewriting parts of the music to fix instrumentation problems, or to meet the needs of individuals, is acceptable.

9th - 12th (HS) band:
The goal of higher-level performance groups is to experience the more challenging, ability-appropriate literature from various genres. The students develop skills and understandings about music and their instrument. This could include more difficult rhythms and passages, extended range, and wider dynamic range. They also develop ensemble skills and part independence by being responsible for their own part and learning how to listen to the group and play musically. Most students will not become professional musicians, but special challenges and assignments can be given to students who plan on pursuing music as a career, such as lessons and leadership opportunities. For other students, the goal is to develop individual and teamwork skills and appreciation for music.

Performing Ensembles: Choirs.

5th-6th elementary choir:
An elementary choir is a continuation of basic singing and ensemble skills that are taught in the lower elementary classes. The major difference is that students begin singing from sheet music, and spend more time learning pieces of music that challenge the students. This may include unison, two part, and even three part music. Most students (both boys and girls) are still in the treble range, and especially the boys should be encouraged to continue singing in the higher range. Songs should vary in style and be chosen based on their difficulty, duration, educational opportunities, variety, and cultural or historical importance. The text should be age-appropriate.

7th-8th (JH) choir:
The junior high choir is a place for students to experience age-appropriate, high-quality music that helps develop their changing voices. One of the major considerations is the changing male voice. Many boys are capable of singing the soprano part, but they are embarrassed to sing "like a girl." It is important to create a classroom environment where singing is encouraged and teasing is not allowed. Other boys can begin to sing baritone parts, and three part music can be introduced. It is important to choose music where everyone can experience success, which sometimes involves rewriting parts, doubling octaves, or changing from the original key. Junior high students should also be focused on concert performances.

9th - 12th (HS) choir:
The high school choir is where students can experience a variety of music from different genres and eras. This group focuses on performance and musicality by preparing more challenging literature that may include different languages, longer duration, difficult rhythms and part interdependence. The students also continue to learn about how the voice works and common practices in singing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PK-12 Curriculum Overview (Part 1)


At my current teaching position, I am responsible for teaching all of the elementary music classes, as well as all of the junior high and high school band and choir classes. While this can be quite a challenge, it is also a great opportunity to develop musicianship from the earliest levels of instruction.

The goal of any curriculum is to provide a foundation for making educational decisions on "when" to teach "what". A curriculum is a framework, or skeleton, of the educational process - not the entire building itself. In other words, a curriculum needs to be an ordered generalization of subjects, skills, and concepts that leads to "comprehensive musicianship."

This curriculum plan covers all music classes in preschool through high school, including band and choir at the junior high and high school levels, and elementary music. The elementary music is split into three levels: PK and K, 1st and 2nd grade, and 3rd and 4th grade. The secondary music classes are split into two groups: band and choir.

Preschool and Kindergarten:

Young students come from many backgrounds and may or may not have had musical experiences before entering school. The goal of beginning elementary music classes is to acculturate the students to authentic, high-quality musical experiences. Acculturating means to expose the children to music of various styles and to provide opportunities for them to assimilate and understand music through listening, moving, singing, and playing instruments. At this level, there is less focus on formal evaluation of skill and understanding. Instead, the focus is on allowing the child to experience music and to begin developing musical skills such as audiation (hearing and understanding in the mind), rhythm, pitch, and movement, while also providing the child with culturally appropriate musical experiences through singing and listening to folk songs and other types of music.

1st and 2nd Grade:

Intermediate elementary music students should continue to focus on culturally appropriate musical experiences while beginning to develop more complex musical skills. These skills include performing music with multiple parts, singing accurately and with good tone, and performing rhythms accurately. Concepts include basic music theory such as understanding pitch and rhythm through solfege and rhythm syllables, as well as being introduced to musical notation for these concepts. The intermediate music classes should continue to expand on the variety of repertoire that was experienced in beginning music classes through listening, singing, moving, and playing instruments.

3rd and 4th Grade:

Advanced elementary music students are expected to develop important skills and understand important concepts for individual musicianship, as well as continuing to experience a broad variety of music. At this level, students are introduced to the recorder as a way to practice reading notation. Singing skills should also continue to be developed, including the reading of musical notation. More difficult skills and concepts are introduced at this level, focusing on both ensemble skills and individual skills. Ensemble skills may include dancing, performing two-part songs, and following a conductor. Individual skills include reading notation, performing rhythms and pitches accurately on instruments, and singing accurately with a good tone. Advanced elementary students continue to experience a variety of music from different genres such as classical, folk, popular, jazz, and music from other countries.