Incorporating Writing into the Middle School & High School Music Classroom

Incorporating Writing into the Middle School & High School Music Classroom

6For those of you who JUST want the link to the growing free Writing Prompt document: click here!

For those of you who are here to read about the entire process – continue!

We’ve all sat through the in-services.  We’ve all had our administrators declare that we must include this as part of our classroom.  Our school improvement team did a study over the summer and discovered that our students were severely low on test scores in the categories of Communicating Reasoning and writing in general.  It is our goal as a staff to improve these scores.  If you’re looking for something simple (but hopefully effective) to do just that, look no further!

Two quick things before we dive in: I teach at a very small school, and we have one-to-one computers for grades K-12.

Writing in the music classroom using Google Classroom

First of all, this entire process is being done via an online learning management system (hooray for not wasting paper).  This is also an easy way to incorporate technology into the classroom if you struggle with that as well!  I’m using Google Classroom, but almost all learning management systems are capable of accomplishing this.  If you don’t have access to any of those, or don’t know what they are – you can still do this, but you’ll have to adjust!

For a quick “how-to” start on Google Classroom, check this out! Google Classroom Quick-Start Guide (this is NOT my guide – just a resource for you to use!)  All you need is a Gmail account!

I am doing basically the equivalent of online discussion posts that you’ll commonly see in online classes.  At the beginning of each week I post a question on Google Classroom for students to answer.  They have to respond to the question, and then throughout the week respond to at least three other students posts.  This encourages healthy discussion techniques while students work on their writing skills.  I have them due at the end of each week.

For example: Our first week of doing this activity, I asked the question, “What does it mean to have musical talent? Do you think a person is born with musical talent or is it learned?”

Writing in the Music Classroom – Student Discussion

For our first discussion, I saw some interesting comments!  The students really provided some thoughtful posts and responses to students.  For a growing list of my weekly discussion questions, check out the link to this Google Doc!  I will try my best to keep it updated.  I’m borrowing some from other sites, and coming up with some of my own!

I grade the students using a rubric our team came up with.  Since I didn’t develop it, no I won’t be sharing it (sorry!).  It’s nothing revolutionary, just a basic writing rubric!  Essentially each week this is an assignment worth ten points in the grade book.  Easy points they can earn in a few minutes.

My middle schoolers have struggled a bit more with some of the questions.  They also have just struggled with committing to writing well in the posts.  I am seeing improvement, but at first, it was a little painful!

I will say, if you’re like me and don’t appreciate an excessive amount of grading – you can forego the required student responses and just have them write the initial post.  I ended up doing this with my middle school just to lighten my grading load.  You can also pick and choose which weeks to grade – don’t tell them otherwise they won’t do it.  But if you take a week off, then grade the next week’s they’ll never know what to expect!

Make this system work for you!

I started this process this year.  I feel it’s extremely useful and beneficial for students, and I have plans to continue doing it for awhile.  It’s also amazing because it doesn’t take up ANY of your class time!  Students know how to complete the assignment, and understand it’s due every single week.  Hooray for not cutting into rehearsal times!

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Grand Behavior Music Classroom Management

Grand Behavior Music Classroom Management

Music Classroom Management Tool

We have all seen the “NOISE” post on Pinterest (when the students are making noise – they lose a letter).  I’ve taken that and combined it with a behavior chart!  I call it “Grand Behavior”.  It’s perfect because it also teaches the students about the grand staff!

When a class is misbehaving, or their behavior isn’t “grand” – they lose a letter at the whiteboard (bottom picture).  If later they show me behavior that is “grand” they can earn a letter back.  At the end of class time, if they still have all of their letters they have had “Grand Behavior” and they get to move up a spot on the grand staff.  I have them all start at the lowest line of the bass clef.  When they get to Middle C, they earn an incentive (center day, treat, game).  When they get to the top F of the treble clef, they also earn an incentive (similar).  After that, they have to start all the way back down at the bass clef. I usually get a little healthy competition among the classes!

Removing a letter from the whiteboard is a huge visual that all students notice without you having to use your voice.  As music teachers – we all know our voice is precious!

Creating this music classroom management tool.

All of the materials to create this can be found easily at your local dollar store or craft store.  I have provided some links to Amazon resources if that works easier for you!  These are affiliate links so I will receive a small bonus if you buy through them!

I created the chart using a whiteboard, painters tape, colored foam sheets, small craft magnets, and wooden letters. The foam sheets make very durable items.  I attached magnets on the back with hot glue.  These have lasted 2+ years.  I spray painted the letters black , and hot glued magnets to the back of them.

This is a wonderfully simple visual cue for classroom management that I found to be a very effective tool for elementary music classrooms! Here are some other great resources for elementary music classrooms!

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