Students liked working with instruments for different purposes, like creating melody and accompaniment, composing rhythms and melodies, exploring how sound is produced, and simply learning how to play a song. Students enjoyed working together in groups or partners to brainstorm ideas for compositions.Students also liked expressing their interpretation of the music through drawing. That was a nice way for those students for whom writing was challenging or not their favorite activity to get their thoughts and impressions down on paper, and eventually, it gave them another reference or inspiration for writing, when the time came to translate their thoughts into words.
What did not work?
Students did not have the skills or understanding to notate their compositions. They also didn't always understand that they were supposed to create something that was supposed to stay the same, so next year, more time will be spent on defining what it means to compose something versus improvise. Also, some of the connections between the activities we were doing and our big idea need to be stronger, as some students didn't understand the big "why" behind the projects.
What questions do you still have?
How can I keep students engaged and focused while giving them the freedom to explore making music? How can I transfer the big idea connections more effectively to the students?
What new ideas do you have?
We would like to spend at least 4 class periods exploring and doing projects related to notating sound and then have the students do a short composition project in which they notate the sound. Once they show that they can notate a smaller composition, they will be able to create a larger one. We would like students to journal every single class for at least 5 minutes on a question relating to the big idea. We think that looking at the big idea from many different angles and writing about it will help to reinforce the connections being made through active learning in the classroom and will help things to "stick."