Listening and Responding

By Rebecca Arndt

For the last 20 years I have had the pleasure of teaching elementary general music grades K-5. Every year it seems that we are being asked to add more into our instruction even though it may not exactly fit within the standards that we are currently teaching. This year has been the craziest ever! Between adding new concepts such as ELA and Math standards now, because of COVID, we are all teaching remotely.

As a music teacher, remote teaching has been a struggle, to say the least. I worry that I am not reaching my students and they are not receiving the scaffolding elements as they move to the next grade level. Many families are struggling to stay focused and have their students complete core subject areas. Many families, in order to lessen the stress, have even chosen to overlook the arts courses.

During this remote learning time I have adjusted my curriculum in different ways. I am using SeeSaw, YouTube videos, videos of myself and other resources such as Google documents for exit tickets and the Quaver Music Curriculum. It may be scary to jump into the remote learning world but what a great way to reach those students who may not love performing or participating in the whole classroom experience. I have had students join me in my Google Meet who in class don’t always show interest or participation. These students have been preparing songs on their guitars, on their recorders and they have also joined in with echo song singing.

As we continued through the school year my mind was always racing. How can I do this? How can I keep accurate data, teach the correct techniques for singing, proper posture, instrument playing and all the other standards and elements of our curriculum? Spinning, whirling and all this while trying to teach my own children at home, collect data, make videos each week, keep my house in order and not go crazy during this time of unrest!

One approach that helped me calm the storm was using a MAEIA writing prompt. When teaching the 4th and 5th grade students I used the prompt MT 207: Musical Listening Response. I didn’t use it to grade the students, but to engage them in instruction. When the shut down happened, we were at the end of a unit on musical genres. To transition the lessons to online learning, the students had to chose a song from a composer they had been researching. The students followed the format of each question from the item prompt; then wrote down and uploaded their answers into Google docs where I could easily access them. It was very interesting to see their responses to the prompts and to learn how these songs made the students feel, particularly at this crazy time.

Trying something new can be scary, daunting, and even may cause us stress. But WOW! Isn’t that a lesson we want to teach our students? Have them overcome the stress and be willing to try new things?  I was able to use the MAEIA tools to be able to show growth, to meet a professional requirement, and to do it all within the realm of my expertise. This activity engaged students in reflecting on their feelings, while learning the power of music to touch our emotions. I can’t wait until we are face to face and we do this lesson again so that we can continue to learn about what we are hearing and how we are feeling.

Rebecca Arndt is a music educator and a MAEIA Leadership Fellow.

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