Music Room Ramblings

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How to include Gen Ed standards, writing prompts, etc. in music ed class

Our new principal is wanting us to reinforce the regular ed standards into our lessons (writing prompts included). Have you found it easy enough to find alternative songs and activities for your lesson plans that will tie into their standards and scope of work if the ones already on your lessons don't necessarily serve that purpose, as long as they're covering what we need to cover as music teachers?

We just got hit with this recently and it's extremely overwhelming, especially since it looks like I'll have to modify more things than I thought. I don't know how any one teacher can cope with all of this paperwork, and now we're expected to cover our standards AND theirs?! It's crazy.  
It's very common for principals to require that, so don't stress. It's fairly easy. I've always wondered how the regular classroom teacher would like it if they had to incorporate our standards into their lesson plans? LOL Never gonna happen. However, the more familiar you become with the gen ed standards, the more you'll be able to relate to the kids and their teachers and coordinate your lesson plans with theirs. 

Remember, we are teaching the "whole child."

Children love it when their music teacher knows about things

they are doing in other areas of the school.

Music standards align with the gen ed standards.
The great thing about reinforcing the gen ed standards is that you will not have to change anything you do because you are already doing it. It's just a matter of being aware of their standards and educating your admin about your standards. They usually have no clue because very few have a music background much less music education training. Just remember, YOU are ahead of the game. Don't let anyone make you feel like you're not!!
Take a little time, skim through the reading and math standards, and you'll see what I'm talking about. You are low man on the totem pole so admin tends to just throw out these things without any guidance and also because they don't know how you will do it. But they will also give you a poor evaluation if they don't see that you are doing what they have told you to do and also see it written into your plans.

So, let's get specific.

Literacy & Word Walls.  Word Walls and vocabulary words (Flash Cards and Powerpoint Game) are one of the best ways to meet the literacy standards across all levels and subject areas. I wrote a little bit about Word Walls on my blog, Mrs. Aston's High Notes last year. You start with simple words in kindergarten like listen, loud, soft, fast, slow, and progress to the musical terms that replace those words. This reinforces their reading, spelling, literacy, etc. standards. And in second grade, the classroom teachers will love you for introducing syllables, how to read lyrics, one-two sounds to a beat, etc.

Writing Prompts. If you have been told to incorporate a writing activity into your lesson plans, don't panic. You can do that, too. Just be sure they understand that it will only happen once during a grading period. Figure out how many lessons you have the students, total no. of hours and compare that with the classroom teacher. If they are doing writing activities every day and for every subject, then you will too. But they aren't so you should not be required to do that either. Figure out the percentage of time teachers spend using writing prompts in math or science and try to match for your class. Any writing activities that you include will flow naturally from the students' learning experiences. Also ask if they are furnishing pencils, journals, writing materials, etc. You, I'm sure, do not have a budget to furnish those items for the entire school. Some schools require all students to have a journal which they take to each area—music, art, PE, etc. If yours does that, I promise, just go with the flow because it will not last. It's a huge headache and no one likes it. Second though fourth graders can write on any given "prompt" in your room once or even twice during a grading period. I even had kindergartners illustrate songs and put their papers out in the hall. You can take any nursery rhyme like Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, etc. and have your 2nd-4th graders create new words, a different ending, add music using Orff instruments, etc. Be creative and let your students be creative. Just have them write it down and you have satisfied the "Writing Prompt" requirement. A fun writing/creating activity is included in my Unit 4 plans for 4th grade. Students create their own raps. Writing prompts are included.

Math. You are also teaching math in almost everything you do. Kindergartners keep the beat in almost every activity, song, dance, and game. You are introducing the division of rhythms into equal sets of beats—meter at this point without labeling it for the little ones. By 2nd-3rd grade, you will be using terms like meter, measure, measure bar. (which will also go on their Word Walls). First graders learn to identify quarter, half, and eighth notes, and quarter rests. Math skills are huge when teaching music and our standards align with the math standards.
Science. Kindergarten learns about body parts ("Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes"), butterflies, animals, etc. and their songs go right along with that. I'm pretty sure 3rd graders study the science of sound. So you can incorporate that into your plans.
Social Studies. The inclusion of the many cultures during music class addresses this area in the gen ed standards. I loved finding out what countries, regions, cultures students were learning about in their classrooms and incorporated those into my lesson plans. Kindergarten learns about families and neighborhoods and your songs and activities will reinforce those concepts. Be sure to tell their classroom teachers when you are using those songs. Once again, the textbooks for the gen ed grade levels align with the music textbooks and also all of my lesson plans (Elementary Music Lesson Plan Bundle). The publishers of curriculum resources research the standards and have to be sure all subject areas are in alignment.

Character Education. There are so many songs in my lesson plans where you can discuss and reinforce acceptable behavior and respect for others.
Cooperative Learning. Any time you tell students to find a partner, create a hand pattern together to a given piece of music, that's cooperative learning. Small group activities where you have given students an assignment/rubric to follow are great for addressing cooperative learning skills.

Higher Level Thinking Skills. Music education addresses all of the higher levels of thinking skills. Post your lesson plans outside the door to your room. Make copies of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning and post in and outside your room. I had an envelope on my door directing anyone entering to take a set of my lesson plans and enter quietly to observe. People were always welcome but I also explained that it was best not to interrupt students during a music class. Children are easily distracted and interruptions can destroy an activity, especially with the little ones.

FINALLY . . . 

You are teaching children a new language along with the skills to be able to communicate in that language. AND your students are having a ton of fun in the process! That's learning at its BEST and music teachers have been doing it this way for decades!

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