Saturday, January 25, 2014

But what's in it for music teachers?

There is a common perspective among music teachers that professional development has to be music specific if it is to be of any relevance to their teaching. This attitude belies the richness of professional development and the possibilities it brings for music education.

I just got back from a weekend of training at an International Baccalaureate conference. Full of ideas, inspiration, and teachers working towards improving their practice, I found the conference invigorating despite the fact that I didn't run into another music teacher the whole time I was there. The workshop I went to was called "Making the PYP Happen in the Classroom" and was an introduction to the Primary Years Program (PYP) philosophy and practice.

Inquiry is at the heart of the IB program. How can we design experiences for children that allow them to wonder and ask questions? This kind of lesson design results in student directed learning, which increases achievement. It also decreases the amount of teacher talk, since the ideas and questions of the students are used to initiate possible new lines of inquiry. Instead of instruction as monologue, it is instruction as dialogue.

While at the conference my creative teaching mind was inspired! I started thinking about how I could design an inquiry unit for my second grade students about string instruments. 

How could I introduce string instruments in a way where all of the knowledge came from the children and their observations about the instruments? I'm still deciding how this will look, but our first lesson in this unit will be an exploration. The students will describe the look, feel, and sound of string instruments on poster paper. After we have explored several different string instruments we will compare the similarities and differences between the instruments. Then we can come up with a list of common attributes that creates the string instrument category. 

I'm still writing and thinking about this unit and nothing is set in stone except one thing. Professional development is about learning how to be a good teacher, and that applies to all subject areas.

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