Not only do I teach music in Juticalpa, but I am lucky enough to teach art, too. Teaching art is out of my comfort zone because I've done art in the past and have always been surrounded by beautiful art, but never have taken a class outside of the required Art History courses for my degree.
There are more resources available for art, and I've found that most students are incredibly talented. I watch the students create art and work with them. Of course, I learn from them and it's another one of those things that keeps me on my toes (love teaching!). Here is some of their art.
One of my seventh graders used oil pastels to create this amazing sunset with shadows. We were on the topic of landscapes, and the students were working in partners during class. But this student got inspired by the landscapes and made this sunset for me at her home. She's one of my most creative, innovative, seventh graders.
The painting on the bottom of the image with was painted by a pair of (very responsible) ninth graders. It was painted by a girl and a boy. The girl is very shy and quiet in class, I noticed her creativity the day that she actually brought a musical instrument to class. It was a pretty little drum made out of a can, and she added lovely ribbon. I can tell that she is very careful with any of the work that she does.
Finally, another ninth grader always impresses me anytime he draws something. Though not in this drawing, he always uses a ton of color. I love paintings with color! He almost reminds me of the Fauve artists Marc Chagall or Henri Matisse, but of course with his own distinctive style. He gets very detailed and involved with his work. The assignment for this class period was to make a work of art that involves the elements of music. He's actually an expert at this. Previously he and his friend who plays a bit of piano created a landscape. This was amazing (unfortunately he took it home before I could get a picture!). The landscape included a lighthouse, sunset, and sea. All in vibrant, ardent colors like reds and oranges. But, at the bottom, they included a staff of music with notes as if it was the signature to complete the work. I could tell how proud the students were of their work. Everyday the main artist would come and look at his work of art with care and love.
My students are so talented! I got excited during the first few weeks, and decided that I would pull together a few art shows for them. One of the shows is going to be on March 23. The students are excited, and at a later date we will show the art work in the cultural center. Juticalpa desperately needs more art, and I'm working very hard to get the students' art work out there.
Assignment: Make a musical instrument as your homework assignment. I assigned it last week.
Monday: About 4 students in each section had decent instruments. A few others quickly created something at recess. Including an empty can of Pringles with crumbs to make the "instrument" rattle. I guess in a sense it could work, but I didn't feel like trying that hard to convince myself that the soft sound it made was musical.
The students who did come prepared learned simple rhythms and we sounded them out on our instruments.
The students had a chance to make up for the assignment the next time. After all, this kind of exercise would be better with more people.
Yesterday, more students came with their assignment (though not all). The instrument-less students were not sent to the office this time, but were asked to clap.
One section didn't work so well because of the behavior problems and inability to quiet down when I asked. Sometimes their "creative rhythmic impulses" just didn't sound so great. Again, the behavior and respect issue was an issue. That's all I can say. At some point I just handed out a biography about Mozart that I was waiting to do next week, to quiet them down.
But the next section, though not everyone still had their instruments, went a lot better this time. It's always glorious when they quiet down when you want them to. This time I was able to guide a few different drums and maracas, and I guide them to sound like music. We practiced rhythms individually and as a group, and it all sounded great!
There was some success this week. I'm so happy that the students made efforts. We'll do more with rhythms and their instruments later this week!
I spent my recess with a handful of 9th graders.
No, it wasn't detention.
Instead, I invited a few of them who I know love music and happen to own instruments to come have a jam session with me. A couple of students play the guitar and one plays the piano. None of them know how to read music, but they beg me to teach them how. I have a couple of ideas, and I will put them to use this week.
They all have different styles. I was sort of expecting that, but they weren't exactly sure what to do with it. After today, I have a better idea of how to handle the sessions. It's interesting to hear what some of them play. They are actually really good at solfege. I think in a few weeks I want them to be able to understand each others' styles and then we all can create our own style.
Being in the classroom with other students who aren't musicians at all sometimes makes for a lesson that doesn't really reach the musicians. My class is more of a "music appreciation" class because so few students play instruments. Sometimes teaching music with such few resources is a little strange, but I'm getting the grasp of teaching older students who know nothing about music a little bit about music. A few lessons have worked, and even though some days most of the students are disengaged, I have to remember the ones that are engaged.
But if the musician students stay after school or in during recess, we can have a group session that has a lot less pressure and a lot more fun for music.
For the rest of the year, I am encouraging these students to bring their instruments and have a smaller group session. It's important that they learn how to listen to each other and work with each other because the most important resources that these students have are each other.
The past few weeks with my middle school students have been pretty successful. Of course, there have been some important teaching moments that I am going to learn from, but in general I have grown as a music teacher.
About half of my seventh graders learned the recorder (which they always call the flute) last year. So I'm learning the soprano recorder. I once wanted to learn the soprano recorder; it was green and wooden but my dog ate it. There went that dream! Other than that, the only recorder I learned in my lifetime was an alto recorder for an early music ensemble back in 2006, but I wasn't that great at it, and this is a different one anyway.
My students and I work with the materials that we have available with recorder. For a minute, the only chart I had apparently had the incorrect notes on them. We're fixing that, and fortunately one of the other teachers managed to acquire a few good books over Christmas break, and so I can learn from that too.
For eighth grade, we work on music notation and some singing. Only about two students out of forty play musical instruments, so it can be a challenge at times. But we manage. This is where it's a very good experience for me as a music teacher, and not so much a violinist. It's important for me to learn how to speak to an audience who doesn't really have a musical background. We've made it work so far with research papers about instruments. But today was a pretty interesting day with one of my sections. One of the other classes is learning a rap by The Black Eyed Peas for an assembly and they asked if they could practice it in my class. I said "Yes! That will work very well with our music class today!" and they practiced. We're going to practice it again later this week, and tighten up their English pronunciation. I'm mainly a classical musician but give myself room to learn a bit about other types of music when I can. I'm glad that my cowokers have given me ideas on how to broaden my view about music, and have given me ideas for projects in these classes.
My ninth graders can be some of my most interesting students and we can have some pretty inspiring lectures. I've showed them music from From the Top, played my violin for them, and had them read about Beethoven. I've also showed them videos of Beethoven's 5th Symphony. I have a few musicians in the 9th grade class. I have a few students who like to sing music by Vicente Fernandez and others who noodle around and make up their own songs. This week I've offered them to bring their instruments so that we can have a jam session, where we try to improvise and maybe get a little bit of note reading in there.
Hopefully all goes well in the jam sessions and in class. The students are supposed to make their own musical instruments this week. Some students made clever drums and maracas. They are learning how to read different rhythmic patterns. They are doing well! We have a few more months to make some musical experiments and progress, and I think being able to learn from lessons that worked or that didn't work will make the rest of the year even more musical than it began.
More entries: October 2011
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