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Michele Medina

Recorders, Raps, and Invented Maracas: A Middle School Symphony

January 24, 2012 at 2:06 AM

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.

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