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Monday, November 18, 2013

Working on slurs using the D Scale

I like to use the D scale as a warm-up for my beginners every day.  It's great for their intonation and you can add rhythms or bowings to the scale to make it relevant to the teaching concept of the day.

I have been working on bowings and slurs with my class, so I created this warm-up sheet using the D scale.  This helps me see if students are able to read rhythms and bowings... instant formative assessment.  I had students write the bowings (down and up bows) as part of their bellwork.

Motivating students to practice - my ramblings

Motivating students to practice is no easy task.  As part of my class, students are required to perform playing tests for me every 2 week, and that is supposed to be motivation for them to practice, yet still, students don't always do the work and I am left with some students who lack the skills needed to be successful in my class.  I lecture them about practicing.  I try to teach them how to practice effectively.  I show them videos of performances to help with desire to be successful and practice.  Still, it can be so frustrating when I see that the progress of my orchestra is slowed because of kids who don't practice.  Recently, I asked my students how often and how long they practice as a bellwork assignment.  I was astonished at the amount of practice that was NOT happening!  No wonder my large class of beginners feels like such a struggle right now!  What to do?  Require practice cards?  I don't know.  I want my students to practice because THEY want to practice.... I don't like to force them.

I am still trying to decide how to motivate my class.  I am currently holding a practice competition where my students are recording their practice times on a giant paper in my classroom.  The class with the highest average gets one playing test cancelled. 

I think I might bring a potted plant to class.  I will have students stand-up if they practiced the night before and I will count how many students practiced and I will mark them on my seating chart so they see me noticing and marking their efforts.  Then, I will water my plant a teaspoon of water per student who practiced and we'll see how my plant does.  My plant will die if not enough students practice.  I'm thinking this could lead to a great object lesson about nurturing your talent so that it can grow.

The power of red vines

I like to surprise my students with activities now and then.  Today, I surprised them with a game that I called Freeze Tag, but I suppose it is much different than a regular game of tag.

I brought in a huge bucket of Red Vines licorice and I and placed my seating chart in front of me.  I told the students, that any time I caught one of them playing or talking out of turn I would mark their name on the roll and they would be 'out'.  All students who did not get marking on my seating chart would earn a red vine at the end of class.   Students were very motivated by my giant bucket of red vines and I have never had such an attentive group and wow....classroom management became a breeze.  I wasn't able to mark many students as 'out' on my seating chart, so I decided that I had better make the game more difficult.  As we rehearsed, I picked out individual things that I wanted them to focus on.  For example, we are currently working on bow direction and slurs.  I told my class that I would watch for proper bow direction, and whoever misses a bowing would be marked as 'out.'  Next, I told them I would watch for intonation on F#'s.  Next, proper rhythm.  The students could not see who I was marking as out so they all continued to work hard throughout the class period.  My class focused and tried harder to get things right...more so than in any other rehearsal.  We made a ton of progress today.  It was also an eye-opener to me.  These kids are capable of a lot...I must now expect every rehearsal to be as focused.

See my follow up activity after the red vines here: