I Made…

Over the last year I have increased the items that I expect myself to do each day. This last six weeks I added taking a picture each day. At first I was unsure what the theme would be, but as I spent more time making artifacts for my graduate career, I thought more about the word “make”. We use it in so many contexts, and not all of them mean creating a physical object, like a tiny box. I make time for things. I make things happen. I make people feel things. I make assignments and lessons. These all manifest themselves in different ways – time with friends, names on a whiteboard, designing a wedding.

I have been consumed with graduate work, wedding planning, and a full-time teaching position. This has led to a feeling of time passing faster and faster with each day, shown by the decreasing time spent with each scene in the video. With less than 100 days to plan a wedding, 50 days of school, and no time left in this semester’s coursework, time has flown.

This work is dedicated to my friends and family who have supported me through a very rough last month. I am blessed to have people who understand that not every day will be positive, but all time we spend together is valuable.

A Classroom Redesign

My classroom is a very odd space. It is the only space on the second floor of the building, no doors, and two annexes: the staff lounge, and the occupational therapist’s office.

My classroom, practicing for a small winter performance. Photo by the author, 2019

Having no doors has its drawbacks. Our school has lots of students who have experienced trauma and those students like to run away when they are upset. Parents have trouble understanding the challenges I have in this space. So when I was asked this week to design my classroom in an online program, I was excited to try it out.

I used a website called floorplanner to lay out my classroom. I struggled with finding substitutes for the objects I use daily, like xylophones, risers, and my square-spot rug. Instead I found objects that were similar in size, shape, or purpose to use. For example, the brown bars next to the TV are representative of my whiteboards and my Smartboard. The piano I use is an upright grand, but the upright piano (half its height) fulfills the same purpose.

You may notice that there is barely any furniture in the room. For kindergarten music the class is constantly moving around, dancing, singing, and playing. If we had chairs or desks it would hinder our ability to move. If I had the opportunity to start from scratch, and design the entire room, I would want to keep this free movement ability, along with providing safe spaces for my students who need it. The Third Teacher provides a list of design principles to follow when creating a classroom space. With my goals and this list in mind, I recreated my space.

Some items that need to be explained: the two carts next to my laptop cart are where I would place my large xylophones. The tool I was using did not have a good representation for xylophones, and I want them on wheels to be easily moved around the classroom as needed. Third Teacher’s #23 idea on their 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching + Learning is “Make classrooms agile” (The Third Teacher, 2010). By having all my big instruments (drums, piano, xylophones) on wheels, my students and I can rearrange the classroom to create the best space for that day’s learning. Instead of our square rug from before, I would love to have a circle rug that students sit around the outside. Learning how to make a circle is a surprisingly large part of kindergarten music and having this shape on our floor would help.

Although I cannot change our fluorescent lighting or lack of windows, I can change the color of the walls and floor. According to Kendra Cherry in her article The Color Psychology of Blue, blue is “often seen as a sign of stability and reliability” and “people are more productive in blue rooms” (Cherry, 2019 March 31). Third Teacher’s #4 idea is “Put safety before study”, and blue helps create this safe feeling for students. I also improved upon my break space with small, comfortable seating, a table, and the wooden bin would contain coloring materials and Think Sheets for students who need to think through their actions. There is also new backpack cubbies for my students so that instead of having belongings on the floor along the wall, they have their own designated space to keep their items safe.

With our own laptop cart for this floor (green cart next to the elevator), we will finally be able to use individual technology in the music classroom. This with our Smartboard and keyboard (to record songs for when I have a guest teacher) provide the basis for technology in our classroom. Not every piece will be used every class but it provides flexibility for my students and me. I may not have this space yet, but I can certainly dream about it!

Resources:

Cherry, Kendra. 2019 March 31. The Color Psychology of Blue. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-blue-2795815

The Third Teacher. 2010. 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING + LEARNING [pdf file]. Retrieved from: https://lindsayluftcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/b3319-79ideasoveralllist.pdf

Feedback & Final Drafts

Writing lesson plans can be difficult, especially for an audience. There are activities or items that you instinctively do and know that the broader educator community may not. Other educators may need different accommodations than your students. In the lesson plan I wrote about in Note Names, Now With Makey Makey, I wrote the lesson with the information I needed, not what another educator might need to pick up and recreate this lesson. Now that I have reviewed some feedback, here is the revised lesson plan for Note Recognition Using Makey Makey.

I am fortunate to have wonderful peers with me in Michigan State University’s MAET (Master of Arts in Educational Technology) program, and two of them reviewed my lesson (I will refer to them as Peer A and Peer B). I really enjoy these reviews because they are not usually music educators and will look at different parts of the lesson than my local colleagues. Peer A looked at my lesson from a Universal Design Learning perspective and was curious if the educator could change the speed of Staff Wars manually. Although this is not currently an option in the software, it does start incredibly slow, which will hopefully give students time to feel comfortable answering. This did not prompt me to change my lesson, but I did change my objective to include details about recognition speed.

Editing changes in lesson plan. Screenshot by the author, 2019.

Peer A and I discussed how to best make groups. In my older classrooms, I have Instrument Families. They are reminiscent of Hogwarts houses; each student is assigned to an instrument family (string, percussion, woodwinds, and brass) and can earn points for their family. Having preset groups means I can spend time on teaching rather than making groups. The University of Waterloo has a page on Implementing Group Work in the Classroom, and this lesson incorporates a lot of their suggestions already, such as “assigning the group tasks that encourage involvement, interdependence, and a fair division of labor,” (n.d.). Since it met some of the criteria for good group work design, I thought I would share some creative way to break the class into groups, one of my own creation, and others suggested by Jordan Catapano in his article 30 Ways to Arrange Students for Group Work (TechHUB.com, n.d.).

Group Making Suggestions edit. Screenshot by the author, 2019

Peer B took on the perspective of a students with an auditory processing disorder (APD). We both learned that APD affects 5% of school-aged children, which theoretically means one student in each of my classes has APD (Morlet, 2014). Peer B thought that the amount of noise the activity would create could be distracting and difficult for a student with APD, and they might need accommodations. There are many ways this lesson could be adapted to prepare for these students! We can have students play on individual laptops with headphones while only a few try out the Makey Makey setup, or they can wear headphones to lessen the sound. I decided to provide a Possible Accommodations section with changes that educators can make to this lesson to adapt to their individual classroom environment.

Possible Accommodations section added. Screenshot by the author, 2019.

There were a few more style and grammatical changes to make to polish this lesson plan. One noticeable change is that I suggest that the educator spend some time playing Staff Wars and using the Makey Makey before setting up the lesson so that they can troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the lesson.

Practicing using the technology changes. Screenshot by the author, 2019.

The overall effect of these changes should provide a lesson that is technology-focused and easy to modify for your classroom. I do not teach any fourth graders this year but I hope to share it with my fourth graders next year! If you give it a shot before I do, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @LindsayLuft.

References:

Catapano, Jordan. (n.d.). 30 Ways to Arrange Students for Group Work. Retrieved from https://www.teachhub.com/30-ways-arrange-students-group-work

Morlet, T, PhD. (2014). Auditory Processing Disorder. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/central-auditory.html

University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). Implementing Group Work in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/group-work/implementing-group-work-classroom 


Intersectionality

I am a woman.
I am white.
I am Catholic.
I am pursuing a master’s degree in educational technology.
I am in a heterosexual relationship.

These terms and names put me in a bunch of categories, mostly majorities. Intersectionality is how each of these individual identifiers affects your overall experience as a human. Being a part of many majorities has afforded me a lot of opportunities. Other people experience things differently because of their race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, political ideology, physical ability, and more. Kimberlé Crenshaw does a great job of presenting this topic at TEDWomen 2016. Crenshaw gives a content warning for violence and abuse for the talk, so feel free to skip the below video if needed.

After watching this, I realized a lot of my students fall into many minority categories and it greatly changes their school experiences. My students (for the most part) are various minorities, who are not Catholic like me, who are on free or reduced lunch. Intersectionality will play a huge role in their lives. To remind my colleagues how different our students’ experiences are, I created the poster below.

Intersectionality poster, created by the author (2019).

I felt uncomfortable making this poster because I do not belong to many minority groups and I do not want to display their experiences incorrectly. I hope the impact that this poster has outweighs any misunderstanding I have of their experiences.

References:

TED. (2016, October). The Urgency of Intersectionality [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?language=en

Note Names, Now With Makey Makey

Over the past few weeks I have been learning a new technology that I may be able to use in the classroom called Makey Makey. My father gave me a set for Christmas about three years ago and I had never opened the box. I have had lots of fun exploring its possibilities, and playing Tetris using some empty soda cans as my arrow keys.

Makey Makey setup for Tetris using soda cans and a tape measure. Photo by the author (2019)

My favorite discovery so far has been turning my tape measure into my “Earth” material. This grounds you so that the soda cans operate as buttons and the current completes its circuit.

I thought the Makey Makey would be really fun in combination with a game called Staff Wars. Staff Wars allows students to practice note recognition on any clef, while slowly increasing speed so that they are forced to identify the note names quickly. I drafted a possible lesson plan called Makey Makey Lesson Plan for now. My biggest personal challenge I will experience with this lesson plan is that my Makey Makey is one of the originals, so remapping the buttons would require editing the Arduino’s code rather than working through Makey Makey’s website. I plan on spending some time this week to figure it out and finding one more alligator clip so I have enough for each note name (the kit comes with seven, I will need eight for this lesson). I look forward to refining my lesson and diving into coding in the next few days!

References:

Luft, Lindsay. (2019 March 31). Makey Makey Lesson Plan [Word Document]. Available from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ofuKNW7OMZx9ZHNK811cmz_Geq4PFcbwB9yLQW2_8qE/edit

The Music Interactive. (n.d.). Staff Wars (Version 1.8) [Software]. Available from http://themusicinteractive.com/downloads.html

Tag Your Artists

We are so used to seeing sweet and clever images all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Do you know who originally created that content? Do you know how to find it? This has been an ongoing problem in the Magic: the Gathering (MtG) community that when new art is released from Wizards of the Coast, the artists are not tagged, and they do not find out that their work has been publicly released. It has started a small campaign among the art lovers in the MtG community to ask people to tag their artists.

@VorthosMike, the spearhead of this movement, asking several accounts to tag the artists when their work is posted on Twitter.

Learning about attribution with Creative Commons this week really emphasized how important it is to credit original creators. If you are using someone else’s content, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are using it in a way that people consuming your content know where that content came from. To learn more about it, try this video I made out of public domain footage!

Attribution with Creative Commons video, created by the author, 2019.

I hope that everyone will include the original creators of whatever work they use on their social media, blogs, and works. If you choose to use someone else’s content in your own, it should absolutely be within the boundaries that the creator has agreed to through copyright laws or choosing a Creative Commons license. Honestly copyright law still confuses me even after several hours of additional research. I still can’t decide if .gifs are fair use or not. In the meantime I will tag my artists, and hope you will too.

References:

Luft, Lindsay. (2019, March 24). Attribution with Creative Commons [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/bVcCmHa2J7o

Vorthos Mike. [@VorthosMike]. (various). tag your artists @vorthosmike – Twitter Search [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/search?q=tag%20your%20artists%20%40vorthosmike&src=typd

Learning With The Youngest Students

As an educator there is a lot of learning in my day-to-day life. I spend most of my life at an Early Childhood Education (ECE) building. It is filled with preschool and kindergarten classes. We are so fortunate to have this ECE expertise all in one building and it makes it so easy to learn from each other.

Our district builds in professional development time on Wednesdays. Students are dismissed two hours early and it alternates between being individual time and building-directed professional development. This allows for a lot of individual and group learning, and occasional parties.

A recent baby shower with colleagues after building-directed time. Photo taken by the author, 2019

I learned a new tool this week, and I used it to explore my experiences with failure, constructivism, constructionism, and how I am a maker. Thinglink allows you to add pins to add explanations to pictures. I explain each of the topics in my school after the Thinglink.

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Being a Maker

It may not be traditional making but I believe parodies require their own intimate knowledge of the material to transform the work. My favorite thing to do in the classroom is to find a way to transition between activities using the melody of the first song to get them ready for the second. For example we recently learned Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear. The final time I sang it I changed the lyrics to “Teddy Bear, Teddy bear find your square. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, sit right there.” This gave them time to move and get ready to start learning about lullabies. We also come up with all our own verses for various songs! I let my students choose all sorts of places for “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”. Most of our attempts have been really successful but sometimes we do experience…

Failure

I really struggle thinking about failure. As a gifted child growing up, I did not fail often, and when I failed at something, it was due to my procrastination and not my abilities to do the necessary work. Something I have recently come to terms with is that I decided not to major in music performance because I knew I could not deal with the constant failure that most musicians and performers are subjected to when trying to find work. In my classroom I am the complete opposite. When my students or I make a mistake or fail we all say “Mistakes are okay!” I have cultivated a place where students feel comfortable singing by themselves and know whatever they contribute will be appreciated. A large part of creativity (including music) is failing and finding what works, and we make that a part of our process. I am hoping we are more successful at our big project for the year!

Constructivism & Constructionism

I know my students experience these styles of learning so much more in their home classrooms, and it is something I would love to bring into the music room more. Constructionism allows students to construct their own understanding through authentic experiences. Unknowingly I had brought constructionism into my classroom through projects. My kindergarten students get to pick our songs for our end-of-year concert out of all the songs we have learned so far. This lets them take ownership of what we perform. Wee practice and work together to improve the way the songs sound so that when June comes we are ready to share their talents with their families and friends. My students are learning what they need to do to create a good performance, how to make their singing sound good, and how to make their performances interesting.

Constructivism unfortunately has little time in my own classroom but more in their own. Their home classrooms are filled with toys, play kitchens, and all sorts of items for them to explore ideas and concepts with each other to build their learning. Hopefully when I have a permanent space, I can bring it into my own classroom as well.