Monthly Archives: April 2016

In-Depth Post #6: Learning Centre/Stage Ideas

I have to admit, the pursuit of the perfect project (if there’s even such a thing) is pretty tiring. These past few weeks, I met with two different teachers: my main mentor, Mrs. Morrison, and my previous grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Gutenberg, who is so generously going to help set me up to meet with some other people knowledgeable in this subject.

However, in terms of the actual in-depth night, I have decided to switch gears. I was thinking quite a lot about this, but I wasn’t sure how good of a learning centre I could build for my project. However, I also had to take into consideration my tendency to include too much detail and not be able to summarize things. So for the time being, I have decided to make a video that showcases the most prominent concept I have been working on: work vs. play. Depending on how well I can condense my video, the length will determine whether I have a stage performance or a learning centre. The premise of the video will be similar to that of a Buzzfeed video (see an example here), in that I have several different people take part in an experiment without them knowing the exact details of what is happening (so they can’t predict the result, or try to influence it). In case any of them decide to read this blog post, I have decided not to reveal the details of the experiment yet, but I plan to have a detailed outline finished by next week.

I have started recruiting people my age to participate, as well as people around 11 years old (hey, if I have an 11-year old brother, I have to take advantage of that), whose parents I need to talk to about video consent. I’m looking for an opportunity to have slightly younger children participate as well (6-8 years old), but that would require more paperwork, so that will be held off until I finish the video outline. Another problem that may occur is the volume of the video. Not the audio, but the depth, which makes me worry about whether or not I can squish all the information and results in a 2-minute video.

I am excited to start putting together the video. Next week, I am going to ask one of my music teacher’s if I can use one of her rooms to film in, as well as gathering materials and people.

In-Depth Post Part 2

As promised, here’s the follow-up to last week’s post.

This week, I had another meeting with my mentor, Mrs. Morrison. This session was more of an opportunity to ask a few questions, and have a discussion, and then help out with some tasks in the class (usually some cleaning up or helping with marking). This time I decided to ask her a question that closely applied to my own teaching recently. Knowing that she must have inevitably had a student like this once, I asked her how she would deal with a non-compliant child. Obviously, piano teaching is very different from teaching in school, but I thought she might have some insights for me. What she told me was that something called intermittent teaching (a reward system that uses occasional positive rewards rather than for everything that happens) is a much more effective way of teaching than if you used negative or positive reinforcements. She also taught me some tricks that I could use for teaching a younger age group. This, I found to be the best answer. Regardless of how simple it was, I realized that in the course I’m taking right now is teaching us how be music teachers, and since classical music calls for discipline, grace, and (usually) by-the-book teaching. That’s it. What I’m learning now is that teaching is a two-way street: I’m learning how to learn, and how to teach a learner, not a student. Mrs. Morrison also gave me the link to the new BC curriculum, which is focusing more on passion and personalized education. That has helped my research so much!IMG_2667

After she answered my questions, I took down a display on the wall called “Morrisonville”, which I may have to dedicate an entire post to (next week, look for in-depth post part 2.5).

I tried to take a picture, but let’s just say I’m not very well known for my photography skills.




In-Depth Post Part 1

Wow. The first week back has already passed? It’s time to hit the ground running again; we’re in the home stretch! (Whether or not this is a good thing, I can’t tell.)

Over spring break, I was on vacation, and I also unfortunately got sick, meaning I only could do some research and readings, although I do have two mentor meetings booked for this coming week (hence the “In-Depth Post Part 1”). Currently, I’m reading a book entitled “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards”, which emphasizes the importance of play in a child’s education (versus the intense memorization and “work”). Some of the insights in it have already begun to affect my teaching style.

Speaking of which, my teaching style has (naturally) drastically changed from when I first began to now. I stopped trying to make the kids just read the notes on the page, and began to walk them through the different steps. This also sounds cliché, but I began teaching them how to understand the concepts, rather than memorize. A good example (which I also felt as a small personal victory for myself) of my new core philosophy in teaching is due the even greater stress on individualism in learning. This was embossed even deeper into my teaching methods by my own piano teacher, after I told her my frustrations about not getting through to a certain student due to him not understanding my instructions (that and the fact that they’re only 4 years old). I guess, no matter how many books I read or resources I looked up, I just wasn’t being clear enough with the student.

So I tried something different. Instead of asking the student to just play, and have the both of us suffer through 30 minutes of mindless repetition, I drew information from the student’s age (and the cognitive stage they are at, which requires some of the most stimulation, as well as the ability to begin processing, albeit simple, comprehension and visuals) and had them perform some written exercises. My plan was to get them to actually WANT to play, and not just have it be something they HAD to do. Eventually, my planning worked, and after carefully demonstrating and having the student copy different note patterns, the student finally asked me, “Sooooo, am I going to play piano?” This was a victory for me, since this student would usually be reluctant to play, or play random notes intentionally.

Another student, also very young, was scheduled to have an hour-long lesson rather than the usual half-hour. Although I knew this may not be a very good idea, due to the low attention-span of their cognitive group and age in general, I had a plan, and we went ahead with the lesson. Knowing that I would give the student a 3-minute in the middle of the lesson, I went very slowly with the concepts, reaching perfection in the student’s pieces by using demonstrations and easy-to-understand analogies (which sort of     worked), exercises (which were very effective), and interactive solutions to the problems I asked. All-in-all, the length of the lesson could have been a disaster, but I managed to problem-solve, and create a beneficial lesson which was twice as effective as a half-hour lesson. Another cliché, I’m sorry, but the phrase “Quality over quantity” definitely rings true in this situation. Rather than use this extended time to go faster and finish more pages in the student’s music book, I used detailed explanations and fun activities to actively engage the student in learning the notes, rather than drill, drill, drill, and rely only on muscle memory.

There we have it. I know I didn’t accomplish a lot during this break, but I will have a mentor update sometime this week, along with more detailed answers of the required questions. The fact that I can apply all this new information and these things I’m learning to real-life, to the benefit of both parties (the student and me), makes me feel like I’m doing something that’s really worth it. (Although, I really need to find a way to get into a real classroom and help out).