Category Archives: In-Depth ’16

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).

In-Depth: Mentor At Last!

This week, I managed to secure a mentor for my in-depth project! Mrs. Morrison, my Grade 3 elementary teacher, has so kindly agreed to be my mentor. At our meeting on Thursday, I asked her a few questions regarding my topic, and I also assisted her in some classroom tasks, including marking, which I’ll explain more later.

For the interview, I asked her several questions, but one of the more prominent ones I asked her was about the difference between teaching primary and intermediate students. Having taught grades 2-6, Mrs. Morrison had to say that the main difference between the two was that primary kids were more needy, in terms of requiring help and attention. In the same way, she says they require more stimulation, they always need to be active and engaged, which she says must be integrated into the classroom routine. The older kids, she said, presented their own problems in that at that age (9-11), although they become more independent and self-directed, they also start to push the boundaries of classroom rules. Classroom management, she says, becomes more difficult because the kids start acting more freely, crossing lines and start ignoring rules, and following their natural “instincts”. Interestingly, she says that intermediate kids could benefit from a more primary approach (more interaction, more engagement), which I completely agree with.

I also asked her, how would a lesson plan look, if she were introducing a new concept? I asked her how she gauges the ability of the class to move on, and how she would introduce a particularly difficult subject. To this, she said she tries to use some kind of video, story, or prop to draw them in to the learning. This is usually followed by some kind of activity, then another task (usually on paper). In regards to when she introduces a new topic, she says that generally sticks to a steady pace, but she believes in going deeper in a topic and reaching better understanding rather than going through every subject very fast. She even says she has learned to slow down the way she talks to accommodate for the stage of learning the children are at in terms of their listening/comprehension abilities. There is a variety of learners in her class, fast and slow, which she says can be a struggle, because it can be difficult to accommodate all the different learning styles and needs in the classroom. One thing she told me that I found especially interesting was that she would not expect all children to do exactly the same things. For example, a child that struggled in a particular math concept would still be in the same environment as the other children, but would not need to do as many problems on a worksheet. This way, the child seems to have their own individual way of learning based on their ability, in a regular environment. This, for now, is where I will wrap up the interview questions, which I will also be asking her more about this week.

Something interesting I noticed was the way she told me to mark. Many teachers have different ways of marking things wrong on a worksheet. Some mark it with a dot, leave it blank, or make an ‘X’, but Mrs. Morrison used a circle. This, I feel, draws attention to the wrong answer without making the child feel distraught about it. I know for a fact that when I had a teacher who used an ‘X’ to indicate a wrong answer, a lot of kids would feel down about getting their work back. In comparison, when I had a teacher who would simply leave the question alone, kids would look at their answers and think about their mistakes. The subtle changes in the way a teacher marks can be so interesting.

The most difficult mentoring challenge would be the fact that I haven’t been able to find one until now. Luckily, I have another teacher that I am going to be meeting with soon, but I feel like I have made this more difficult for myself by having many. The thing that is working well is that it is a win-win for both sides. I get to receive information, she receives some help in the classroom, and the dynamic conversations we have are very beneficial to my research. Right now, I only need to improve my questions, because I still feel a little bit awkward discussing things. In order to do this, I need to up my professionalism by practicing my questions, and making sure that I prepare better.

In-Depth Post #2

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I know, I know. I’m still kicking myself for not getting my mentor yet. I’ve sent an email to my old Montessori preschool, as I realized that A. there aren’t a lot of mentors who can coach me in psychology and B. if they can, they’re too busy, and C. it’s more the hands-on and experience that I require from my mentor, since the more scientific things I can learn on my own. In replacement of meeting my mentor, I took it upon myself to collect as much research as I could. I went to the school library (yes, the library; I promised I would remove myself from the internet), scoured lots of psychology sites… yes, I mostly used the internet, but that’s besides the point.
I took it upon myself to learn about the four main cognitive stages of development (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational), and read different logs and trials/experiments about different ways to handle kids. Of course, it’s not like I can test some of these styles on my brother, who is already well into the third stage of development (I swear that guy is resistant to all Jedi mind tricks), so I tried some new things in the only environment I could possibly think of—my workplace. (DISCLAIMER: I use this term loosely, since I’m not technically getting paid, but I do teach 5 students a week in piano.) Maybe it was just a stroke of luck, but I tried brightening up my mood, being more peppy, and adjusting myself to how the child learned, like taking the time to slyly assess their natural learning style and being able to adapt to that. I found that, especially with the younger children (generally in the second stage of cognitive development), it helped to use a combination of hands-on and auditory elements to help them learn, and that visual elements seemed to confuse them. Incidentally, it seemed to be the opposite for the older kids, who would ask me to repeat my words a lot, but then had much less trouble reading the notes on the page. Admittedly, I threw most of the actual teaching skills I learned out the window, and moulded myself to the individual, instead of following the strict lesson plan I spent weeks designing (sob).
I also spent quite a lot of time being biased and mostly researching psychology in music, rather than education, but I found myself focusing a lot on the Suzuki method of music, which is modelled around the idea that people can and will learn from their environment. I applied a lot of my knowledge from the “Nurture vs. Nature” concept
(I also found this article which applies to both my in-depth topic and my “job”, but I found it rather interesting. I only stumbled across it, as it doesn’t have a ton of solid evidence, but I felt like it explained a lot. https://pianoiseasy2.com/reverse-psychology-and-childrens-piano/)
So, in conclusion, I’m still a little stuck in the middle for what psychological experiment I’ll design for in-depth night. I hope to find something that can be easily tested which lots of people can interact with on in-depth night, and will be both current so I can find lots of results for it but obscure enough that I can find out things for myself. I’m still kicking myself for the whole mentor thing, but I’m fortunate to be able find a place to apply my knowledge and be practical about it. Maybe now I’ll be able to get those kids to practice.

All You Gotta do is Put Your Mind to it (In-Depth Post #1)

“I’m screwed,” was the first thought in my head when we started to think about in-depth. Why? Because of my interest in so many different areas, and my inability to make a quick decision. You can see how that could have been a problem. Graphic design? Photography? Didgeridoo (just kidding on that one—I think)? The possibilities for in-depth were endless, so how did I choose what I chose? I wasn’t sure whether to go with something artsy, musical, sporty, or maybe in the route of cooking, and after a while of debate, and revisiting old passions, I decided what I wanted to do.

For our five-month in-depth project, I am excited to be working on child psychology; working with children and getting a better understanding of how and why they think and act how they do. At first, I wasn’t sure what I could do with this project. Maybe, I thought, I should choose something that has a more solid end product! However, although it sounds a little boring at first glance, it’s something that I’ve been interested in for so long, and I could do so much with this topic. Aside from nurturing my own interest, I thought that this project would help me become a better piano teacher.

I’ve done a few projects based around psychology, but nothing more than that, and in terms of working with children, I’ve done the occasional babysitting job, lunch-monitored for kindergartens, and teach piano, but definitely, I know I could improve. I hope to gain better skills in communication and learn how to adapt to different kids’ learning styles. For an end product, I hope to design a psychology-based social experiment that people will be able to partake in on in-depth night.

Unfortunately, although I have been put in touch with a few psychology centers, I have not been able to find a mentor yet. However, I’ll make sure to find one before the beginning of February, in hopes that I can meet with my mentor for 4-5 hours a month. Although I do not know what they have in store for me, I am planning to work with them to learn about different psychological topics, gain hands-on experience working with different kids of different learning styles/capabilities, and truly learn how to relate to kids no matter what emotional or mental level they are on.

I’m very excited to start working with this topic, because I don’t think there is anywhere else that I would be able to pursue psychology in such depth! Eagerly in search of a mentor, I’m ready to start in-depth, ready to see where it takes me.