Saturday, July 23, 2016

Music Centers

Do you use centers in music class?  "Student-directed learning" is a popular buzz phrase, so how do we use this in music?  As musicians, we are very comfortable in the director/ensemble format.  It's easy to be the director/conductor all the time.  But it's not the only way.  Teachers have been using centers in PK-K-1st for EVER, so why shouldn't we?

Centers, or workstations, give students the opportunity to practice without pressure.  They also learn to create and manipulate what they know in new ways. This is exactly what we want, right?  I love it when a student asks, "Can I make my own ___?"  Centers give them a chance to try it. They can also provide a way for you to assess students in small groups, or re-teach those who are struggling. A bonus feature of centers is that, once you have taught your classes how to use them, they are a NO BRAINER SUB PLAN! What? Did you say easy sub plan?  For music? YES! (cheers and whistles in background)

So what makes a good center activity? Here is what works for me:

1. Whole class games/activities - I play SWAT! with my classes, dividing them into teams and letting two students at a time come to the board to challenge each other.  Once we have done this in class, the kids know how to play without my help.  I can set up a SWAT! station and they will love it even more because they get more turns! How many large group activities could become a center? You probably have several already.

2. That cute worksheet you found on Pinterest - I don't often do worksheets as a class, but it would be pretty easy to set them up as a center. Tracy King has a great DIY to make dry-erase pockets that would make worksheets even cooler here.

3. Books - I love books.  I have collected quite a few music-related books over the years, but I don't have time to read them all to my classes.  Readers are leaders, so set up a classroom library for the kids to use.  They will love to re-read the books you have read to them, too!

4. Listening - When I first started teaching in the early 90s, only classroom teachers had listening stations, and they were expensive.  Today, you can set up a listening center with an ipod/ipad and a $15 splitter.  Kids can even bring their own earbuds (showing up on school supply lists more and more) to use.  If you do set up a listening station, be sure to have an activity to guide their listening.  It can be a map, a listening log, a drawing activity....the possibilities are endless!

5.  Games - Go to Music in Motion and get some games.  They will be so worth it when you lose your voice and can't miss school.  Set up one game center and play with the kids so you can show them how to play. After a few times like that, they can play on their own without fighting. I like Bingo, Dominotes, Classical Snap!, and Note Nabber, to name a few.

So now you have five different stations you could try out in your room.  I have found that they are great the week of a program, when I am focused on the performance group, and at the end of the grading period, when I need another grade.  Try them out early in the year, when the kids are learning procedures and still listening well. Not that your students would ever have trouble listening or anything.....

Enjoy the rest of your summer break!

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