Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Choir Chatter: Notebooks

Fed up with the scraps of paper/worksheets getting thrown in the trash, I wanted something that students would hopefully reference and grow from, so we began with notebooks.  After a positive experience last year, I recommend using notebooks in your choir or general music classroom, especially at the secondary level.  In the age of Common Core, incorporating writing is extremely important, and I’ve found that my students generally enjoy it. 

This year, I’m challenging myself to be more structured with Notebooks for my students to teach more theory, and for teacher-friends who are interested in trying the project in their classrooms.  The basics:

-Supplies:  Spiral Notebook should be on the school supply list, or in your syllabus for the first day.  If they bring one with a folder, it’s great, but you can also tape an envelope in the back cover.

-Storage:  Rack like I have, or you can use a milk crate, or even just stack by class.

Notebook/folder storage.  Hi, Jim!

-Assignments: Students have at least one writing assignment per week.  We do ours on Wednesdays.  Sometimes I hand out worksheets, they tape to the notebook page.  Great for during sectionals.  If a student misses an assignment, they are responsible for checking with a peer, then approaching me to make it up during class.     

-Grading: I give 10 points each week for notebooks.  This is easily broken down into 5 & 5 if you assign two.  My advanced choir rarely gets to notebook every week, so sometimes we do a couple at a time.  Make it work for you!  With 100+ students, it isn’t possible to grade all the notebooks every week, so I just grade at Midterm and Quarter.  That way, I am more focused on each student and can better assess their progress over time. 

Some sample notebook prompts:
  • Choir Goals/Singing Goals
  • Rhythmic Dictation
  • Listening Assignment (give a focus or two, like expression, timbre, tone, text, mood, instrumentation)
  • Open question to teacher concerning music
  • Free-write on what music means to you
  • Copy text of a piece to memorize
  • Favorite song and why
  • How do you listen to music? 
  • Songwriting Projects
  • Chords for songs they're learning on guitar
  • Reactions to current media, performances, etc.
  • Concert Reflection

Questions?  How do you implement literacy in your music classroom?  I would love to hear from other music teachers trying to make it work.

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