Throughout my career, I’ve been on the board of several different music education organizations. Each board meeting is a great chance to see old friends, and help guide the future of the organization. At each board meeting, we receive an agenda of the items we will be discussing. During the meeting, I find myself looking occasionally at the agenda—seeing where we’ve been and what we still have left to discuss. Having this list calms me a bit; like many people, I enjoy knowing the direction of the meeting.
I bring this up as a comparison to the students in our classrooms. For years, I have left the “agenda” for the day’s lesson a mystery to students. I thought this was best, as it gave the students a chance to discover what would happen next instead of being told. But recently I entered into a discussion on Facebook about this very issue and it had me reconsidering my previous practices. (Note: If you are not part of the “Kodaly Educators” group, I highly recommend it! Search for the group on Facebook, or send me a message and I can add you.)
The question on Facebook was posted by my friend Naomi.. She asked if others had posted a list of the lesson’s activities and goals on the board. Many other Kodaly-inspired educators posted some really wonderful ideas and thoughts, including:
- A list on the board can be very helpful for students who like routine, especially those with autism.
- A general list can work, like “Sing and play!”, “Time to think,” “Let’s play a game!”, “Let’s write!”, “Relax and listen,” and “Goodbye song.”
- Icons of activities can also work.
- You can put a clip on the board as to which part of the lesson they are on, or write a check mark once you are done with that part of the lesson.
- If students aren’t listening well and you have to cut a game out of the lesson, they can visually see what they are missing out on!
- You could put up verbs on magnetic/ laminated strips such as “sing,” “improvise,” “play,” “conduct,” “dance,” “discover,” etc. At the end of class, you can invite students to move those words over to a part of the board that reads “Today in music we got to…”
A special thank you to Naomi Cohen, Susan Brumfield, Lynn Makrin, Kristen Bamberger, Cecile Johnson, Sandra Mathias, Stephanie Benischek, Heidi Brueggemann McIlroy, Susan Garrett, Vicki Ray Strode, Anita Swanson Gadberry, Jennifer Guenzel Kimock, Gretchen Liechty Lynch, Andrea Halverson Forsberg, and Keira Lynn for all of the wonderful ideas!
Since reading this conversation on Facebook, I created a SMART board file for each lesson which lists the songs/ activities as well as the “I can” statements. Since I don’t want them to know every single song in the lesson—as they sometimes have to identify a song by its melody or rhythm—I sometimes use phrases such as “mystery song,” “singing game,” or “play instruments.” I’ve noticed some of my students looking up at the board and processing what they are about to do, or what they have done. When we finish an activity, I try to put a check mark by those we finished.
I also had a conversation with some colleagues in my district about this issue. One of them mentioned choosing a “summarizer” at the end of music class to help explain what we did and/or what we learned that day in music. I worried that the students would rely too much on the list on the board to describe what we did that day, but have been pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the students say “we played the game for ‘Dance Josey,’” but then sometimes they give wonderful answers like “We learned that the time signature tells us how many beats are in each measure,” or “we created patterns in the do pentatonic scale.” It is then I know that students have truly synthesized the material, and like an agenda in a board meeting, they know where we’ve been and where we are going!