Sunday, September 26, 2010

Data-Driven Instruction



   Physical Education

MAP Test Results are in!!

Duval County Public Schools holds all teachers accountable for learning gains in the classroom, regardless of the subject matter they teach.  Schools, as a whole, must make "annual yearly progress" or suffer the consequences imposed upon them by the district.  It is the teacher's responsibility to move the students forward and not allow anyone to fall behind.  Safety nets are in place for the "general education" student, the "exceptional education" student, the "gifted and academically talented" student, the "English Language Learner," and many others.  On the fringe are those of us who teach electives and what is commonly called "resource" at the elementary level.

All 2nd grade and 5th grade students in Duval County are tested in Music, Art and Physical Education twice a year.  A pre-test is given at the beginning of the school year to determine their baseline scores.  We "resource specialists" then teach our standards (YES, we have standards too!) throughout the course of the year and a post-test is administered in June.  Learning gains are then measured against the pre-test.  If you are fortunate enough to land in the top 25% of all teachers that hold your certification across the district, you are rewarded with a performance pay bonus the following year.

The MAP test results from last year were recently posted.  After calculating percentages for over 400 students, I am very pleased to announce that my fifth graders increased their test scores by 15.5% as a grade level and my second graders increased their test scores by 13% across the grade level.  It's definitely time to celebrate!!

My principal would attest to the fact that I take my job very seriously.  Although I am not the only music teacher in the building, I feel personally responsible for the music education of over 1300 students entrusted to me at Chets Creek Elementary.  Twice a month, they pass through my classroom and I have approximately sixteen opportunities to work with them during the course of the school year.  It is never enough time to accomplish everything I would like, but it is evident from their improved test scores that they are learning.

Personally, I would be remiss if I did not share my success with the other three teachers whose efforts in the music classroom last year contributed to student growth over the course of the year.  I would like to thank Lorraine Roettges, Jane Plank and Samantha Lambros for their diligence and dedication to the students of Chets Creek Elementary.  Although they split their time between two schools, I am so grateful to each of them for their willingness to serve.  Thank you, ladies!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

America's Got Talent - The Finals

It's finally over.  Pop music won out over "legit" music.  The fourth place winner was Prince Poppycock, the third place winner was Fighting Gravity and I'll let you watch the video for yourself to see who won the grand prize.

I can now return to my normal bedtime (8:30 or so for this old girl!) and enjoy the fact that I made it all the way through to the end.  What a great ride for the vocalists that were competing in the competition.  Every one of them earned their place in the finals and their lives will never be the same again.  I wish them all the very best!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jackie Evancho

Once in a lifetime, someone comes along that is so incredibly talented, the world actually stops to listen.  This particular singer is a child.  Her name is Jackie Evancho.  She is one of four finalists in the "America's Got Talent" competition that is currently airing on NBC.  She and Prince Poppycock (see blog post of 8/28/10) made the cut last night and will compete against each other on Tuesday, September 14th.  This broadcast will be "live from Hollywood" and the winner gets a million dollar grand-prize and a headline show in Las Vegas.

I have been around extremely talented vocalists most of my life and I've never seen nor heard anything like this child.  Her technique is flawless.  She is ten years old! I cannot compare her sound with anyone elses -  it is so unique.  It is gorgeous.  She is gorgeous.  God has blessed her with a gift unlike any other I've ever witnessed. 

The following video clip is from her performance last night.  She sang, "Pie Jesu" in Latin and the crowd went wild.  The judges were at a loss for words.  Her performance was incredibly touching.  Take a look....

If you would like to watch the final four compete for the grand prize next week, the show airs at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday on NBC.  I hope you can join us!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beginning Recorder Study

Each year the Chets Creek Elementary PTA purchases a recorder for every fourth grader in our building (approximately 200 students). Their gift provides an avenue for large numbers of students to learn to play an instrument and build their music-reading skills over the course of the year.

The recorder was a very popular instrument in Elizabethan England during the Renaissance period (circa 1600). It was easy to master and could be enjoyed as a solo instrument or preferably, in an ensemble setting with all four voicings playing simultaneously.

As with any instrument, the first few months of acquainting onesself with the instrument can be somewhat painful. One must figure out correct playing position, correct fingerings, correct tone production and endure much screeching until the amount of airflow needed to make a nice sound on the instrument is realized. For some students, it comes very easily. For others, their parents require that they practice in their bedroom with the door closed.

At our first class meeting with the fourth graders, I give them the opportunity to "blow the bejabbers out of it" while I plug my ears. This is their one and only opportunity to do so in my classroom. From that moment on, we work really hard at trying to produce a good tone at all times on the instrument.

Before they ever touch the instrument, we use colored reinforcement circles to create a practice instrument on their forearm. We go through the process step-by-step as a group activity. Once our circles are in place, we practice fingerings for B-A-G without having to worry about airstream, hole coverage ("leaks make squeaks") and note-reading. The students love this activity and it gives me time to build in the rituals and routines that will guide our instructional time when they return for the next class.

Until next time...