Writin', Writin', Writin'...Keep Those Kiddos Writin'......

Well, maybe not THAT much. But I know quite a few of you are being asked to incorporate writing, specific types of writing, into your classes. Writing that includes opinion pieces, informational pieces, narratives....where's the music in that? 

It seems frustrating at times to many to include such things and being concerned that this is one aspect for which you are responsible for assessing. Chances are, you are only responsible for reinforcing what the classroom teacher is teaching. But still, with limited time, how can you incorporate writing and make it musically meaningful? I'm going to be starting a series of ideas of incorporating a variety of writing styles in your music class AND make it meaningful, creative, and fun for your kids.


First of all, establish just how much writing you are expected to incorporate. You might be pleasantly surprised that you are only requested to include writing once a semester or once a year (at least, these specific types of writing). Considering that one of the music careers you could introduce to your older children is that of a music critic, there is a ready-made writing prompt right there.


Activity One: Music Critic of the Students' Own Music Program

Grades 3-6
Common Core Standard: Writing Standard One

Materials

  • Video of the classes' last performance or previous performance. (Or, find a YouTube of adult performances. I would not use performances of other children).
  • Paper, pencils, classroom dictionaries
  • Various clippings from music critics. (You can check online for various newspapers. Be careful! Some critics are pretty harsh, and that's not the purpose here).
  • Classroom rubric on writing from the classroom teacher
Procedure:

  1. If you are using your own class's video, I would show it once before this writing assignment. The kids will want to laugh at themselves and their antics and observe it more like a show. They will need to get this out of their systems first. Do this on a different day and do NOT discuss the logistics about the performance! Save it :-)
  2. On the day you begin the writing assignment, discuss the job of a music critic with the students. Discuss the meaning of "critique" and make sure the students understand that "critique" does not mean "negatively criticize". Discuss ways to phrase words to give constructive criticism without being demeaning.
  3. Give the students the following scenario: They are a music critic watching this performance from an audience. They MUST forget they were a participant in this show. They need to provide two descriptive sentences, using adjectives, adverbs, and any other means of writing required in their classroom. Display the writing rubric they use in class.
  4. Post the following writing prompts: a. Describe how well the performers projected their sound. b. What was the best part of the performance? c. Where could the performers improve? d. Tell us why you would or would not recommend this performance to your friends.
  5. If you have a computer lab or extra computer time handy (or if the kids can do this in their classroom with approval from the teacher), ask them to type their critiques, using a newsprint-type font. Display the best, most creative papers for your hallway. You can also copy the originals if a child would like to type this at home, and give them the copy so the original survives.
  6. If you have time, allow the students to illustrate their writings, or include photos their parents might have taken from the program. (The digital world can be wonderful, and it can give it that added "newspaper" feel).
  7. Keep a writing portfolio handy for these assignments. The classroom teacher might want to use these as samples or for support with the parents. 
  8. If several of the students type these, you could also make this into a book and keep the handwritten originals for samples. Many ideas!
Right here, you have met a few objectives: You have met a writing objective. You have given the students the opportunity to assess performances. You have helped the student develop their use of adjectives and adverbs. You have given a few of them bragging rights about having work displayed from music class. You have given them keyboarding practice. You have provided an opportunity for higher level thinking as they take prior knowledge and apply it critically. AND, it kept musical integrity, since performance critique and assessment is often a standard in state curricula. 

If you do written critique assignments with your own classes, please feel free to share these in the comments section! Next blog update on writing: finding a way to incorporate narrative and research without writing a whole musical ;-)
Think spring! I heard a robin sing today....





animations from http://www.netanimations.net/books.htm and http://www.pinkbirddesign.com/animation1.html

3 comments

  1. Some of the best written, open and honest critiques written for me were written when "other kids" were used as performers. For years I did a project with a colleague from a different school district. We planned together, taught the same music, made videos of our students, then exchanged. This was not done with an entire concert, but as a smaller project. No need to worry about hurt feelings, popularity contests, tor the giggles interfering with the opinions. I loved doing it!

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