End of the Year Reflections

2011Symposium_1_2As this school years winds down, it’s time for me to reflect on my year, and to see what I accomplished. I think it’s important to reflect on how I’ve done so that I can focus my goals on my own growth and improvement next year. To achieve excellence in anything, a person must be committed to continual growth and improvement. What follows are my reflections on the past year. I share this with you so that you can see how I approach year-end reflection, and so you can get a picture of how I have lived out many of the things I have discussed in this blog over the last several months.

Last September, I determined to improve my students abilities in reading and creating music. Singing has always been a mainstay of my general music classes, and my students still did plenty of singing throughout the year. In fact, my middle school classes did more singing than usual. But singing can be done apart from reading, so I made sure that my students spent more time reading and creating.

All students from first grade through eighth made extensive use of fixed do solfege. Last week while fifth graders were doing a transposition activity, I was pleased to find them using fixed do syllables on their own to know what notes to write down. They were saying things like, “the note written is fa, which means one note higher than that is so.” I was also pleased to find that 2nd graders, after singing an ostinato with fixed do solfege were able to remember the letter names of the notes, and apply their solfege to playing the notes on barred instruments. And I was glad that sixth graders were able to write down sequences of tones they heard using fixed do syllables.

On the composing side, my year was modestly successful, but not as successful as with reading. For the most part, my students learned principles of good voice leading, and can put together sequences of tonal patterns to form a melody that is characteristic of the Western art music genre. But they are still not comfortable generating original musical ideas, and structuring them into characteristic melodies. That skill will go to the top of the list of next year’s goals. Students improved tremendously in reading other people’s musical ideas from traditional music notation, but showed much less improvement in generating and notating their own ideas.

One thing I hadn’t done enough of in past years was build a vocabulary of thinking musicmusical terms. With a greater push district-wide for emphasizing vocabulary, this was the year for me to do more of that. As with the solfege syllables, the indicator for success was to what extent students used music vocabulary in their daily work in class. For my part, I not only posted words on the wall, but referred to them repeatedly over many classes, trying to reinforce their meaning and usage often. Results were variable across grade levels. Grades 1,2, 6 and 7 did quite well, frequently knowing the meaning of words, and applying them to situations they encountered in class. Grades 3 and 4 and 8 were taught less vocabulary, and had more difficulty remembering it. As I think back, the vocabulary was less integrated into the lessons, and more a matter of memorization and recall, so this is an adjustment I will make in those grades next year–to integrate vocabulary more into the lessons, as I did in the grades with higher success in this area.

Performances were all successful. There was a fall cabaret, a winter concert, spring district-wide sing-along, spring choral adjudication, and our spring production of Grease School Version. The performances were very well attended, filling our concert space to capacity for everything except the musical, which is the only show that runs two nights. I would like to increase the audience for the musical by ten percent next year.

That is my end of the year summary. I encourage all of you to reflect and write one. It will help you feel good about all that you’ve accomplished. I sometimes forget how much I do over the year until I write it all down. No wonder I’m tired! It also motivates me and focuses me for next year, even as this one is just coming to an end.

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