Throughout my time at this blog I have focused most of my writing on lesson plans for grades K–3. Today, I would like to discuss one of my favorite lesson plans for grades 4–6. I have found that an important way to engage older students is to incorporate media or use terms related to modern pop culture. This grabs that students’ attention and even gives the teacher some “cool” points. One example where I used this idea goes as follows.
I love art. The problem with teaching about art in the classroom is that students find the old masters a little dull. Because of this issue, I decided to up the participation through using the term “selfie”. You see, from Frida Khalo to Van Gogh, artists love to create self-portraits. Just like any good “selfie” or self-portrait, the subject of the work makes certain rhetorical moves in order to create a beautiful image. By making these connections, students are suddenly interested in the rhetorical moves that Van Gogh used in his self-portrait and they try to incorporate those methods into their own self-portraits or “selfies”. It was a smash hit in the classroom and really got the students interested in art.
This lesson plan brought the class joy and an increased interest in art. Don’t forget to have fun with the students. The more they are able to discuss their own ideas, the more engaged they will be!
The elementary school classroom is probably the only professional (non-medical) workplace where teeth come out on a regular basis and it’s not even a big deal. So much of a teacher’s day is more about life and the human condition than academics.
Last week, I took an opportunity to visit the fourth grade class where my friend is doing her practicum. I learned a lot. An elementary classroom is a bit like a three-ring circus, but there are actually 30 rings with individual needs, learning styles, abilities, and interests. As the teacher, you are responsible to meet those needs and keep all 30 kids somewhat together because after all, no child will be left behind.
The culture of the classroom seemed very focused on letting the individual take responsibility for his or her own learning. Often, the teachers would give a directive and then let the students work either alone or in groups to accomplish the task. Two and a half dozen fourth graders working together generates a bit of commotion. When they are set loose to work, you get the whole gamut. The overachievers ask for a few more minutes to put final touches on their writing piece. The child with a troubled home life who comes to school hungry and disengaged will not participate unless you sit by his or her side, and even then, maybe not. The diligent students who may not be considered top of the class dutifully fulfill the entire assignment no matter how long it takes. The more energetic ones lap the classroom a few times to get their creative juices flowing. A buzz of happy chatter enlivens the room while the teachers make their rounds answering questions and giving feedback.
When the kids in my friend’s class went to P.E. the teachers had a prep period to plan the upcoming week. But they spent a lot more time talking about the class, both as a whole and as individual students. They discussed how the kids were doing, progress they’d seen from certain kids already that day, ways they were planning to reach out to the few who weren’t with the group in learning activities, etc. It amazed me how in tune these teachers were with the needs of each of their 30 kids. Watching them notice the needs of each child and make plans accordingly was quite possibly the definition of altruistic beauty. And to top it off, the teacher didn’t even flinch when one little boy lost his tooth–just another typical day in the classroom.
So as a teacher, how do you balance everything of life and humanity with the subject matter your kids need to know? This fourth grade teacher offered a hopeful and optimistic axiom, “If you teach a child to love learning, the rest will come.” Amen.
Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) was a Hungarian who became famous for his music education program known as “The Kodály Method.” I served my mission in Hungary and as a pre-elementary school teacher with desire to incorporate music in my classroom, I had the desire to learn more about this figure who had a great impact on music education. After doing some research, I learned about this method, “The Kodály Method”. Although Kodály did not teach these techniques, nor create a step-by-step process for teachers, he did formulate the principles of this teaching practice and his followers developed his principles into the powerful method that has impacted children across the globe.
The Kodály Method uses a child-developmental approach to sequence, introducing skills in accordance with the capabilities of the child. New concepts are introduced, beginning with the easiest, and become progressively more difficult. Concepts are constantly reviewed and reinforced through games, movement, exercises, and songs.
Kodály believed that music education should begin at the earliest possible age. In his method, not only do students learn through song and movement, but they learn solfege (Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do), hand signs, rhythm sequence, and more. I watched a short but fascinating Hungarian documentary about a small elementary school class in Hungary in the 1960s where this method was practiced. At one point the class was reading a poem. The teacher asked a child to come to the chalkboard and place five musical notes on the staff. The young boy placed the notes on the board and said each coordinating solfege name. Each student put the same notes on their small chalkboards at their desks. The teacher led the class in singing each line of the poem with this new little tune. I bet the students memorized the poem quickly and remembered it for longer because music was incorporated.
In 1945 the Hungarian government finally started implementing Kodály’s teaching strategies into public schools. The first primary school where music was taught daily opened in 1950. Over the next 15 years, roughly half the schools in Hungary were music schools. Today, Kodály-based methods are used worldwide.
Music has had a powerful influence in my life. My mom told me that when I was a child and heard a new song, I asked her to sing it to me over and over again until I had it memorized. In third grade we learned multiplication facts through song and I still remember them! I find it fascinating to learn about Zoltán Kodály and his principles of teaching that revolutionized Hungary and eventually the world.
What kind of impact has music had in your life? Do you plan on using music in your classroom? …in what ways?