Saturday, September 29, 2012

3 clues and a routine

3 Clues
hot cross buns.
loud and squeaky.
4th grade.

Anybody know what I'm getting at?

Yes, the recorder.  that beloved instrument that we all learned to play in grade school.  And yes, I earned a college degree to teach children how to play that thing. 

I currently have three 4th grade classes ranging from 26-29 students, whereas in my student teaching experience, I had 2 4th grade classes of about 14-15.  The routines my cooperating teacher, though they worked wonderfully for her, just wouldn't work for my double-sized class.  I had this vision [dramatic] of all the eager 10 year olds walking in and doing their little jobs to set up for recorder class... quick, efficient, least amount of chaos and time-wasting as possible.  So I came up with this system to assign them teams and jobs and procedures.

Lo and behold, it is working!! So here it is.

My class sits in 3 rows of 8-10, divided by an aisle like this

             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X
             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X
             X  X  X  X  X         X  X  X  X  X

Each half of the row is their own 'team' and I pre-determined colors and shapes: red triangles, orange diamonds, yellow stars, green squares, blue circles, purple plusses

[Side note - when I announced the team names/ colors, I was so surprised by how excited the kids were.  The first class period when I was explaining the system, I said "so this team is the red triangles..." and that row cheered.  It cracked me up!! Then I went on... "you're the orange diamonds."  They cheered - "oooo! diamonds!! orange! yay"  haha it was so funny and surprising! You might have had to be there to appreciate their level of excitement.]

In our district, the school provides recorders for kids to borrow and keep in the classroom (ugh, don't even get me started).  So each kid has a recorder number that is theirs for the year.  We'll still clean them every few classes, but somehow this is WAY less gross to me than the teachers that let all the kids in the school share recorders and clean them after every class. ew ew ew.  And yes, I've seen that. 

my recorder army
 Anyway, the things I wanted the kids to be able to do on their own were:
  • Pass out the recorders
  • Keep track of sheet music
  • Set up music stands 
  • Get new materials and pencils to borrow (rather than bringing their own pencils... which means they ALL forget pencils and have to go back and get them). 
So I came up with 5 jobs, which are of course more exciting because they have fancy military names:
GROUP GENERAL – This person is responsible for making sure everyone else in the group is completing their jobs well.   This person is also responsible for substituting for any absent group members and helping the absent group members catch up on what we did in class while they were gone.   
RECORDER CAPTAINThis person is responsible for getting recorders for each group member every day and for cleaning them up at the end of class.  The Recorder Captain must make sure nobody leaves the classroom with their recorder.
FOLDER LIEUTENANT – This person is responsible for passing out each group members’ recorder folders every day and for filing them at the end of class.  The Folder Lieutenant keeps track of who is taking their folder out of the classroom each class period.
MUSIC MAJOR – This person passes out pencils for students each day and collects them at the end of class.  This person is also responsible for passing out new materials each time they are acquired.  If someone is absent when we get new materials, the Music Major also puts the new materials in that person’s folder.  If the absent person has their folder at home, the Music Major makes sure the student gets the new materials when they get back.
STANDS SERGEANT – This person gets music stands for the group.  There always 2 people per stand.  If there are 5 people in your group, one person gets his own stand.   

On day one, I briefed the whole class with each job and showed all the kids how to do it.  I made each job sound really important and we discussed how they should pick jobs based on their strengths.  If they are a person who is very organized and has a good memory, they'd be a good folder lieutenant.  If they are cautious and work quickly, they'd be a good stands sergeant.  If they have great attendance and are good at helping other people learn things, they'd be a good group general.  Etc...

Then, I passed out one job description sheet per team

Each team discussed who would do what job - all people being in agreement was a requirement - and filled out the form.  Then, each kid cut out the small strip with his or her individual job description and taped it inside their recorder folder.  (I provide manila file folders which are kept in team hanging files in a file crate in my classroom.)  The kids filled out the bottom portion of that sheet and gave it to me - lest there be any disagreement later about who was supposed to do what.

This whole process took almost 40 minutes and we had 10 minutes left to pass out recorders, learn how to play one note, and clean up.  They left class that day SO pumped.

For the following class period, I demonstrated each person's job procedures and walked them through it one job at a time (for both set up and clean up).  For 2 more classes after that, I just had the kids do their job one at a time.  But, by the 4th day of recorder, they were able to just come in, go straight to do their jobs, and be set up within 3-4 minutes.  The part that takes the longest is getting the stands because they're stored in this annoying rack. 

A couple final thoughts...  I love that this procedure/ process is teaching them:
  • Working in a group with people who aren't necessarily their friends (we've already had some trouble-shooting with this.  I can't believe the drama starts in 4th grade!) 
  • Responsibility
  • Routines are good
  • Efficiency
  • Doing your job well because it impacts others instead of just doing the bare minimum
  • Being okay when they don't get what they want (inevitably, there was some disagreement over jobs.  It was good to help them work through that - especially since a lot of my students are missing major coping skills.  More on that another day.
I love that I hardly do anything to set up for recorder - so much less of a headache for me.  I am not even remotely tired after teaching 4th grade because they do all the work :)

They are still at the age where everyone wants to help the teacher and have an important role.  I have noticed a huge change in their attitudes towards each other and towards my classroom since the first day of school.  (Granted, there are other reasons for this adjustment too.)  But I really think they love feeling important and a part of their own learning.  I mean, who doesn't love to feel like they are important!?

And the teacher in me loves that they enjoy doing the work, learning the 'instrument' (can you call it an instrument?), practicing hard, and showing off their mad skills. 

It's going to be a fun recorder-filled year in 4th grade. 

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