Reflecting on Implementing the Common Core in My Classroom

For the past three weeks, my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in the Common Core World, has been looking at how to implement the Common Core State Standards in the music classroom. We were provided a wealth of resources to begin our study in the first week. The second week focused on the specific implementation of the English Language Arts CCSS. This week focused on the implementation of the CCSS of Mathematical Practice. At the end of each unit, we are asked to reflect on what we learned.

Prompt
Complete a comprehensive reflection paper. Include a recap of the concepts and strategies learned from the assignments that you have completed over the last couple of weeks. This will fulfill part of the VanderCook College of Music exit assessment requirement.

Take your time and thoroughly reflect on what we have covered over the last weeks. This document needs to be worthy of 10% of your overall grade for the Implementing CCSS in the Music Classroom unit of your grade.

Response
Prior to this unit of this course, I had not given the Common Core State Standards much thought. In my district and school, there is not much talk of implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In fact, our governor signed an executive order last October withdrawing Iowa from the Common Core initiative, choosing instead to allow Iowa to decide its core curriculum and how it will be assessed.

There is a strong group of arts educators in our state working on the inclusion of the arts into the Iowa Core Curriculum. Again, at least in our K-12 music circle within our district, there is not much being discussed about the Iowa Core either. Much of our work has been on the development, implementation, and assessment of power standards by our professional learning communities. I do know that as our district is going through the process of curriculum review now that we have transitioned to a two high school feeder system, that the English Language Arts and Mathematics departments are beginning to align their power standards with the Iowa Core and Common Core. I imagine when Music goes through our curriculum review in several years, a similar alignment will begin to take place.

With all of the work we have done as a PLC unpacking the power standards set during the 2011-2012 curriculum review, I will admit that I was a bit daunted by the thought that we would be unpacking all of the Common Core State Standards and the National Core Arts Standards with this course. The documents from the College Board and the NYSSMA were incredibly helpful in wrapping my head around the Common Core. Our emphasis on linking the things we already do to the CCSS was immensely helpful.

The biggest takeaway for me from this unit of study is to fully develop lessons that align with the ELA and math CCSS around a major piece on each concert. I have done this in the past with one or two pieces per year, but never for each concert cycle. If I am continuing to choose good literature, there are a variety of resources out there to help broaden my students’ understanding and make connections with work and skills from other courses.

Our program has four main concert cycles throughout the school year:

  • Fall Band Gala – Rehearsal from end of marching band (mid-October) to mid-November. Performances by 9th Grade Concert Band, Symphonic Band (10th Grade), Wind Symphony (11-12th Grade) and Marching Band (9-12th Grade)
  • Winter Concert – Rehearsal from mid-November through December. Performances by Symphonic Band and Wind Symphony
  • Spring Concert – Rehearsal from January-February. Performances by 8th Grade Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Symphony. Included in this concert cycle is the Solo and Ensemble Festival in mid-February. This is also the competitive season for jazz band and show choir.
  • Festival Season – Rehearsal from March through beginning of May. Performances at Drake University Festival of Bands (end of April), IHSMA State Large Group Festival (early May), and our home Awards Concert by the 9th Grade Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Symphony.

Just within the works I have selected this year, there are four pieces that come from the Teaching Music through Performance in Band series that I could supplement: Clare Grundman’s Little English Suite, the March from English Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Psalm 46 by John Zdechlik, and Charles Carter’s Symphonic Overture. I could also use a historical progression of pieces and enrich students’ understanding with music history and theory.

The biggest success I have seen in our program has been the focus on music literacy since the 2011-2012 curriculum review. By choosing as a K-12 music team to use the same set of rhythmic (takadimi) and tonal (solfege) tools to decode music, our students ability to independently read has grown exponentially. All of this work was done without the knowledge of the skills detailed in the CCSS, but the work aligns very well in both math and English language arts. Now, knowing how these sets of skills align, we can even better tailor our instruction to help students make those connections.

After this unit, I feel much better equipped to articulate and demonstrate how my teaching aligns with the CCSS. I also feel like I can better craft my teaching to continue to produce for each of our performances as well as enhance my students’ learning while aligning to the Common Core.

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