An Update on Vertical Teaching

As I have been working on blog posts and a website for our 2017 IBA presentation, How-To: A Standards-Referenced Instrumental Music Program, I realized a lot has changed in the how of our vertical teaching program. I wrote about it a long time ago (April 11, 2014), so lets revisit.

As of the 2016-2017 school year, Ankeny has two high schools, each with its own 6-7 middle school, 8-9 middle school, and five K-5 elementary schools:

Distribution of Instrumental Music FTE across Ankeny Schools in 2016-2017. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Distribution of Instrumental Music FTE across Ankeny Schools in 2016-2017. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

The staff for the secondary schools were selected so that a wide variety of primary instruments could be taught in a vertical setting:

Primary instruments of secondary instrumental music teachers. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Primary instruments of secondary instrumental music teachers. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Lucky for us, we will be adding a new band director at Northview AND a new band director at Southview next year, expanding the vertical teams to six!

Schedules were developed so that no instrumental rehearsals occurred simultaneously, allowing the team of teachers to “push-in” lessons during rehearsals. Students are also pulled for lessons from Choir, Study Hall, or free periods.

Secondary instrumental (maroon) and vocal (black) rehearsals in North system. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Secondary instrumental (maroon) and vocal (black) rehearsals in North system. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Class times for secondary schools. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

Class times for secondary schools. Updated from 2014 presentation at Drake University on vertical teaching.

The district functions on an 8-period, A/B schedule. Ensembles listed with a letter next to their name rehearse only during those days. For example, there is an 8th Grade A Day Band AND an 8th Grade B Day Band. 6-9th Grade Students who are not in Choir have a Study Hall. These typically occur where Choir is listed. 10th Grade Students may have a Study Hall depending on their schedule and can occur any period. 11-12th Grade Students in good academic standing have Free Periods instead of Study Hall. These can occur any period.

On Wednesdays, students start one hour later with shortened class periods to allow for professional development in the morning. On those days, we typically travel first through third period, and then remain at our home buildings for the remainder of the day. Sometimes, this means rotating lessons from our home building on to this day from another day. Other times, it means a chance to catch up on administrative work or to meet with other teachers in our home buildings.

During the first three years of implementation (2013-16), we were able to see every 6-12th grade student on a 6-day rotation (A1, B1, A2, B2, A3, B3). Due to the sheer number of students (good problem!) in the 2016-17 school year, we had to expand to an 8-day cycle (A4, and B4). At the high school, this means there are 8 distinct lesson days. At the two middle schools, A4 and B4 days are used as make-ups when lesson days fall on Wednesdays, field trips, assessments, assemblies, sick days, snow days, etc. We are able to guarantee each student 10 lessons per semester. We are hoping with our added staff next year, that we will be able to go back to a six day cycle.

Here is some updated info from the post in 2014. Changes are italicized:

Lunch does happen, usually between 5th and 6th period due to the building schedule. Marching Band happens at the 8-9 building for a variety of reasons:

  1. The football stadium is located there.
  2. Most of the 10-12th grade students can drive themselves to before school or evening rehearsals, while most 9th grade students cannot.
  3. Traffic conditions between the buildings are not conducive to having students attempt to travel between buildings before the beginning of first period.
  4. Transportation is provided for students needing to go to the 10-12 building from the 8-9 building following morning rehearsals

Jazz Bands occur at the respective buildings, except 9th graders are included in the three high school jazz bands. Transportation is provided for the 9th grade students from the 10-12 building back to the 8-9 building in time for their school day to begin.

What makes our model truly vertical is our team of 5 directors teaching lessons and rehearsals 6-12. Our team’s primary instruments include saxophone, trombone, flute, oboe, and percussion. This allows us to teach the vast majority of our lessons 6-12 to students on our primary instruments. Students are receiving direct instruction from an expert!

In theory, we have four teachers that can teach lessons in any given period, with one on the podium. In practice, we are very close to this ideal. The problem comes in the sheer number of students we have to instruct and making sure they are receiving a lesson, as well as the “pro” teacher not being able to access kids in their own rehearsal for lessons. The pros far outweigh the cons. Kids very rarely miss lessons because we come to them in their rehearsals! We are hoping to give each other podium time across ensembles next year to enable the “pro” to teach their primary instrument in every ensemble.

Students in 6th and 7th grade receive lessons in groups of two or three depending on ability level. 8-12th grade students receive individual lessons. Material covered in lessons includes:

  • Instrument-specific Warm-Ups
  • Lesson Books
    • Student Instrumental Course Level 1 (Grades 6-7)
    • Student Instrumental Course Level 2 (Grades 8-9)
    • Rubank Advanced Volume I (Grades 10-12)
    • Instrument-Specific Method Books
  • SmartMusic Exercises
  • Honor Band Auditions
  • Solo & Ensemble Literature
  • Concert Band Literature (if struggling)

As we look to add a new person to our team, our 6-7 building is also adding a 7th grade team, meaning we will have an additional 7th Grade B Day band during 3rd period. The choirs at all three buildings will also be expanding. Hopefully as we narrow in on our new staff and master schedules, I can update this post to reflect those changes.


A Standards-Referenced Instrumental Music Program: Ankeny’s 2012-2013 Standards

On October 23, 2016, I began a blog post trying to collect my thoughts around our work in standards over the past four years. As I have organized (and reorganized) those thoughts, the post has evolved into plans for a presentation at the 2017 Iowa Bandmasters Association conference as well as a companion website of “how” we did our work in standards. This is the fourth in a series of posts detailing the “how.” The first three posts detail our district’s process for curriculum review and looking at the Iowa Core Curriculum, and looking at national and state music standards.

During the 2011-2012 school year, every K-12 music teacher in Ankeny went through the curriculum review process. Unfortunately for me, I was not yet a member of the team! Here is what I know:

Out of that process, a Music Curriculum Review Summary was produced. Please forgive the poor grammar in that document. Looking through it, it contains:

  • A goal statement
  • A professional development plan
  • A recommendation for curriculum resource adoption including:
    • Habits of a Successful Musician and Essential Elements for 5th Grade Band
    • Progressive Sight Singing and various solo, ensemble, and choral literature for secondary vocal
    • Essential Elements, 101 Rhythmic Rest Patterns, Bach and Before for Band, and Progressive Sight Singing for secondary instrumental.
  • A statement on an assessment plan
  • A timeline for new curriculum implementation
  • A statement on consensus maps, documenting the month by month instruction of the curriclum
  • Curricular course descriptions (which are no longer accurate) for
    • K-5 General Music
    • 5th Grade Band
    • 6th Grade Choir
    • 6th Grade Band
    • 7th Grade Bass Clef Choir
    • 7th Grade Treble Clef Choir
    • 7th Grade Band
    • 8th Grade Bass Clef Choir
    • 8th Grade Treble Clef Choir
    • 8th Grade Band
    • 9th Grade Bass Clef Choir
    • 9th Grade Treble Clef Choir
    • 9th Grade Band
    • 10-12th Mixed Choir
    • 10-12th Advanced Treble Clef Choir
    • 10-12th Honors Mixed Choir
    • 10th-12th Grade Band
    • Music Appreciation (never materialized)
    • Music Fundamentals (non-AP music theory)
    • AP Music Theory
  • Co-Curricular Course Descriptions (which are also no longer accurate) for:
    • 7th Grade Jazz Band
    • 8th and 9th Grade Show Choirs
    • 8th and 9th Grade Jazz Band
    • 10-12th Grade Show Choirs
    • 10-12th Grade Jazz Band
  • A list of Power Standards for each course, grouped as follows:
    • K-5 General Music
    • 5th Grade Instrumental Music
    • 6-8th Grade Instrumental and Vocal Music
    • 9-12th Grade Instrumental and Vocal Music

The rest of this post is going to focus on how those power standards progress from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. All of the Power Standards are broken up into four categories of skills: Rhythm/Beat/Meter Competency, Tonal LiteracyExpression, and Ensemble. The document then lists specific skills underneath each category. Below shows how these progress over time:

During the following school year (2012-2013) the teams began implementing the curriculum designed during the review process. The 6-12 Instrumental Music team chose to take a vertical teaching approach. Then, in the 2013-2014 school year, the district added a second high school, creating two distinct 6-12 instrumental teams, two distinct 6-12 vocal teams, a 5th grade instrumental team, and a K-5 general music team. The rest of this and future posts in this series will deal with the 6-12 North Instrumental Music PLC, as I am a member of that team.

Next, we will look at how the 6-12 North Instrumental Music PLC took those standards to answer the four essential questions of a PLC:

  1. What do we want students to learn/know/be able to do? (Standards)
  2. How will we know they have learned it? (Assessment)
  3. How will we respond when they have not learned it? (Remediation)
  4. How will we respond when they have learned it? (Extension)

Spring Break Reflections

As I have been avoiding my Nintendo Switch over Spring Break, I came across a sheet of paper I had scribbled things on during a professional development day earlier this year. I want to save those thoughts for later, so I can flesh them out.

Specifically that morning, we were working on two different areas: our district’s instructional framework (gradual release of responsibility/productive group work) and teaching behavior. Here are my notes:

Music Fundamentals

  • Need to organize by skill
  • Identify that skill
  • Give geedback towards that skill

Productive Group Work

  • What is the students’ role? Have a content purpose AND a behavior purpose (tied to Work Habits)
  • Symphonic Band
    • Flex Band Piece?
    • SATB Piece?
  • Tuesday Night Club
    • Real Easy Book
    • LJS Tunes

What if we setup by units (concert sets?) instead of 6 week grading periods? What skills do they need for this concert set?