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A Small Success

So, the end of the year is always crazy. The schedule changes daily and the kids are wild with excitement for the summer. On Friday, I had one fourth grade lesson that went extremely well. The kids were engaged. Hooked. Happy. The week before, we had composed a short rhythmic composition together, broke into small groups and started to brainstorm a hand drum routine for the newly composed rhythmic pattern. On Friday, we reviewed the guidelines for the hand drum routine.

1. All members had to perform the rhythmic composition at some point in the routine.

2. The group needed to connect drums or mallets at some point in the routine.

3. The group was encouraged to move using levels to make the routine visually interesting.

So, we reviewed the guidelines and off they went back to their small groups of 3-4 members to create. As I walked around and offered feedback to groups, I noticed a high level of engagement. It was awesome.

After 15 minutes to brainstorm and try their ideas with drums, the groups let me know they were ready to share. We all sat down and the students took turns sharing their hand drum routines. We celebrated how they all had unique routines and before we knew it, it was time to leave.

My mind was making connections to the book Drive by Daniel Pink and the book Launch by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. I knew I needed to remember this moment and think more deeply about it at a later time. I was wondering how can I recreate this awesomeness again because THIS is what I want music to be everyday.

The kids helped me put the hand drums away and started to line up. I decided to ask them what they thought of the lesson. I told them I couldn't help but notice groups having so much fun and wondered if they would share with me their thoughts about today. Below are their comments. The comments are not verbatim but as close as I can remember. I wrote down their comments as soon as they left the music room.

1. It was fun because we had freedom to decide what we wanted to do.

2. We had choice.

3. It was fun to use the drums. We don't always get to use them.

4. Could I offer a suggestion? It would be nice if we had some say in who was in our small groups. Maybe you limit how many boys and how many girls can be in a group but we can have some say too.

5. It'a just fun to bang things.

So, my takeaways from that lesson are that choice, novelty and opportunities to create go a LONG way. Kids need a few guidelines for a project or else the choice can be too overwhelming. Guidelines also helps guide the learning. With that said, it should be just enough to lead the activity but not too much that it inhibits choice. Having a wide variety of tools to use when creating keeps the learning interesting. Switching from creating with scarfs to hand drums to barred instruments or iPads helps to keep lessons fresh and exciting. Finally, the simple task of creating something and sharing with others is so satisfying.

This lesson reminded me creating doesn't have to be BIG. It can be small. This lesson took 2-3 lessons from beginning to end. I was able to offer feedback if students were having trouble performing a rhythmic pattern, help other groups that were trying to create a round or an ostinato. I also praised groups when they came up with a unique idea. It was great to step back and let them take control. When they needed me, they let me know and when they didn't need me, I tried to step out of the way. It was a great, small success.

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