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#IMMOOC Blog Post #5: Embracing a Flexible Design

In music education, we pride ourselves in the ability of moving large numbers of students through our program. All elementary students attend general music classes. Many children join band, orchestra or chorus in middle school and high school. Our programs are large. It's one big system that we move students through.

In the book, Empower, the authors John Spencer and A.J. Juliani ask, "What if we adapted the system for the students rather than forcing the students to fit into the system?" Is there a way to adjust the system so there is more control for each learner? Could there be enough flexibility that the learner could make their own decisions based on their own next steps?

This has me wondering what that would look like for the general music room that sees 350 students in a week. How do we as music educators adjust the system to fit the learner? These are the questions I am asking myself as I navigate lessons from engagement to empowerment. In this ever changing world, our classrooms need to change as well. So, what decisions am I making that I could pass on to my students?

My third grade students are beginning to learn the recorder this April. Is there a way I can adjust the system to allow more choice and voice while learning the recorder? What if I started with a loosely structured project? What if I embrace flexible design and build in some flexibility to the process so students can feel free to modify for their own needs?

Well, there's only one way to find out. So, here's the project: Plan and perform a small recorder recital for an audience.

  • We will ditch the recorder method book. No one way will fit the needs for all of my students.

  • I will ask students to self-select specific standards they plan to work on from a list.

  • There will be mini lessons on the basics, as well as videos for reference.

  • As for repertoire, a variety of pieces will be available.

  • We will network with music students from Virginia and their teacher, Mrs. Ducassoux (someone I met in season 3 #IMMOOC) for peer feedback via flipgrid.

  • I will create a plan to conference with students on an individual basis.

It will be loud. Yikes. There will be lots of recorders playing. It will be messy. Everyone will be working at their own pace. There are many risks and unknowns involved but we need to challenge the status quo and find ways to adapt the system so it works for all our students. It's time. ​

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