Monday, December 17, 2018

Blocks & Cubes From the Classroom

Blocks & Cubes
Building a Better Block Rehearsal
by Samantha Stevens

Samantha Stevens The universal concern about block scheduling is time management. Through exploring several resources, the average attention span of a middle school student is 10-12 minutes, up to 20 in an older high school student. If you have taught either for very long, you know this true. So how do we use their short attention spans to manage a 90-minute class? Simply make your lessons into short segments to fit their needs.

I have always found it important to work my block classes in segments, especially at the middle school level. In the past, I either used my phone, or would note the time span (for example 9:15-9:30 am) either to myself, or on the board with our rehearsal schedule. Both had inherent problems; my phone was invitation for students to be on theirs, and just using the clock made it incredibly easy to go over time. I found my perfect solution while perusing Pinterest one day -- the Datexx cube timer. The company makes several different interval timer cubes; I chose the 5/10/20/30 minute option. There are shorter intervals available, if you need something else.

I start each class with a list on the board of our daily rehearsal schedule. It is then up to the students to decide the time necessary to work on each of the activities listed: long tones, tetras/scales, #130-132 in the band book, counting worksheet, m. 16-32 on whatever song, etc. By having students dictate the time spent, they become accountable for accomplishing the activity in the designated time. What if they complete all of the activities with time to spare at the end of the block? Reward them with playing their favorite song (you know the one), or watching one of their favorite videos. (My students love to watch Lucky Chops.) It's their time earned at that point in the block and doing something musical that they enjoy is the perfect carrot. But what if they do not complete a specific task in the time allotted? That becomes a judgment call between you and your students. Was the activity more difficult than anticipated or did the students misuse their time? I let my students decide how they would like to proceed by electing to work for a few more minutes, redo the activity during the next class, or make the activity a part of a take home playing quiz.

Samantha StevensIt is important to make your students responsible for learning and time management. They will learn the appropriate amount of time needed for activities over time by trial and error. Something else to consider during a few of the shorter segments is to have your students stand up and play. I took a cue from the popularity of the standing desks and let my students change it up during class. Try it! A little bit of movement can go a long way to increase rehearsal focus during those grueling 90-minute classes.

I hope my small suggestions help you in your next block class. Now go conquer that rehearsal!

Samantha Stevens is the band director at East Buchanan C-1 Schools in Gower, Missouri. When not teaching crazy tweens and teens, Samantha can be found trying to help her husband chase after their sassy two-year old daughter. You can contact her for questions and more ideas at [email protected].
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From the Bandroom - Norman North (OK)
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