concerts and reflective thinking – part 1

R – I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for over a year now and I’m pretty pumped about finally doing so. Every semester my choirs perform two concerts – the same one replicated over again for a different audience – and each concert is intentionally placed about a week apart from each other. The reason for this is so that we have enough time to have two rehearsals or more between each one. I have utilized a “standards based collective assessment” between the first and second concerts each term and it has quickly become one of the most dynamic components of the entire course (YHS choruses are single semester classes). In essence, incorporating reflective thinking into the concert performances themselves.

Reflective thinking is what we employ daily as music educators. It’s not a new concept to us. Is it even possible to hold a legitimate rehearsal without asking our students to do so? But rt2unfortunately for ensembles, this is largely limited to the rehearsal process. Yes, we can revise our work as the same ensemble performs different concerts during different seasons, but we often don’t revise that same literature. Some do – large group festivals, state and regional jazz events – but we usually don’t get the chance to.

This partial list of reflective thinking characteristics is from the Hawaii University System:

Provide enough wait-time for students to reflect when responding to inquiries.
Provide emotionally supportive environments in the classroom encouraging reevaluation of conclusions.
Prompt reviews of the learning situation, what is known, what is not yet known, and what has been learned.
Prompt students’ reflection by asking questions that seek reasons and evidence.
Provide some explanations to guide students’ thought processes during explorations.
Provide social-learning environments such as those inherent in peer-group works and small group activities to allow students to see other points of view.
Provide reflective journal to write down students’ positions, give reasons to support what they think, show awareness of opposing positions and the weaknesses of their own positions.

A few years ago, I decided to incorporate reflective thinking into my YHS concert season. This is very different from concert critique, because reflective thinking leads back to re-performance (the APPLICATION piece!), critique does not. That is the frustration I always felt with my students critiquing their performances; as valuable as concert critiques are, they do not in and of themselves inherently lead to revision discussions. So this is what I started doing:

After the first concert performance, we listen to the concert recording in class. But before doing so, I write the titles in a column on the left, and the performance standard indicators we have worked on during the term in a row across the top, creating a spreadsheet of sorts. Next, we listen to each song, one at a time. At the conclusion of the first song, the students are not allowed to say a word. Instead, I call out an academic indicator that they are to self assess as a choir. For example, after listening to the first song, I will say the first indicator that I wrote across the top of the white board, such as “tone”. I will then say, “raise your hand if you would score it a ‘1’ (does not meet the standard).” I then do a quick visual of the class and determine a rough estimate of how many raised their hands. I then yell out “2” (partially meets), then “3” (meets), then “4” (exceeds). By the end of this, I have a numeric AVERAGE for that indicator, by that class. So for instance, if no one raises their hands for “1”, three kids raise their hands on “2”, forty kids raise their hands when I say “3” and ten more raise their hands on “4”, I will assign a numeric average of 3.3, give or take a percentage point. It is not at all intended to be overtly scientific, and it is not relevant if I give a 3.3 instead of a 3.4 or a 3.2. What matters is that it reflects an accurate representation of how they felt they did. In the previous example, many more thought it was a “4” than a “2”, but the vast majority identified the score as a 3 for that standard. A 3.3. is justified.

Next, I give the students the opportunity to raise their hand if they have specific feedback they want to give for that indicator on that song. I might call on a bass who says, “The tone was okay but it wasn’t consistent and sometimes the basses sang with too much loft”. It initiates a nice dialogue, especially between those who voted “2” and those who voted “4”.

Now, for the next few minutes, I do the same process in reflection of that same song for the remaining indicators until there is a score underneath every single one for that song, and the class has had a chance to articulate specific feedback for each. At the end, we can see a neat visual of what the strongest and weakest elements were for that selection in concert.

Then, we move on to the next song. I play that recording for them and we repeat the entire process for that song as well. We do this for their entire portion of the concert until the entire board is filled out.

Next, we do a complete visual and collaboratively design the lesson plan for the next chorus rehearsal (the one before the second performance)! For this song, what do we need to shore up the most and how are we going to do that? For the next song, what do we need to work on to bump the lowest scores for that?

The following rehearsal, you’ve never seen a class so self directed and focused on learning targets. They identified the needs themselves, they identified how to address those needs, and the next rehearsal carries through on doing so.

Finally, the second concert performance comes along, the students APPLY what we worked on the last rehearsal, they and I REPEAT this entire process after the concert, and then we compare scores from the two concerts! Next week I’ll show you some pictures of my white board with the spread sheet numbers, the results of the reflective thinking process incorporated into the CONCERT SEASON, and feedback that I get from the students after seeing all this through.

concerts and reflective thinking – part 2

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3 Responses to concerts and reflective thinking – part 1

  1. Lynn Mitchell says:

    I am very interested in this since we have Music Performance Assessment adujication the end of March, but have a preview concert tomorrow Mar. 11….I’m definitely going to try this!! Thanks, I enjoy your blog so much and am so glad I stumbled upon it!

  2. Pingback: concerts and reflective thinking – part 2 | Goober Music Teachers

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