Why Music Education is Good for Our Children: Guest Post by McMaster University’s Laurel Trainor

Why Music Education is Good for Our Children: Guest Post by McMaster University’s Laurel Trainor.

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What Students Really Need to Hear

This is amazing! I bet if I told this to students they would respect the honesty and be more engaged in their own learning process.

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Personal Growth

During my pre-internship I’ve managed to adapt certain aspects of my lesson planning. For the creation of my first few lesson plans, I originally used way too many “indicators”. My rationale for doing this was because I wanted to cover all of those indicators in my lesson, however, this is impractical because for each indicator I should be doing some sort of assessment. This made much more sense to me after my faculty advisor explained it during their first visit in the field. Click here to see an example of what my original lessons looked like. I also though it would be helpful to see the comments my faculty advisor mentioned because it relates to only having one indicator and all of those other helpful ideas. Click here for my faculty advisor comments. Upon reviewing these suggestions and re-configuring my lesson plans, I have learned to be conscious of how many indicators I use because of the impending assessment that follows. Here is how I adapted my plans to distinguish what I have learned.

Even though I continue to learn new ways of how to improve my lesson plans efficiently I feel like I have accomplished my original goal I had set out for myself.

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Pre-internship: Week Three! (The Last Days)

These three weeks went by incredibly fast! I cannot believe it is over and I already miss it. Throughout this past week I got to experiment with different forms of assessment and I feel like I’ve made lasting connections with the students. Saying good bye was NOT easy!! I found saying good bye after three weeks tough, so I can only imagine what it will be like after internship.

After looking back at my goals before pre-internship:
1) Making efficient lesson plans in a timely manor
2) Classroom management strategies for band
3) Differentiation
4) Assessment
I can honestly say that I have done all of these things and I did them will a a great degree of success. For lesson plans, I beat personal records of making three lesson plans in one hour…a new personal best! Lesson plans used to take me copious amounts of time but I have finally figured out how to master them quickly but still have all the necessary and important information included. This could also be, because I’ve formed a template, which saves me lots of time. For classroom management, I actually found out that I have great classroom management techniques, so it was not my focus majority of the time. I did learn about unique differentiation techniques and how to help weaker students in the ensemble. This concept is much more clear to me now. Also, I gained experience with assessing students summatively and formatively, while collecting various resources on this.

In addition to my goals I had also made a list of things I wanted to gain practice doing (i.e. transpositions/fingerings, collecting resources, score study, conducting, and adapting on the fly). These are other things that I also accomplished and have managed to sustain comfort doing them now; it feels natural.

I could not have asked for a better pre-internship experience, but as much as I am sad to see it come and go, I can now look forward to the next step…INTERNSHIP!!!


This is just a comic to demonstrate a few of the things that I’ve learned to do during pre-internship:



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Pre-internship: Week Two!

This week was an absolute blast! For the first time, I really feel as though I am a teacher. By now I have managed to get used to the routines of my schedule, I know most of the 175 student names, and I finally got the hang of efficient lesson planning. Yes, life certainly seems amazing right now. It is as if I have had some sort of epiphany and everything is suddenly just clicking into place. It’s truly wonderful. To add to my glory, this week I have managed to have many “firsts”. This week marked my first staff meeting, first PLC meeting at the School Board Office, first visit from my faculty advisor, and it was my first week of conducting actual repertoire to all of the grade levels (6, 7, & 8’s).

There are a few highlights that I would like to share. One is a funny story that happened in one of my grade 6 band classes. During teaching Let’s Go Band, a trumpet player raised her hand to ask a question. When I called upon her she asked, “what does hashtag F mean?” At this point, I found it a little challenging not to laugh because I thought it was comical. I composed myself though long enough to explain that a “hashtag” in music is actually called a sharp and it raises a pitch. Sure enough, in my next grade 6 band class right after, another student had the very same question. It really got me thinking how fun it is to teach middle years and all the funny things students say.

During one of my grade 7 band classes, I got to witness an “ahh ha” moment from the students. In my lesson I had planned to teach a challenging rhythm as a part of my set using the warm up (Concert B flat scale). So I sneakily got the students to play that rhythm on each note of the b flat concert scale. Then I asked them to take out their piece (Raiders March) and asked them to play the opening rhythm. Once they played it and heard the rhythm again they realized it was the same rhythm that I had them playing a moment ago. One student exclaimed, “Hey, we just played this! It’s like you planned this on purpose.” I replied saying that I did have a plan and I was glad they recognized my efforts.

One of my memorable teaching strategies from my lesson plans was my incorporation of words to help students learn challenging rhythms. After realizing that a particular rhythm was going to be a challenge for the grade 7’s to learn, I came up with “lyrics” that match the rhythm so it’s easier to remember and play. As it turns out, I ended up creating a whole theme to my lyrics based around apples. After teaching the lyrics the students had great success with the rhythm and they found the words to be catchy (easily singing it back to me). This idea has inspired me to be more creative when teaching concepts and I hope to do more of this in my lessons to come next week.

Each day, I learn tons of new information and gain clever ideas for adapting my lessons. I have also been diligently collecting as many resources and information as possible. I love adding things to my plethora of teaching tools and it fuels my creativity for creating assessments and various other things. I am looking forward to next week because I will get to implement my summative assessments for the grade 6’s and 8’s but that also means that my time in pre-internship is ending. You mean…I can’t just stay and teach for a little while longer???


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Pre-internship: Week One

I made it!! The first week is officially done and I can proudly say that I’ve survived the Downtowners Optimist Band Festival. This week I’ve had the opportunity to experience the Optimist Festival (for the first time ever), but from the teachers perspective. What I’ve concluded is that no matter how much you prepare and organize, you may never be prepared for the unexpected. From late busses, last minute permission slips, broken reeds, time changes, and missing lunches, there always seems to be something that happens that was not accounted for. The trick then, becomes preparing for these situations. You learn to expect that more than a few students will forget their uniform or that you will need to phone home to verbally ask for parents permission when a student forgets their permission slip. All of these things I became more “prepared” for as the days unfolded over the course of our trips to the Optimist Festival (Wednesday-Friday). I was also really grateful to hear what the clinicians had to say when they worked with our different bands. Most of what they said was true and even offered some tricks for how to improve (things that I will be sure to incorporate when I teach new pieces to the bands next week.)

For the first part of the week my partner and I planned lessons to introduce ourselves with a “getting to know you” activity and “scale warm ups”. I mostly facilitated the “getting to know you activity” which was great for me because I am trying to learn everyone’s names (over 160 students). The first time I taught this lesson it went over really well, but that was maybe because I had a small amount of students to teach. The next time I taught it, I had a larger group and classroom management definitely became more of a challenge. Classroom management was actually my target for the whole week and I think I did well. I’ve learned that I like to keep the class busy by playing their instruments rather than stopping to deal with minor disruptions (talking to a friend). After all, if I can keep them playing their instrument then it’s harder for them to talk and disrupt others. For certain classes I’ve also realized that my strategy does not work so well, but I’ve found another way to combat this. That group in particular responded well when I said, “I’ll just wait until you’re quiet”. So, this is perhaps another thing I have learned: not every class will be the same and certain things that don’t work with one class, may work for another.

Having a plan is great, but being accommodating is another valuable lesson I’m learning. I tried to teach the grade 6’s the F Major concert scale (but they had not learned it yet). So I asked them to try their best and made sure everyone knew their starting pitches and fingerings. We played trough it once and I immediately knew that their was a lot of work that needed to be done with that scale because they just had not learned it yet. Since Optimist Festival was the next day, I decided to do an activity using only the first note of the scale, because I knew they could play at least the one note. Of course, this thought process was happening in my brain instantly so I could change on the spot to accommodate what I was originally going to teach them.

One of my most memorable quotes from the week was from one our our clinicians, Dale Lonis. He said, “Did you know that when you say something out loud…you hear it?” This was extremely relevant and profound to the grade 6 students in band because he was encouraging them to participate in active listening. His point was to encourage them to play with intent and listen to what music they were making and adjust. Similarly, this applies to myself as a teacher because it demonstrates the impact I have on the students. Whatever I say, will be heard and I must consider this in every aspect of teaching. Whether it’s classroom management or giving instructions, the class will hear it (or at least I would hope they do if they are listening). How do I guarantee that what I have to say will be meaningful to the students for them to want to listen, and what do I do when I’ve said something I didn’t mean or was taken the wrong way? These are questions I sure I will get to explore more in the next couple of weeks as a pre-intern.

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Goals for Pre-internship!

Since pre-internship starts next week, I have been thinking about all the skills I want to hone. I have concluded that there are four main goals I will focus on with a few other details I wish to improve on the side.

1.) Making efficient lesson plans in a timely manor 
This is an area that I struggle with because I often spend too much time thinking about perfecting lesson each lesson and I end up complicating the whole process.

2.) Classroom management strategies for band
Classroom management has been an area in the past that I’ve worked on, but considering I’ve never taught in a band setting, there are some aspects that won’t apply (like proximity). I am curious to learn what strategies my coop teacher uses and if I can make those ideas work for myself.

3.) Differentiation to accommodate all students
I am aware that I need to add more differentiation into my lessons and once again I am curious how that can be achieved in a band setting. Considering their is a specific seating arrangement for ensembles, there seems to be little flexibility in this area just based on what instrument the students play.

4.) Assessment
This has been a topic of discussion in my assessments class. I am open to trying new forms of assessment but I feel like there are only so many options for a performances- based class. I am interested in learning what works best for a band while trying to create different assessments. Of course I also want to know the tried and true methods for assessing band that my co-op teacher uses.

Other things to practice:

  • Master or at least be comfortable with all my instrument fingerings and transpositions (flute, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, oboe, french horn, tuba)
  • Collect as many resources as I can (i.e. repertoire lists, festival information, letters for parents, fundraising, concert arrangements, etc.)
  • Score study, score study, score study!!
  • Practice my instrumental conducting and work on clarity of my gestures.
  • Reacting and adapting to my lesson plans to know when to try another approach. For example, if I had planned to work on specific measures of a piece, and for some reason the ensemble is not having difficulties, adapting to the situation would be moving on to another area instead of repeating myself.

How I will achieve these things:

1.) Blogging and/or journaling my experiences to reflect on how things are going and recognizing areas I need to improve etc.

2.) Seeking the guidance of my co-op teacher for what seems to work regarding assessment and differentiation

3.) Creating detailed lesson plans within a certain amount of time. Keep track how long it takes me to start and finish each lesson.

4.) Develop useful and specific target sheets so my partner can help monitor if I am achieving some of my goals for classroom management.

5.) Practicing fingerings for instruments that I really struggle with using online supports. For example, this site is very helpful for drill.

Above all, I want to make the most out of my pre-intership and fun doing it!

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