The intent of the Innovation Grant that I received from the Sistema Fellowship Resource Center last fall was to implement a peer-mentoring program and formative assessment tools that teach youth how to use online technology, including SmartMusic, and become more self-directed and confident. This grant also helped me grow in two areas where I felt the weakest: peer mentoring and formative assessment. Here is what I learned:
First, the Student Practice Sheet that I created synthesizes research on best practices to ensure successful instrumental music practice. The sheet provides an organized approach to effective use of time, strategies and technique. When the JAMM teachers and I made a concerted effort to model and use the practice sheet with our students in sectionals (especially the target visual), students used it. When we didn’t reference it, students didn’t use it. I don’t think students used the practice sheet at home very much, but all of the JAMM instructors admit guilt in letting it fall to the wayside. Next year, I will provide a more simplified and scaled-down strategies list at the beginning of the year. Once students are successfully using and integrating these strategies as part of their practice routine, we will gradually add one new “Strategy of the Week” so as not to overwhelm students (or teachers).
Second, JAMM changed its website platform to a more user-friendly one through Weebly Education and it has been a very wise move. MAT students and I can easily upload and share online lessons. The website has become a place of advocacy, educational resources, online lessons, and gathering place for MAT education portfolios, blogs, and digital stories. JAMM decided to upgrade to a Pro account so that we could upload our own videos without making them Youtube videos. The online lessons page is still under construction, but several of them are complete with hook videos created by JAMM students during their Music Tech class and instructional and play-along videos from this year’s MAT quartet. The following are complete and open to the public through JAMM’s website, juneaumusicmatters.com (Online Lessons > Violin > Year Two):
- Twinkle in A http://www.juneaumusicmatters.com/twinkle-in-a.html
- Mary Had a Little Lamb http://www.juneaumusicmatters.com/mary-had-a-little-lamb.html
- Ode to Joy http://www.juneaumusicmatters.com/ode-to-joy.html
Third, the one-month peer mentor training that occurred during September expanded from years prior by having peer mentors stay an additional hour after teaching beginning string students for the first hour. This additional hour proved fruitful because we could debrief about the lessons, review key musical concepts and supportive teacher strategies, and include time for team building activities. We also used this time to introduce students to SmartMusic and the Karate Belt system. This training session was highly successful and motivating. The use of positive and helpful language during the peer-mentoring month spilled over into JAMM sessions throughout the year. Many students continued helping throughout the year, including giving up their recesses to help teach JAMM 1st grade and kindergarten in-school classes. Initially I thought peer-mentoring had to have a more formal structure, but I have come to appreciate the fluidity of it. Students have the confidence to offer help when needed. The one-month training gives them the tools, and then what follows is more extemporaneous and free-flowing.
Finally, in addition to learning the SmartMusic program, the MAT quartet has grown tremendously in their ability to document their teaching, assessments, unit plans, and reflections working in an El Sistema-inspired program. The following are just a fraction of what these incredible teaching artists have contributed to the JAMM website.
- Teaching-Artist Unit Plans: Songwriting, Improvisation and Jazz (MAT Program > Teaching-Artist Unit Plans)
- MAT Blogs, Digital Stories and Portfolios (MAT Program > 2015-2016 Teaching Artists)
- Citizen, Artist, Teacher, Scholar http://ruthhogle.weebly.com/
- “Jogging for JAMM” https://youtu.be/gtfRN-h9WJM
By attending the Take A Stand conference and taking the SmartMusic training, I was able to integrate interactive technology and formative assessment tools with peer mentoring. I want to thank the New England Conservatory for its continued support of my work in Alaska. I hope the work produced through this Innovation Grant will help others in the field.
Lorrie Heagy, Sistema Fellow '10