First impressions in any situation is vitally important in establishing a norm for future engagements. How we prepare for and treat the first week of instruction with our new students will directly impact how far we can take them in one year.
It's the First Week of School!
Technically, we started last week on Wednesday, August 15th. We considered that “Week Zero” since it was only three days long.
Good news! We were still able to get a lot done!
We took roll multiple times (to memorize student names/faces), collected 90% of forms (yay forms!), introduced important rules from our Band Handbook, opened up and labeled every individual item in their instrument supply kits, and barely started the process of learning and passing off lines of the musical alphabet.
Alicia: Getting our Teacher’s Edition books ready! This is the first year we have an official bound copy too! I am going to try tabs on the side for each instrument and post-it notes to mark daily pages, and Chris is going to try tabs on the top and paper clips to mark daily pages. We are super pumped to have all of our materials in one place!
First In-Class Project
Alicia: On Friday, we had Band Binder Assembly day in our beginner classes! While this may seem simple, it still managed to take a full 40 minutes.
Students were required to bring:
Pencil pouch with 3 rings to go in binder
4 pencils (mechanical prefered!)
2 different colored highlighters
1 dry erase marker (to write on the white board for full class activities, and to write on the page protectors)
5 Dividers (we have students label these: Theory, Rhythm, Instrument, Scales, Songs)
30+ page protectors
We copied (double sided) the Music Theory, Rhythm Rockers, and first few pages of Instrument Instruction.
While watching the students assemble their band binders, there is a lot we can learn about them:
Now, we have a full week to firmly establish a classroom routine through musical activities that will systematically build the foundation for starting their instrument.
Chris (Brass): In the photo below you will notice that I have anything “new” marked with an asterisk next to it*. In a perfect world I would like to introduce something new everyday the first few weeks, even if it’s a tiny element that we are layering on top of something the child already knows.
We do a lot of reinforcement day to day. It is crucial for building muscle memory and for general learning! So, you will notice that we are reviewing a lot, but within that reviewing we will be making students more aware of how they are executing the objective.
For Brass the big items on the agenda this week are:
Alicia: You might also notice that we have block days on Wednesday/Thursday. That means we see each class for twice as long (85 minutes) but only on one of those days.
Even though we miss out on seeing the kids everyday of the week the extended time can be extremely beneficial. For example, I’ll have to teach reed assembly on those days, so need to prep the days before to lead up to that activity
Woodwind Finger Wiggling
Alicia: I like to teach finger dexterity and finger patterns on a pencil “pretend instrument” before handling the entire fragile instrument. By the time students are holding their full instrument, they should know the order of their fingers and the first few fingerings that will show up on their first notes page.
Take advantage of this beginning of the year excitement and start with a few easy fingering and note names quizzes. Simply draw in the notes you plan on introducing first for this basic fill in the blank fingering test. We tell our students that we only give out 100’s on quizzes. At first they are super excited to hear this, but then we elaborate to say that they will continue to retake all quizzes until 100’s are earned.
Throughout the year, we create new quizzes for new notes learned, or use the tests to reinforce previous notes that students are struggling with. This is also a great way to jump start “summer brain” with your older students at the beginning of the school year.
We are excited to offer you the opportunity to teach with us side-by-side throughout the year. Shadow Ridge has been one of the testing grounds for our Musical Mastery Beginner Book, so it is the perfect place to demonstrate how we use the materials.
When & Where?
Chris: Last year I had so many people asking, “Where are you in the book?” or “When do you introduce <insert anything really important!>”. So, Alicia and I decided this format was way overdue to help keep everyone in the loop!
To be completely honest, this is probably the worst time in the world to add more things to our plate. On top of all the normal “trying to get school ready” stuff, we are also preparing the Shadow Ridge Band for a performance at The Midwest Clinic.
Yeah, not smart timing, but there almost never seems to be good timing for anything!
Prep, Prep, Prep
C: Now, we are in the same boat every middle school director is right now. We’ve got four full pages of a “To-Do List” and every time we cross one item off we pencil in two more!
The key is to stay focused and on task. Alicia and I divide and conquer all of the administrative duties that need to be squared away from the first day of school.
Additionally, we bring in lots of help (8th grade leaders) to tackle tasks that we do not necessarily have to handle ourselves. Our leadership day with 8th grade “Band-Aides” is when we spend some time developing their leadership skills and a ton of time getting the Band Hall ready for the first day!
We strategically place this date the day after the beginner instruments are delivered from the music store and the day before school orientation. Our 8th graders save us hundreds of working hours by handling the following:
Taking Inventory of all Beginner Supplies
Updating Locker Name Plates
Placing all Beginner Instruments/Supplies in Lockers
Securing Beginner Lockers with Zip Ties
Prepping all School Owned Instruments for the Fall (Oiling, Greasing, Polishing)
Laminating Certificates (ahead of time)
Cutting Laminated Items
Prepping Bulletin Boards
Copying & Organizing
Most of that copying and organizing is getting the Musical Mastery Beginner Book ready for each 6th grader in our program!
No Two Years Are Created Equal
Teaching beginner classes is a thrill. Every year brings a whole new set of challenges along with incredible opportunities.
Join us as we tackle every essential beginner topic as it comes up throughout the year.
We look forward to hearing for many of you!