I have finished my musical growth plan for this semester! I am happy to say that I reached my goal of learning all eight songs from Bastien’s beginner piano work book. I am impressed by my progression and I am glad that I picked more challenging pieces for the end of the semester. At first, what I was playing did not sound very musical. I was playing (for the most part) the correct notes, but the rhythms and dynamics in most of the pieces were not quite right. I paid special attention to these things for my last four songs (after the midterm reflection) and it paid off! The last two songs that I focused on — “Blue Mood” and “Hallelujah Chorus”– are by far my favourite. The chord progression in “Blue Mood” is beautiful and when I played it I actually felt like a musician for the first time in a long time. “Hallelujah Chorus” is fun to play because I knew how it should sound, so I was confident enough to play it forte!
My progression was not linear, mostly due to my somewhat erratic practicing schedule. I found it helpful to do longer practices less frequently rather than doing a short one every day. This preference changes based on my schedule. Lately, due to the current circumstances, I have had a lot more time to practice, which was convenient and helped me improve significantly in a relatively short amount of time. I have made a few goals for myself during this time of social distancing, one of which is to continue my progress with the piano. I am lucky to have access to so many beginner piano books, so I am taking advantage of that. I am also going to try to play more familiar pop songs that I can find online. Honestly, I did not think that I would continue to play and learn after this course ended. However, I think that it is a great use of my time during this period of self-isolation. I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time looking at a screen, so practicing the piano will provide a much needed break from that in the weeks to come.
The four songs that I will play for the final check in are “Jingle Bells”, “Riverboat Boogie”, “Blue Mood”, and “Hallelujah Chorus”. With the exception of “Jingle Bells”, all of the songs are much more challenging than the last four songs I was working on. At first, I found this challenge a little overwhelming. I have decided to only work on two at a time, on the advice of my piano-playing little brother. He says that it is much easier to focus on just a couple pieces at a time and that I will likely get confused if I try to learn all four all at once. As a result, I have been working on “Jingle Bells” and “Riverboat Boogie” for the past couple of weeks. “Jingle Bells” is short and relatively simple, but singing along while playing is proving to be a bit of a challenge (which is a good thing!). “Riverboat Boogie” is different than any other song that I have played before because of all of the accidentals, but it is satisfying to play once I get into the groove. I have found it helpful to ask my brother to play the pieces through before I start learning them so that I know what they are meant to sound like; “Jingle Bells” was the exception to this because I, thankfully, already knew how it was supposed to sound. Throughout this process, I have been amazed at how much my note recognition has improved, especially in the bass clef. I am a little bit nervous about learning the next two songs by the deadline, but I am going to trust the process and keep practicing.
It has been just under two months since I started playing the piano. I am happy with my practice consistency and my progress. I have been working on singing while playing, but it is still difficult for me as my piano is in a communal space in my house. I feel relatively confident playing these pieces, however I know that there are some areas in which I can still grow, like dynamics. The song that I had the most difficulty with was “Alouette” because there are some challenging rhythms in it. I also had a hard time with “Hush Little Baby” because it is written so high that I had to use my head voice for most of the song, which I am not used to. I tried singing it an octave lower, but I decided against doing that for the video because it sounded wrong. I also worked hard on getting the dynamics right on this song, but I am not sure if they are quite perfect. Although these two songs were the hardest, I enjoyed learning them the most. I knew what they were supposed to sound like and being able to recreate the correct sound gives me great satisfaction. “Lightly Row” and “At Sunset” were easier to learn as they were very repetitive. They also do not have words to go along with them, so the challenge of singing and playing at the same time was avoided. Because I did not know how these songs sounded before playing them, it added a challenge of having to figure out the notes by reading each one individually instead of figuring some notes out by ear as I did with “Alouette” and “Hush Little Baby”. I have started another song, “Jingle Bells”, and am making progress on it too. I enjoy learning songs that I already know the tune of, so I may look for more in the book I have that I already know. If I do not know a song, I am going to ask my little brother to play it for me before I start learning it so that I know what it sounds like, because i find that extremely helpful. My goal for the next half of the semester is to stay consistent on my practice schedule.
It has been a little less than a month since I started practicing the piano. I have been practicing regularly (almost every day!) and have seen substantial improvements. Consistency was hard at first, but I decided to go all-in and try to practice for at least a couple minutes per day so that I would get into the habit of playing. One thing that I need to work on is playing each hand separately a few times before trying to put it all together. Typically, when I start a new piece, I am eager to start playing both hands together right away. If I take a little more time to learn the notes before, I have more success. I also usually forget to read the key signature before playing, but as soon as I play the wrong note I check the key signature right away! I am going to work on taking it slow when I first start a new song. Another thing that I am going to work on is playing the hardest parts repeatedly and getting them down rather than playing through them incorrectly. My goal is to be able to play “Lightly Row”, “Hush Little Baby”, “Alouette”, and “At Sunset” by February 24. I think that I will be able to play all of these songs fluently by that date, but I am nervous about the singing. My piano is in my living room, so when I play everyone can hear me. This has deterred me from practicing my singing. My goal for the next few weeks up until the midterm is to practice my singing more regularly.
In the final class of the semester, we talked about coding, augmented reality, and QR codes.
QR codes are specialized barcodes that can be printed onto documents or posters. When scanned by a smartphone, provide the viewer with additional information. These can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways. They can be used by students to attach additional information onto posterboards/graphics. Alternatively, they can be used by teachers to attach video or audio tutorial links to assignments or homework sheets.
Augmented reality takes QR codes to the next level. We learned about an app called HP reveal that allows teachers to create hot spots on homework sheets (or any paper) that students can scan. When these hot spots are scanned, they bring students to different web pages containing videos, pictures, or audio files that can help teach them certain concepts. Virtual reality is a different form of augmented reality. This can be useful for older students as it allows them to be immersed in different places without actually having to be there physically. There are a couple downsides to VR, one of which is that some people experience nausea when using it. Another downside is that it has been shown to have some adverse effects on some parts of the brain, which is why experts say that children under 13 should not use it and adults should limit use to 30 mins per day.
We were also given the chance to explore coding briefly. Coding was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. To be honest, I am so lost that I don’t even know how to describe it in this post. There are several games available to help kids learn how to code including Move the Turtle. Although coding isn’t specifically mentioned in the curriculum, it could be added in to address a more broad competency.
Many of my classes this year have placed emphasis on creating informative and inspiring lesson plans. I have included some samples of my work below.
Physical & Health Education: Olivia Winther and I created this eight lesson unit plan on nutrition aimed at the middle school age range, specifically grade eight. Our unit plan strives to equip students with a foundational understanding of nutrition. Over the course of eight lessons, we address topics such as macronutrients, micronutrients, food advertising, food preparation, eating disorders, and community meals. This unit includes several assessment tools and inclusive episodes.
Sydney Reisig, Erin Fletcher, and I created this four lesson mini unit on basketball for grades three and four. This unit plan aims to give students the tools to develop fundamental basketball skills while learning how be a good teammate.
English Language Arts: The purpose of this lesson is to give students the opportunity to be content creators. Students will express themselves through art (making clay sculptures and painting), oral language, play, and the written word. By taking a multimodal approach, this project allows children to enrich their skills in different types of literacy (art literacy, oral literacy, written literacy, outdoor literacy, physical literacy) collaboratively and individually. By engaging in outdoor literacy, the students will begin to understand the important impact that the environment makes on their lives. By having a foundation of respect for the environment, students will be more open to learning about indigenous studies, geography, ecology, and biology. Before starting this lesson, students should have a basic understanding of the components of a story.
Drama: Maeve Poulin created the story drama, “Click, Clack, Moo Cows that Type” in order to promote the development of verbal skills as well as to promote social responsibility. “Click Clack Moo Cows that Type” includes several repeated phrases throughout the book which allows students to practice saying them out loud. This also helps students gain confidence speaking in front of their peers.