Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Orchestra Observation

By Mark Heintz

I recently observed Maura Brown and her orchestra class.  It was amazing!

Maura told me that her starting routine is common practice amongst almost all orchestras around the globe, but it was still inspiring.  The first few minutes of class were spent having students readying themselves.  Students fine-tuned their instruments as they changed their state to be ready for the lesson.  Finally, a student leader stood up and directed the entire orchestra.  It was incredible to see such student ownership over the readiness of the class. Ever since witnessing her starting routine, I have been puzzling out how to adapt my instruction to mimic hers. I wish I had the courage to begin my class the way she did.

The lesson focused on two goals.  One pertained to the introduction of learning a new scale. The second was to build background knowledge for an upcoming piece of music.

To accomplish the first goal, Maura gave the students the new scale and they practiced as a whole class. Then, the students split up into elbow partners, people right next them, to watch, listen, and provide feedback.  The feedback each student was supposed to be on the proficiency of their peers ability to perform the scale.  The students gave this feedback orally.  They took turns and after the first listened, the students provided feedback to their partner.   Maura realized they needed specific guidance in the way to provide feedback. She augmented her instruction by redirecting the class to provide a specific piece of feedback from a list of three choices.

It was great to see formative assessment in action AND actually see how changed instruction! It was great!


The second part of the lesson centered around students reading about Faust and then watching the opera music they were about to perform.  After the students read about Faust and the opera, they posted to a Schoology discussion blog.  Maura attempted and was successful in getting students to feel the emotion in the music they were about to play.  It was great to see the power of building background knoweldge in helping students play a piece of music with greater passion and emotion.  

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