Staff Jumping

Here are my teacher ed students jumping on the floor staff. This activity helps students embody the movement of notes on the staff. In my experience, not all students automatically transfer the knowledge they learn through jumping, to the location of notes on a page. But if you explicitly help them make the connection, then they realize how to transfer the knowledge.


Participatory Digital Media ♪

I facilitated a class this week in which we considered musical participatory digital media practices. Tobias (2013) lists examples of these including covering, arranging, parodying, satirizing, multitracking, remixing, sample-based producing, mash-ups, tutorials and visualizations. I invited the people in the course to contribute examples of each of these, and they are included in the slides below. Our note-taking is recorded below as well, which was guided by the following questions:

  1. What motivation is represented?  Why did this person make this video and share it?
  2. What knowledge is needed?  What skills and abilities did the person have or develop in order to create this video?
  3. What is the message?  Is the person making a statement through the creation and/or sharing of this video?


Tobias, E. S. (2013). Toward Convergence: Adapting Music Education to Contemporary Society and Participatory Culture. Music Educators Journal, 99(4), 29–36.


When I visit teacher candidates in their practicum placements and observe them teaching lessons, I often ask them why they repeat students’ answers. While I do not suggest that a teacher should never repeat students’ answers, I do recommend being aware of the fact that you do it, and asking yourself why.

Sometimes a class discussion proceeds like this.  repeat sign

Teacher: “How do you think the bear feels?”

Student: “Sad.”

Teacher: “Sad.”

Student: “Afraid.”

Teacher: “Afraid.”

When asked to reflect on why this happens, teacher candidates suggest that they want to make sure everyone heard the student’s answer, that they want to legitimize the student’s answer, or simply, that they are not sure what else to say.

Making sure student answers are heard

This is important, but if a teacher is routinely repeating what students say in a louder, clearer voice, then students may not have opportunities to learn to speak up loudly and clearly, for themselves. If students get used to a teacher always repeating what their peers say, who will they listen to?  They don’t need to listen carefully to the words of their peers, since the teacher is about to repeat it.

Legitimizing student answers

The teacher is in a powerful position in the classroom; if they repeat a student’s answer, that answer is perceived to be correct, acceptable, or valued in some way. Is this necessary, though? Is it enough for a student’s answer to stand on its own without the teacher stepping in to validate it? One of my teachers (so long ago I have forgotten her name, I’m sorry!) felt that repeating a student’s answer is like taking it from them. She described how letting a student say something, and letting those words stand on their own, is a way of respecting students. I suggest that if any teacher is looking for ways to reduce teacher voice in the classroom, and increase student voice, that not repeating students’ answers is one way to move toward this.

Not sure what else to say

Sometimes I brainstorm with teacher candidates, and we make a list of possible ways to respond to students’ answers that don’t involve repeating them. Some of these include: OK, thanks, yes, that’s a good example, let me write that down, does anyone have something to add to what R said? It may be appropriate to respond to a student answer with a head nod or a look, with no words from the teacher needed at all.

Resources for further reading on teacher questioning and student answers

Oliveira, A. W. (2010). Improving teacher questioning in science inquiry discussions through professional development. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(4), 422-453.

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1991) Higher levels of agency for children in knowledge building: A challenge for the design of new knowledge media. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1(1), 37-68.

Sinclair, J. McH., & Coulthard, J. M. (1975). Toward an analysis of discourse: The English used by teachers and pupils. London: Oxford University Press.


I support teacher candidates in their practicum placements through visits, observations, providing feedback, and encouragement.

This week I saw a fantastic example of inquiry learning made visible, and I asked the teacher candidate if I could share her work online. It is fantastic that she agreed, since her work incorporates self-assessment, authentic formative assessment, community partnerships, home and school links, student voice, reflection, and integration.

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Body Percussion

On the subway home from Orff class, I sat near a musical man. During class, we had learned a number of fun activities using body percussion, and had tapped, clapped, and snapped up a storm. But the energy of the the clapping, tapping man on the subway surpassed us all. During my 15 minute ride, he did not let up, but continued with such intense focus and effort, that sweat was dripping down his face. Some people caught my eye and rolled theirs, probably since this is an uncommon occurrence on the TTC; but I was fascinated by his music. The beat was precise and driving, and I tapped my toe. I wanted him to see me tapping my toe, so he would know I was joining in, but then I hid my mobile foot behind my bag. It seemed that the music inside of him wouldn’t let up, and that he had no choice but to respond this way, repeatedly, intensely, and wildly. Where hand met leg, was no doubt, sore. His vocal sounds were a type of growly singing which undoubtedly, left his throat raw. What if he hated the music, because he couldn’t control his response, and my toe-tapping made me an enemy, since I was a friend of the music?

I had an overwhelming desire to join with him in his music-making, though, by clapping on the beat, or creating my own tap-clap pattern to compliment his, but I was afraid to risk it. He was directly across from me, and I considered moving over to sit beside him, so he wouldn’t see me (his eyes looked straight ahead), but just hear me. I am a music teacher and a music maker, and shared music is the best music; on the inside I was yearning to do something in response. But, as I’ve written about before, relational behaviour on the subway simply isn’t acceptable. You do not speak to another, or even look at another, unless, perhaps you are not fully in your right mind. This cultural expectation runs deep. One of the newly-constructed Union station walls features a poem by Stuart Reid, etched in stained glass, “where do you look? you can’t look at the people across or behind, up or down, yet they’re right in front of you.” Not wanting to ally myself with his music, and yet not able to ignore it, I decided to defy the “looking” convention, and lock eyes with him. For the last five minutes of the ride, I looked at him and smiled. I didn’t make music out loud with him, but I saw him, and I heard him.

I hope that he doesn’t mind that I recorded one minute of his song.


Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 5.31.10 PMAlthough she does not use the term gamification, one of my favourite authors, Laura Vanderkam, mentions the idea in her latest book, I Know How She Does It. I identify with her story about pacing around the house before bed to make up the remaining 300 steps needed to reach a FitBit goal. Vanderkam describes how setting personal goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them can be an effective strategy for enhancing the way you use your time.

Since my family is playing SummerGame these days, many of the activities I choose to fill my time with result in me earning points. Accruing points eventually allows me to beat levels, and ultimately win a prize. Activities I have chosen to do this summer, such as go on bike rides with my daughters, or read the latest research about integrating the arts in education, are activities I would have done anyway, whether or not they earned me points in the game. The motivation to choose an activity is often complex, with many factors contributing to my decision. I choose to go on family bike rides because they are enjoyable, they are opportunities to build relationships with my daughters, I develop strong leg muscles, and make good on my investment in a bike. Now that a ride is worth 10 points, that’s just another benefit on the list.

So what about activities I wouldn’t normally choose?  Is a point value enough to motivate me?

In a family discussion a few days ago, we all agreed that getting enough sleep is important, and that our current bedtimes and wake up times will not be sustainable once school starts. We tossed around the idea of awarding points to ourselves if we got a certain number of hours of sleep per night. Realizing that this might result in someone being rewarded for staying up extremely late and sleeping until noon, we decided instead to award ourselves 10 points every time we get in bed by 10pm. Last night, at 9:55pm, I was about to start doing some research when Ella pointed out the time. “Mom, let’s do it – we can get in bed by 10 if we go right now!” At that moment I still felt I had energy to continue my day, and didn’t feel like going to bed, so I hesitated; but also at that moment, I realized that at another time and place, I had agreed to place value on “in bed by 10.”  At 9:55pm, I did not feel the value of “bed by 10” emotionally or physically. After about 10 seconds of consideration, however, I decided to trust the value I had assigned to “bed by 10” when the context was a collaborative discussion and the result of rationalized arguments, which took place hours away from bedtime. I needed help at 9:55pm to choose bed, and the 10 point value filled that role, along with my daughter, who both reminded and encouraged me. We both rushed upstairs and were in by about 10:10pm, which was deemed to be close enough to receive the point reward.

This highlights the importance of gamified goals that are chosen, or at least valued by players themselves. In our family version of SummerGame, everyone decides together which activities are worth points, and each player chooses when to earn points and how. This autonomy seems to lend a certain synergy to the game atmosphere, especially since we allow ourselves to adjust our personal goals and rewards as the game progresses.

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