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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

AAPI Heritage Month in Elementary Music

With the rise in anti-Asian hate in the United States during the pandemic, there has never been a more impactful time to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While the month of May should certainly not be the only time we recognize and include AAPI people and music in our classrooms, it is an important opportunity to shine the spotlight on a group that has historically been largely ignored and exoticized.

First a little background: AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander. May has been officially designated as AAPI Heritage Month since 1992 (although AAPI Week has been around since 1978). The history of AAPI people is long, broad, and often completely overlooked- this video gives a good starting point if you are unfamiliar. With that said, here are some general suggestions for recognizing AAPI Heritage Month in your elementary music classroom respectfully, responsibly, and appropriately.

DO celebrate AAPI excellence

While these musicians should be included in our regular, every day lessons when the musician's race is not the focus, spending some time sharing AAPI musicians from throughout history and across genres and musical roles is a great way to recognize AAPI Heritage Month in the elementary music classroom. If you need a starting point for some musicians to feature, you'll find some in these lists of instrumental performers (but definitely do not stop at these- there are SO many more out there in so many different musical fields, from conductor Xian Zhang to film composer Sujin Nam):

DO NOT limit AAPI representation to only East Asians

The AAPI community extends beyond Japan, China, and Korea- it's important to include Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan, and so many other Asian American and Pacific Islanders outside of East Asia, particularly people with darker skin. It's important to push back against colorism by making sure, when we share AAPI musicians, that we're including the full spectrum.

DO incorporate AAPI representation throughout the school year

Don't throw in a few featured Asian American musicians in the month of May and check AAPI representation off your list- as with all minoritized cultures and people groups, the most important work is in making sure they are incorporated in our everyday lessons and materials. What faces and skin tones are included in the posters hanging on the walls? Whose music is performed in concerts? Whose faces do students see when we use video and photo examples of any musical concept we're teaching? AAPI people and cultures needs to be normalized by including representation when race is not the focal point.

DO NOT play into stereotypes

There are so many AAPI musicians outside classical music! It's important to push back against the stereotype of Asians being most successful as classical string and piano players by including representation in other genres and roles as well. That doesn't mean we shouldn't share Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang with our students too, but we need to be intentional about expanding our students' understanding of what it means to be an AAPI musician. Outside of the genres and roles we portray, it's important not to exoticize or generalize AAPI cultures or portray them as the "model minority"- not all Asian Americans are good at math, career-driven, or shy. 

DO listen to, learn from, and compensate AAPI music educators

I'm not sharing specific lesson plans in this post because it's important to learn from and compensate AAPI people directly- I'm here to amplify and point as many people as I can in the right direction so we can all do our own research and center AAPI voices in these conversations. If you are going to use resources to teach about AAPI history and heritage, make sure you are getting them from (and compensating) people from the AAPI community! Here are a few AAPI music educators and musicians, besides the ones mentioned above in this post, to get you started- I encourage you to follow them if you aren't already and check out their resources:

Czarina Jimenez (LittleUpbeatClass)

Darlene Machacon (TheDarlingMusicTeacher)

Alice Tsui (MusicWithMissAlice)

Melissa Stouffer (MrsSMusicRoom)

Jane Lee (SillyOMusic)

AJ Rafael (especially this song, "Our Friend Larry Itliong")

Joe Kye

I hope this helps steer you in the right direction as you work to recognize AAPI culture and people in your elementary music class in the month of May and beyond! If you know of other AAPI people that should be amplified, please add to my list in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Elementary Music Classroom Tour: April 2021

I never thought I would be sharing my classroom setup in April, but here we are! After spending the entire school year on a cart, I am back in my classroom and I couldn't be happier. We still have a lot of mitigation protocols in place and we still have distance learners joining classes live on zoom, but being in one place, in my own space, makes a huge difference! If you're interested in seeing how I've set up my room for this situation, here's a quick tour.

I know many schools are operating with different protocols, so here's what I'm working with:

  • everyone is masked at all times (except to eat and for mask breaks)
  • with masks on, students should be at least 3 feet apart
  • singing will now be allowed for short periods, with masks, at least 6 feet apart
  • no shared supplies
Because students have the option to either be in person full time or distance learning full time, my class sizes vary anywhere from 24 in person to 5 in person! So I need the ability to teach a lot of different groups with one set up. I was only given a couple of hours before spring break to set up my classroom, since it was being used by a 4th grade cohort, so I haven't been able to do as much work making it look nice as I would in a typical year, but I've spent a lot of time thinking through the logistics and I'm happy with the set up I have. So here's what my classroom looks like now:

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! If you want to see how I set up the cart I've been using so far this school year, I shared that in this post. For more posts related to pandemic music teaching, from distance lesson plans to tech tips and everything in between, head to this page:

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hybrid Technology Setup for Concurrent Music Teaching

I've been teaching concurrently- synchronous distance learners and in-person students in the same class at the same time- since the beginning of this school year, and I have been on the hunt for a technology setup that streamlines my teaching the whole time. After trying out several solutions this is the one that has worked best for me, and I hope other music teachers find this useful as well!

This setup requires a projector (or, though less than ideal, a monitor if you don't have a projector to use) and a computer. I've used this setup on a cart, and am now using it in my music classroom. My district is using Zoom as our platform for virtual learners, but I think the same idea should be able to be applied to other platforms as well.

Here's a video explaining and demonstrating how I have set everything up and why:

One of the key things to set up is the dual monitor setting for Zoom (or whatever other platform you're using). Here is a tutorial on setting up that feature in Zoom, and here is one for Google Meet. These tutorials all show how to set this up so you have an actual monitor as your "second screen"- the only difference in what I do is I am using my projector screen as the monitor- your computer should recognize it the same way. Here is a tutorial on setting up dual monitors to display separately on a Mac, and one for Windows 10.

I hope this is helpful for those of you teaching synchronously in hybrid models! It's so much to juggle, so every little thing that makes it easier for me to teach feels like a miracle to me. If you want to see all of my tips and ideas for hybrid, full remote, and in-person teaching during a pandemic, head to this page:

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Concurrent Music Teaching Tips

More and more music teachers are heading back to in-person teaching, while still teaching distance learners at the same time. It's a lot to juggle and it's not easy at all, but after doing it since last September I have a much better handle on it than I did when I started! There's so much more to say than I could ever cover in one blog post, but here are a few tips for managing concurrent elementary music teaching.

1. Establish Routines

I've said this in different ways more times than I can count now, but routines. Routines have been my saving grace this year more than ever before. Routines for me as a teacher, routines for the students, and routines for the flow of the lessons themselves. As mundane as it may seem, put routines in place anywhere you can! The mental load of concurrent teaching is the toughest part, so anything you can make automatic and not have to think about is a plus for everyone. I've written in much greater detail about specific routines I've put in place for concurrent teaching in these posts below:


2. Stop Asking, "Who Remembers..."

I know I'm not the only one who uses the prompt, "who remembers (fill in the blank vocabulary, word or concept)?" to review previous lesson material and segue into the next activity. If you're teaching concurrently? Stop doing it. If there's one teaching practice that will bring your concurrent lesson to a halt more quickly than anything, it's asking the whole class a question and inviting students to raise their hands to share a response. While there are times when doing so is definitely still worth it, for the most part I avoid asking the class a question and inviting individual answers now. Instead, I ask individual students directly (so I don't have to wait for students to raise their real or zoom hand and I can better keep track of individual student understanding), or I invite the whole class to respond simultaneously (like "Alright everyone, yesterday we learned that the violin is in the.....? *gestures out to the group* yes, string family!"- that way distance learners just answer with everyone without me having to unmute them). For a question like "who remembers___?", which is really just intended to be a quick reminder for the group in a typical class setting, it's not worth the hassle!

3. Build In Distance Attendance Opportunities

I don't necessarily plan my lessons around this, but I try to take advantage of opportunities in the middle of class to take attendance for my distance learners. Sometimes I do so by asking all students to respond to a question or perform something, and I mark down names as they do it, or sometimes I have students watching a video or working on an individual assignment and I can jot down who's there while I'm not directly teaching the class. With classes being as short as they are I don't like to waste time taking attendance while students just sit there, but with students coming in and out at different times, I don't always remember correctly if I'm taking attendance right before or after class either. 

I also don't normally take attendance in my class, but for distance learners in particular it has been critically important to take attendance this year so I can keep track of anyone who isn't showing up in my zooms and follow up with their families. 

4. Restate Student Comments

Get in the habit of restating anything in-person students say or do, and anything distance learners put in the chat (unless it's meant to be private of course). For music class it's not always practical to make it so distance and in-person students can see each other, but it's still very important for them to be able to interact with each other and also make sure noone misses parts of class discussions. Remember even the in-person students often can't hear each other because of distancing and masking, and online students certainly can't! Because of the sound lag I generally have online distance students muted during class, so for students in 3rd grade and up especially, I have them use the chat for the majority of their questions/ responses. I of course read those out loud for the class to hear before responding, but I have also been conscious of restating even those interruptions from in-person or distance learners, no matter how off-topic they are, before redirecting. Kids miss talking to each other. They usually find their peers funnier than their teachers, and those random comments- while sometimes disruptive- are what the distance learners especially miss from being in the room with their friends.

5. Make the Board a Second Monitor

My favorite way to set up technology is to have zoom on my laptop and connect the laptop to the projector with dual monitor settings so the board functions as the 2nd monitor. I have everything I want to show students in a google slides file on the "2nd monitor" so the in-person students see it projected on the board and I share my screen to show the same thing to the distance learners on zoom. I can have both groups of students see things/ not see things at the same time by stopping the screen share and blanking the projector if I want them to just look at me or have a class discussion, for example, I can control whether in-person students see the distance learners and the zoom chat window on the screen or not, and I can still see all of the zoom participants when I share my screen instead of being limited to the small window on the side.

This topic warrants a whole post of its own, but I want to point out that in my experience there are times when I want the 2 groups of students to be able to see each other and there are times when it is actually better for the distance learners to know they are not on the screen! Distance learners can be very uncomfortable about doing movement activities etc if they know they are projected on the big screen, for example. It's also worth noting that I taught in a cart in many spaces that did not have boards or projectors at all, and depending on the situation/ activity, my 2 (far less than ideal, but workable) solutions were to either 1) have in-person learners also join the zoom with the distance learners, or 2) use the relatively small monitor I mounted to my cart (yeah I did that) as the "board" for hybrid students to look at.

I could keep going for pages and pages- there is so much to think about with this mode of teaching- but those are some of the most important discoveries I've made this school year. If you've been teaching music concurrently and have your own tips, I'd love to hear them in the comments, and if you have questions please do leave those as well! You'll find more ideas and tips for various forms of pandemic teaching on my dedicated page below: