Sunday, October 9, 2016

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Plan

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Plan

Driving Question

As band members we often are asked to play for such events as Memorial Day and  Veterans Day.  There is a reason that these events occur yearly and are so significant in the United States of American.  In this lesson I ask students...

Why is Veterans Day important?

Link to History of Veterans Day via United States Department of Veteran Affairs

(photo courtesy of

Content Standards/Outcomes

MU:Cn11.0.E.Hs novice
Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.

21st Century Skills

Students will be implementing a variety 21st Century Skills.  Aligning with Partnership for 21st Century Learning, The focus will be on the skills associated with "Key Subjects and 21st Century Themes."  This includes global awareness and civic literacy.

Habits of Mind (soft skills)

The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as...
"Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people."

Pikes Peak Association for Gifted students outlines a series of soft skills (Habits of the Mind Chart).  One significant soft skill to be gained from this activity is #11, Creating, Imagining, and Innovating.  The focus of the driving question is open-ended to the point where students are able to use their personal experiences and research to create new and innovative ways as to the importance of Veterans Day.

Lesson Activities

#1.) The band rehearses 2 veterans day assembly tunes, Star Spangled Banner and Salute America (patriotic musical medley including Yankee Doodle, You're a Grand Old Flag, and Yankee Doodle Boy).

#2.) Students will research the history of Veterans Day, relating the content to current events and coming to a conclusion as to why Veterans Day is important.

#3.)  A Veteran who played in the army band and continues to play bugle at veteran funerals will come and discuss his viewpoint as to the importance of Veterans Day.  He will also discuss his role as a musician involving veterans.

#4.)  Students will perform the week of Veterans Day with the choir for the community and student body.  

Learning Assessment/Student Engagement

Students will use a Standards-Based Assessment tool which is currently used consistently in the band classroom.  Click the link below to view an overview and reflection of the tool.

Genius Hour and Standards-Based Grading in the Instrumental Music Classroom: Final Reflection

Student Reflection Activity

Students will reflect by writing a letter to a military veteran or a military person on active duty.  The letter will include the reason why Veterans Day is important.  

Final Thoughts

The goal is that students use real-world learning to discover the importance of Veterans Day.  This will give deeper meaning to their role as musicians and as citizens of the United States of America.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Real World Learning: Empathy Reflection

Real World Learning: Empathy Reflection

Definition of "empathy" according to the Oxford Dictionary:

"The ability to understand and share the feelings of another."

If our goal is to create the best possible leaning environment for our students, we must look closely at our audience.  We must empathize with them by understanding who they are as people and what engages their learning.  This can be a challenge and often is forgotten.

In many career fields success is based upon the actions of the proprietor and how those actions relate to an object.  In teaching, the educator must use the people in the environment to create a productive learning atmosphere.  Empathy is the key to that success.  If we are to design successful learning experiences, we must empathize with our audience, our students.


I enjoy the use of interviews when wanting to learn more about a person.  When done well, an informal interview can create an environment where the interviewee can feel safe, confident, and respected by the interviewer.  This takes successful preparation and an inquisitive mindset.  When conducting an interview with open-ended questions, the interviewer is able to inquire about deeper thoughts and feelings towards a given topic.  Interviews also offer a direct and important link to how we design our lessons, products, etc...

Browsing can be inspiring.  Check out the Stanford University Institute of Design!

In the preparation stage of the empathy interview process, I spent a lot of time brainstorming and reflecting on the questions that I would ask my students.  I felt that a road-map was necessary for the interview in order to be sure I was on target as to what information I was wanting to acquire.  I wanted to be sure to maintain a level of consistency from person to person, yet offer areas where they could break away from the questions at their discretion.  I feel that the script/road-map that I developed was successful!

Interview Questions

Empathy and Education: What I've learned

I often find myself sometimes focused on the content for the lesson I'm producing without even considering who the lesson is for.  What are their likes, dislikes?  What is their background?  What excites, frustrates my audience?  What are some of the limitations when it comes to technology, resources, etc...

While creating the most complex procedures for the greatest lesson, I must remember that all of that time and effort are wasted if I don't have empathy for the people who are learning in the environment.

We've heard the importance of rapport in the classroom.  Yes rapport is important, but in order to instill a deeper understanding more must be achieved.

The Importance of Establishing Rapport with Your Students by Rebecca Ryan and Janie Wilson

The days of forcing information into learners through lecture, worksheets, and videos are over.  We must as educators connect with our students.  We must meet them where they are at, be a support as they grow and learn, and get them to where they desire to be.  Empathy is a main ingredient when designing a successful and worthwhile learning experience.