Sunday, November 27, 2016

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

Real World Learning: Final Reflection

The implementation of the Veterans Day Lesson plan is now over.  The evidence has been collected and the students have performed for the assembly.  Now is the time to reflect on what went well, what was a challenge, and how I and others can improve the lesson for next time.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe


I feel that the lesson was a success.  What defines it as a success is that it was a learning experience that made a personal connection for the students and the real world.  We went beyond that initial goal in a couple of different ways.

First we put an interdisciplinary spin on the lesson by bringing together teachers from other content areas in the school.  This brought not only my own students into the realm of real world learning, but also the entire school!  The collaborative environment was exciting and opened up opportunities for other teachers' students to play an active role in the performance and the process.

Another way that the Veterans Day assembly went beyond expectation was the fact that I was able to use the Livestream app to broadcast our assembly and performance to the world.  This was increased by at least ten fold with the social connection of Twitter to announce the broadcast.  Through broadcasting the performance to the public, the students became part of the fabric of the real world learning.

Some expected successes were the connection that my students made to the event and their own life.  The reflection and the research portion of the lesson were aligned and implemented at the same time.  I think this allowed students to have a deeper and truer sense of the meaning of Veterans Day and link that understanding to a person or activity in their own life.  From parents, to grandparents, to siblings...  The impact of Veterans Day on these middle school students' lives is inspiring.


Challenges were expected and always are when venturing into the unknown.  With that in mind at the beginning I was able to setup the students for success by explaining that upfront.  This helped to establish an environment of solution minded students.  While some challenges were small and easy to overcome, others were a bit bigger due to the environment.

I first must preface this with my professional background.  I am in my 3rd year at my current district.  Prior I taught in an expansive high school program.  This sometimes blurs my perspective of what to expect of the students.  So now the problem.  Leadership!  An imperative lesson that all successful instrumental music students must learn.  Our own success is not just based on how well I do as a musician, but how well the group does.  To teach this concept is a challenge in itself and when you need leadership for success, it becomes 1st and foremost

I desired to use the Veterans Day Assembly as an opportunity for the 8th graders to lead their younger 7th grade counterparts.  The problem was macro-process, they are still learning leadership skills.  So this brought the 8th graders to a question...

Why do we have to perform with the 7th graders?  They make us sound bad! 

There it is!  I have a wound that needs to be mended.  Leadership.

Lesson learned.  I now plan on integrating leadership activities into this real world learning experience.  Not only will this benefit the particular lesson, but it will have a positive impact on the students' lives (real world).  It's not always what we do, it's often how we do it!

Next Time...

The goal is to always go bigger and better than before.  I think the best way to go about this is to empower the students to take on a more active role in the process.  Now that I've created the template, the real world learning can be expanded to include building more community while creating a personal and deeper experience for the students.

Final Thoughts

Real world learning is necessary for our students.  Content and application of that content is important to learn in order to successfully move into the realm of real world learning, but it's got to get out their for people to connect with, people to evaluate, people to understand.  Empowering our students towards real world learning will give them the tools for a lifetime of success and continious improvement.  Let's *"ship it!"

*This relates to my readings of Seth Godin in his book Linchpin.  Here is an excerpt of a post...

Fear of shipping
Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.

It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.

It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.

Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?

-Seth Godin

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Evidence

Real World Learning: Veterans Day Assembly Lesson Evidence

Evidence of Implementation

In the beginning...

As a band director, I am inclined to engage students in "Real World" community events whenever possible.  This is not only good for public relations of the program and the school, but more than that it is imperative that students find their place in the "Real World."  They need to discover the importance of community service first hand.  This was the driving force behind wanting to establish a performance side to the Veterans Day Assembly at our school.  This year was the second annual and I would argue that it gets more expansive and refined each year.  The Veterans Day Performance and assembly is Real World learning for our students.

The process...

As many band directors know, the preparation for an event doesn't always look the same as the outcome.  Throughout the process of implementing the music, program, choral integration, and execution of performance, I changed many of my initial preparations due to several different reasons.

The first was due to opportunity.  Initially I envisioned only the band planning for the assembly.  In conversation with my colleague we came to the conclusion that combining the band and choir in a performance would strengthen student engagement and community involvement as a whole.  This slightly shifted my plan.  Now I was looking at creating the best possible performance for the band and choir while still staying on my objective of Real World learning for my students.  This took some additional editing and creativity on my part.

A direct result of having the choir join us was that I needed to come up with more music.  This was done through arranging and writing.  I had great concerns of the band overtaking the choir due to the nature of the activity.  This brought about another opportunity for a couple of students.  I created a solo/duet section of the music to accompany the choir.  This had to be written out, yet the time and energy it took was well worth it.

As different situations came up it was a breath of fresh air to have my choral colleagues to work through different solutions.  Although I initially didn't foresee collaboration as a part of the experience, it became a staple of creating a successful performance.

Interdisciplinary collaboration also became imperative as I worked with and communicated with the principal, the social studies department, custodial staff, and other school groups.  This sort of proactive and well-thought-out process set the Veterans Day Assembly and performance up for success.

As the days grew to the event, the students were introduced to an activity which I title Veterans Day Research and Reflection.  Students were able to dive into the deeper meanings of Veterans Day including its origins and connections.   Students were also able to reflect on why the band and choir are participating in Veterans Day and the significance on their own lives.

In the end...

Due to the preparation, collaboration, and involvement of the entire school and outside community, the Veterans Day Assembly was a success!  Students were able to actively participate in a Real World learning environment that brought deeper understanding and connection to their lives.

(photo courtesy of

Content Standards/Outcomes
Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.

Student Evidence and Reflection

The Music

Students performed traditional patriotic music that directly is associated with the Real World experience of Veterans Day. Many of the same pieces were performed by other bands and choirs all over the United States to acknowledge Veterans Day.  The students rehearsed, practiced, and performed the following pieces.

The Star Spangled Banner arr. by Mark Williams

Salute America arr. by Don Schaeffer

We're Loyal To You (School Song)

Veterans Day Research and Reflection Assignment

Q1: What is the origin of Veterans Day in the United States?

Q2: What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Q3: Choose 2 of the following topics and give historical facts about that given topic…

a.) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

b.) Choose and write on 1 of the following American wars…

1.) World War 1

2.) World War 2
3.) Korean War
4.) Vietnam War
5.) Gulf War
6.) Global War on Terror
c.) Respecting the Flag

Q4: What is significant about Veterans Day?  How does that relate to your life?

Q5: Reflect on why we perform and participate in the Veterans Day Assembly at Byron Middle School.

Student Responses

Veterans Day Assembly and Performance Live!

Another way that I made this a Real World learning experience was to broadcast the event live via LiveStream.  I also announced the event on Twitter.

Veterans Day Assembly and Performance via Livestream