WMEA Convention

It was wonderful seeing old friends and meeting new. I wanted to share the link to our prezi presentation. Look for the link in the links section above and here (Developing Creativity in the General Music Classroom). If you are unable to access it, go to and search for Developing Creativity in the General Music Classroom. We hope to be adding quite a few new links throughout the coming year. Check out the lessons in the tabs above.

Intentional Learning

        by Mary Anne Zupan

     As one who is deeply interested in and has seen first-hand the learning benefits of a student-centered approach to instruction the word INTENTIONAL has become my guiding mantra. When the concept of shared leadership is overtly planned and reinforced it ensures class members are routinely engaged in guiding roles. My experience genuinely indicates this approach increases their ownership of and responsibility for targeted aspects of the learning.  For example:

  • In my K-5 music classes students begin the session by directing warm-up activities like leading the class to read a tone set written on the board, asking classmates to either name the notes as lines or spaces, speak/sing letter names or solfege syllables of the example (which is always brought back in a later part of the lesson), count off the tempo or meter to begin a song. It is remarkable, in doing this, how purposefully they listen to each other.
  •  When playing as a keyboard ensemble the students lead the reading and playing of each exercise, and happily, if it doesn’t go well, stay together, or “fit” they are the ones who come up with (with very little to no prompting from me) things like “Maybe we should point to the notes and sing before we play or “ Let’s just say the letters first or “Let’s do it again SLOWER” or ”Just do the left hand (right hand) alone first”. They are aware the goal is to play the piece as an ensemble, matching tempo, and sounding like “one big piano” to receive a “PASS”. Amazingly, they are almost always right on if I need to ask, “Do you think we should ‘pass’ this time?” Of course, the language has been modeled by me and there’s little variation (so far)  but it’s obviously gratifying to the class as a whole when we’ve established that they are the ones who are taking over.
  • I’ve planned for classes to engage in more small (3-4 kids) group experiences like creating short sound pieces, group composition, and coming up with movement to accompany some of the repertoire we’re working on. For Columbus Day the students brainstormed facts, dates, names, vocabulary, associated with the explorer and used their ideas to create little sound and rhythm pieces. They made ostinato patterns using everything from “King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella; 1492; “The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria”, etc. complete with simple dance movements and brief melody bits. They put it all together with one student conducting the action, indicating which group should begin and when other groups should add on. Polished? Always together? Certainly not. But a target understanding of ostinato, listening for pulse, and leadership coming from unexpected places? Absolutely. And lots of smiles to boot. After we complete activities like this the children assign themselves a rating on their effort/understanding. I have pictures of faces on the wall of music room that reflect different levels of concentration and engagement; 1. deep thinking/concentrating; 2. an idea taking shape and sharing it with someone else; 3. energy and confidence; and 4. a face that conveys “I’m not sure,  shy, or nervous, etc. Each group of faces has a number value so when I ask them to show their rating under their chin it provides immediate feedback on their perception of personal contribution/confidence. It’s interesting and important to chart individual progress through this simple observation.
  • I find that so many of our learning targets, particularly the understanding of form, vocabulary about expression, articulation, tempo, meter, even rhythm and melodic elements can be a place to engage student leadership by having them conduct or demonstrate the concept through movement. If we’re in a drumming ensemble, group keyboarding, ensemble class singing letting students “conduct” a crescendo, forte, piano, accent, etc. is very telling about their level of understanding of the concept (and the ability of the class to follow a conductor) as well as the creative experience of groups coming up with ways to demonstrate ABA, theme and variations, rondo, etc.

Realistically, not all activities that rely on student leadership are successful and I believe it’s important to understand there are some developmental aspects of learning that must have us in the “sage on the stage” role.  That being said, INTENTIONALLY putting opportunities for student leadership at the heart of our planning increases the likelihood that kids will be more fully engaged and open the doors to deeper musical understanding.

Wisconsin State Music Convention

A very special invite for everyone to join us for two exciting presentations on creativity in the classroom. On Thursday, October 27 @ 11:30 join Lissa Benson, Renee Hanson Mel Pontious and Karen Tordera as they present “Developing Creativity in the General Music Classroom” and on Friday, October 28 @ 11:30 join Lori Heidenreich, Judy Kirby, Mel Pontious and Angela Roberts presenting “Creativity in the Choral Rehearsal”.

When you can’t be at a meeting Skype

So today was a difficult day. I needed to be a mom, but wanted to be the contributing teacher. So rather than miss the meeting all together, I went to it via Skype. Some of it was very difficult due to slow service. I got a lot of garbled messages, but so glad to be there. Taught everyone how to use our website and how to contribute. I can’t wait to see what happens with this group now that Mel is retired from DPI and will maybe have even more time to spend with us!!

At the meeting via Skype

Judy Kirby Speaks on SCLA

In April Judith Kirby and her sixth grade choir presented a student-centered demonstration to the choral ed students at UWM. Thank you to Dr. Jose Rivera for the invitation. Both college and middle school students enjoyed the experience.


Welcome to the SCLA site. We hope that you will find the information informative and beneficial to your program.

By Renee Hanson Posted in Welcome