3 thoughts on “AS 104 : Day 1 of Counting

  1. I’m simultaneously thrilled and saddened as I listen to your podcast. This is the team collaboration I have always wanted and don’t have. There are fine teachers at the other two middle schools, but I hardly ever get to see them.

    I’m a singleton teacher from Wenatchee, WA. About 5 years ago, I was teaching at the district across the river, contemplating leaving the industry, because I lacked the ability to teach rhythm. So, I bought David Newell’s “Teaching Rhythm,” which is still doing positive things for me…except, my kids meet every other day for 80 minutes. Using his method will take years for my kids to learn rhythms properly.

    A couple of days ago, I’m on YouTube and stumbled across your TMEA presentation. Instantly bought your book. So, I’ve gone through your YouTube presentation, read your book from start to finish, downloaded the TMEA presentation notes and an dead set on starting this after break.

    By the way, I’m in my first year in this district. I spent 9 years at my old school. Miss my kiddos. Love my new kiddos. I think they’re about to have their minds blown. The speed at which your introduce rhythms is mind boggling to me. I would be taking weeks to teach rhythms before, introducing them by rote, slowly introducing them to reading.

    I have to be honest, I’m such a fan of David Newell’s work that I balked at your material for the first 20 minutes or so of your presentation. Now, I’m more excited than ever to get back into the classroom, AND IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF BREAK! At least, I get a few days of rest to absorb and reabsorb your material.

    Any advice on introducing this mid-year? Looking forward to listening to more podcasts.

    Jeff Sandberg
    Director of Instrumental Music (Bands, Orchs, Mariachis)
    Orchard Middle School
    Wenatchee, WA

  2. I should probably wait until the end of the year to update, but I want/need to decompress. I won’t be offended if you ignore this.
    I began with a modified day 1 for my 7th & 8th graders, and a semi-modified day 1 for my beginners.
    My 7th & 8th grade band went pretty well. They took to it pretty quickly. We breezed through much of charts 1-2. In fact, my usually surly group of eighth graders were the most attentive they’ve been all year.
    It was surprisingly more difficult with my beginners. And, I think it’s because some of them don’t understand rhythms as much as I thought they did, which is good for me. You see, with my old method involved teaching by rote with no verbal introductions until after they reached step 3, which worked for me in the past, but not this year. I think it has everything to do with the fact that I’m in a new building, rebuilding a broken program (e.g., in a school of 400 6th-8th graders, my 8th grade band is 10). My schools is fairly high poverty, too.
    So, it was a surprise when I had students who just couldn’t answer questions I would have categorized as review. I verbalized that I was a bit disappointed. I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I know now that I will just treat this as if we’re starting at the very beginning and roll with it. The other thing was, I wanted to do more of what Darcy had recommended to me – do some normal stuff, then introduce it later. So, I tried that. I even took some time to do some master classes with my groups (I teach 1 heterogeneous beginner band of flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones and bells). It seemed to work…ok. I think taking a shorter amount of time to introduce TRL had something to do with it, too. I think I got about 15 solid minutes in. I spent WAY more time with my older kids, and they pretty much rocked it. So, I’ll do more whole group rhythm stuff for a few days.
    One of the reasons I am adopting this program so quickly, rather than waiting until next year, is because of my inability to help my kids understand the eighth-quarter-eighth syncopated rhythm. I introduced by rote, then counting, then flashcards for probably 4 weeks when I realized they didn’t understand it, though they could perform it. Heck, they could even decode it from me singing it on neutral syllables!
    So, here’s the irony. After just 3 1/2 months in the new school, two of my staff members (one from PE, one from English) told me my orchestra performance at our Christmas concert was the best overall orchestra performance they’d heard in 19 years. At no other time had they heard a performance that locked in. On the other hand, I apparently had the wrong tools to teach syncopation. Now, I do.
    We have a block schedule at our school (read, I see my kids every other day). I see my mariachi and beginning strings groups tomorrow. The mariachi groups have notoriously learned everything by ear. I have been (too slowly) teaching them rhythm reading with relative success. I have preconceived notions as to how they’ll accept (or not) the new program. I mean, I though my older bands would balk at it, and they were the most attentive I’ve seen them in awhile. The opposite is true of my beginners.

    Holy cow. I barfed words all over this comment section.

    1. It may be that your older bands are accepting it more because 1) they have found something they legitimately don’t understand (sycopation) and 2) they find this to be a new, “exciting” cerebral way of doing something that already feels comfortable. The beginners surprises me, but keep fighting the good fight. Just because there is push back doesn’t mean you are wrong. The benefits of having a rhythmically fluent band outweigh the growing pains by a billion and a half times. You’re going to find that there are so many concepts you previously didn’t have time to address before that you can once the kids can attack the framework of the music completely independently. Hold steady, breathe deeply, and your efforts will pay off in the long run… And then next year’s beginners will ROCK!

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