Incorporating Writing into the Middle School & High School Music Classroom

For those of you who JUST want the link to the growing free Writing Prompt document: click here!

For those of you who are here to read about the entire process – continue!

We’ve all sat through the in-services.  We’ve all had our administrators declare that we must include this as part of our classroom.  Our school improvement team did a study over the summer and discovered that our students were severely low on test scores in the categories of Communicating Reasoning and writing in general.  It is our goal as a staff to improve these scores.  If you’re looking for something simple (but hopefully effective) to do just that, look no further!

Two quick things before we dive in: I teach at a very small school, and we have one-to-one computers for grades K-12.

First of all, this entire process is being done via an online learning management system (hooray for not wasting paper).  This is also an easy way to incorporate technology into the classroom if you struggle with that as well!  I’m using Google Classroom, but almost all learning management systems are capable of accomplishing this.  If you don’t have access to any of those, or don’t know what they are – you can still do this, but you’ll have to adjust!

For a quick “how-to” start on Google Classroom, check this out! Google Classroom Quick-Start Guide (this is NOT my guide – just a resource for you to use!)  All you need is a Gmail account!

I am doing basically the equivalent of online discussion posts that you’ll commonly see in online classes.  At the beginning of each week I post a question on Google Classroom for students to answer.  They have to respond to the question, and then throughout the week respond to at least three other students posts.  This encourages healthy discussion techniques while students work on their writing skills.  I have them due at the end of each week.

For example: Our first week of doing this activity, I asked the question, “What does it mean to have musical talent? Do you think a person is born with musical talent or is it learned?”

For our first discussion, I saw some interesting comments!  The students really provided some thoughtful posts and responses to students.  For a growing list of my weekly discussion questions, check out the link to this Google Doc!  I will try my best to keep it updated.  I’m borrowing some from other sites, and coming up with some of my own!

I grade the students using a rubric our team came up with.  Since I didn’t develop it, no I won’t be sharing it (sorry!).  It’s nothing revolutionary, just a basic writing rubric!  Essentially each week this is an assignment worth ten points in the grade book.  Easy points they can earn in a few minutes.

My middle schoolers have struggled a bit more with some of the questions.  They also have just struggled with committing to writing well in the posts.  I am seeing improvement, but at first, it was a little painful!

I will say, if you’re like me and don’t appreciate an excessive amount of grading – you can forego the required student responses and just have them write the initial post.  I ended up doing this with my middle school just to lighten my grading load.  You can also pick and choose which weeks to grade – don’t tell them otherwise they won’t do it.  But if you take a week off, then grade the next week’s they’ll never know what to expect!

Make this system work for you!

I started this process this year.  I feel it’s extremely useful and beneficial for students, and I have plans to continue doing it for awhile.  It’s also amazing because it doesn’t take up ANY of your class time!  Students know how to complete the assignment, and understand it’s due every single week.  Hooray for not cutting into rehearsal times!

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