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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » OSC and Homework: a question for him re: instrument practice (Page 2)

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Author Topic: OSC and Homework: a question for him re: instrument practice
mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by BandoCommando:

Also, it's a fairly regular occurrence for students to account for days on which they absolutely could not practice on their log by indicated what prevented them from practice (dress rehearsal for a play that took all non-school time, family vacation, illness, etc.) In these cases, I tend to be pretty lenient.

That makes it so that a big part of their grades is convincing you that their reasons for not practicing were reasonable ones. Ick. I always hated situations like that.
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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
I would agree if we were talking about college-level courses. Not high school, and DEFINITELY not junior high or younger. Part of school is mastery of material, but in those age groups it is definitely not all of it.

I agree with that myself, saying so as a former math teacher and as the band kid who always sat first chair without actually practicing her clarinet at home (save on rare occasions) because she was always playing piano for lessons instead.

Besides, in my own opinion, homework is there to work out the kinks and to reinforce. If I had a student who grasped the main concept in class and they completed their homework, it tended to solidify their understanding and enable them to better explain the concept in question to their peers. I imagine this could translate over to other subjects as well.

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Fed Law
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quote:
Perhaps I have missed a large point of what you were trying to say. In which case, again, your input is desired and welcome.
Bando,

It is obvious that you don't want comments. You just want to "prove" that you are right and mindless homework excercises are somehow justifiable.

It is teachers like you that make kids grow up to remember school band as a tedious, boring, and worthless excercise.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
It is obvious that you don't want comments. You just want to "prove" that you are right and mindless homework excercises are somehow justifiable.

[Roll Eyes]

quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
It is teachers like you that make kids grow up to remember school band as a tedious, boring, and worthless excercise.

[Razz]

3 posts in two years. Too bad - think of the pearls of wisdom we must be missing!

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BryanP
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I think the intentions of the practice log are good but such a requirement sounds like the sort of thing that would make most students hate taking band.
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Katarain
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I think Card's questions to you were rhetorical in order to make the point that your requirement that students fill out a practice log does not actually have the results that you're going for. Your desired results are good. Your method for getting those results is faulty.

quote:
20% (roughly) comes from the practice logs
30% comes from passing playing competencies (here is where I grade based on their performance, NOT their obedience)
*snip*
Most students who don’t practice, though, usually don’t pass the competencies…

Here you are grading the students twice for the same basic thing. If they don't practice, they'll very likely fail the competencies. Failing the competencies is the logical consequence of not practicing. There is no need to lower a student's grade twice for the same thing, once for not practicing and once for the result of not practicing which is failing the competency. If they don't practice and do manage to pass the competencies, there's no need for them to practice anyway because they have already met the necessary standards.

Throw out the logs and simply continue to encourage your students to practice, especially encouraging those students who clearly need more practice. Take those 20% points that used to be dedicated to the logs and divvy them up amongst the other categories. The competencies being anonymous are already fulfilling the need for part of their grades to be based on objective data.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Here you are grading the students twice for the same basic thing. If they don't practice, they'll very likely fail the competencies. Failing the competencies is the logical consequence of not practicing. There is no need to lower a student's grade twice for the same thing, once for not practicing and once for the result of not practicing which is failing the competency. If they don't practice and do manage to pass the competencies, there's no need for them to practice anyway because they have already met the necessary standards.
This is standard for academic subjects as well. If you don't do your homework, you lose points for that, and if you don't do well on the test because you didn't do your homework, you lose points for that as well.
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Katarain
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Yeah. I never liked that either.
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Orincoro
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I'd buy into the "we at Hatrack are so smart, that we should be allowed to always ignore the rules that shouldn't apply to us," mantra if I didn't also know that homework did help me when it was good homework, even if I didn't want to do it. It's mostly wrongly applied and often tedious and often mostly useless, but not always. And this coming from someone who has said that homework had a seriously deleterious effect on his childhood, which is true.

The problem, I think, with not combining competency and homework scores (which, yes, are related), was something I witnessed first hand when studying in England. There, in many university classes, there are only a couple of assessed tasks. Actually, in one of my classes, there was but one assessed task for the entire semester, and it was one of just two classes I took. There were some students who spent the 3 days before the due date doing just enough to get a B on that one paper, which was 50%, or 100% of all the work that they were required to do for the whole term. I don't have to spell out the negatives in that equation. My opinion of the British University system is mixed. It is great for students who are self motivated, and who don't respond well to or benefit much from any form of assessment, but it is a certain kind of hell for students who are not as accountable- and that is a large group.

For most of my academic career, until I was at least 21, I was probably more in the latter category. Grades stopped mattering when I started caring about what I studied, and funny enough, my grades went down as my actual output got better, but mainly because the majority of the work I did in my last two years at university was awarded a unit-value far lower than the actual importance of the activities.

It was just a weird thing about being a music major, that the actual work was not compatible with the unit or grading system. So you'd take 20 units a quarter, say 2 English classes at 4 units each, plus 2 music classes at 3 units, and two independent studies at 1 unit each, and a studio class (lessons) at 2 units... the English classes taken together were less work than a single music class at 3 units, and the independent studies took more time and effort than everything else put together, for 1 unit and no grade.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Actually, in one of my classes, there was but one assessed task for the entire semester, and it was one of just two classes I took.
That's pretty much what all of law school is like. One exam. Some professors add class participation for maybe 10%, but most don't.

In seminars, it was usually one paper plus a bigger class participation grade. It was all strictly curved.

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Orincoro
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I think that flies at the post graduate level, but I was in class with 19 year olds. I happened to be 22, but I think that made quite a difference. If you're in law school, it's because you want to be a lawyer (one would hopefully assume), but if you're in University at 19, it's doubtful you know what you want to be.
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The Rabbit
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I played flute in the band in elementary, junior High and high school and I'm in complete agreement with Bando on this. My elementary teacher required us to keep a practice log. It was really simple. I think we only had to practice 10 minutes a day 5 days a week but we were younger. I did the practice, learned how to play and sat first chair.

My junior high teachers did not have a requirement for regular practice and being a typical junior high student with poor time management skills, my practice dropped off and eventually so did my playing. The first few years I continued to sit in first chair but by high school I was down to middle of the road. My senior year I dropped out of band to pursue other interests. I still play from time to time. Its been several years now since I've played my transverse flute but I do play several varieties of flutes regularly. I wish very much that I had been more disciplined in practicing during my youth. I think a homework requirement to practice would have been the kind of encouragement I needed to better manage my time and develop my abilities.

Music is the sort of thing you have to practice regularly just to maintain ability. I have several friends who are professional musicians and they would agree. The interesting thing is that several of them also slacked off during their junior high years and regret it.

It sounds to me like Bando's assignment is well designed. He doesn't require the students to repeat specific drills or practice a specific song once they have mastered it. Playing anything counts. I strongly suspect this motivates at least some students to play more and improve more rapidly.

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The Rabbit
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I'm curious. Those of you who find Bando's assignment unreasonable, how would you feel if a school team required members to do 25 minutes of exercises 5 days a week in addition to the team practice?

If you wouldn't find that objectionable, what do you see as the difference?

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scifibum
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quote:
I'm curious. Those of you who find Bando's assignment unreasonable, how would you feel if a school team required members to do 25 minutes of exercises 5 days a week in addition to the team practice?

If you wouldn't find that objectionable, what do you see as the difference?

I'd be against a school team in middle school or junior high. I'm not too sure about having them in high school either, but they aren't graded are they? Aren't they completely extracurricular? In that case the student's participation is voluntary and can be ended at any time without a grade penalty, so the coach can require whatever he wants. It's a different question.

I still maintain that "co-curricular" is probably not a great model for middle school age kids, and that something for which the kids are graded should be mostly confined to school hours with minimal homework.

It's just not fair to excise such a big chunk of a kid's life and hold him accountable via a grading system.

Extracurricular groups and activities are much more voluntary and shouldn't be subject to grades.

Edited to add:

Look at it this way. If math class required 20 minutes of homework five days a week from every child, that wouldn't make any sense. Because the goal of math class is to teach the kids a certain amount of math, not to make the kids as proficient as possible in math.

The goal for a middle school curricular band class should be to teach the kids a certain amount about music and how to play one or more instruments in a group. The amount taught should be tailored to what can be accomplished in class time. It should not be designed to make the kids good players.

Rabbit, your lament at the lack of assigned flute practice should be directed at your parents/guardians, not at the school. Why should the school provide the motivation required to reach excellence?

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la.SOMA
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i only skimmed through most of the responses but i still feel like i had to add my two cents:

art and performance should always be graded by the individual's own abilities.

i have a natural talent for music. piano, guitar, viola, cello, drums. anything i've ever set to play i've been able to excel at. i was never able to play in a school band or anything of the like due to the fact that i cannot read music. i can understand a teacher's need to set a standard of performance for everyone, i suppose, but there was no possibility of arranging a grade system for students that could play by ear.

i probably should have learned to read music if i wanted to play with the school band. but even at age 12 i was able to understand that i should have been graded by my ability and performance and NOT how i gained the ability to perform.

i wish i could have done as a number of my friends did: pretend to read sheet music in class and just learn by ear when they got home.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Rabbit, your lament at the lack of assigned flute practice should be directed at your parents/guardians, not at the school. Why should the school provide the motivation required to reach excellence?
I don't blame anyone but myself for my lack of music practice. I'm saying that a practice requirement from my Band teacher would have helped motivate me to practice more. Certainly its not the only thing but it would have been effective for me. As a teacher I know that the ultimate responsibility for learning always lies with the student, nonetheless it is my goal as a teacher to find ways that motivate students to do better. I'm saying that at the Junior High level, Bando's method would have been an effective motivation for me and likely many other students.

I think that those who imply it would make practice drudgery, are wrong and would turn people off to music are wrong. I was in bands where practice was required and bands where it wasn't. The bands that required outside practice were more rewarding to play with and retained more students.

quote:
I'd be against a school team in middle school or junior high. I'm not too sure about having them in high school either, but they aren't graded are they? Aren't they completely extracurricular? In that case the student's participation is voluntary and can be ended at any time without a grade penalty, so the coach can require whatever he wants. It's a different question.
In the schools with which I'm familiar, most of the athletic teams meet as a class that substitutes for the regular P.E. class and the participants receive a grade. However, the incentive to do things like out side of class work outs is general not the grade. If you don't do the work, you're kicked off the team and return to the regular class.

Band and orchestra are also elective classes. Students can and do drop regularly. In fact, one of the greatest challenges for band and orchestra teachers is retention. Furthermore, teachers generally have the option of kicking out uncooperative students from a band or orchestra class unlike most of the required classes.

There are a couple of things Bando didn't mention as reasons for requiring practice.

First: One of the goals of teaching music should be to teach people the skills and habits necessary to be a musician. Regular practice is an essential part of playing a musical instrument at any level. Playing an instrument isn't like learning to solve math problems. Muscles are involved and without regular practice you can't develop those muscles and retain their fitness. This is even more true of wind instruments where the muscles used in the embouchure aren't used in any other activity.

Second: One of the most valuable aspects of a school band is having the opportunity to produce music with an ensemble. That can't be done unless everyone in the ensemble has some level of competency. The more competent the group is, the better the experience is for everyone. If everyone practices, the group is able to learn more pieces and more challenging pieces rather than practicing the same simple things over and over again. By requiring the students to practice, Bando is creating an environment where everyone can have a more rewarding musical experience.

In this respect it is very much like a sports team and not like an English or math class where individual performance is all that matters. In a Band, the group must work together. If you decide you don't care if you fail your math test, it only affects you. But if you can't play your part in the band, it hold everyone back.

In my experience, when the band teacher required regular practice, playing in the band was an overall more rewarding and enjoyable experience because the band sounded better, we improved more rapidly and were able to perform more challenging pieces.

My senior year in high school, we got a new band teacher. I'd already decided not to play that year because between my 4 AP classes, debate and my other required classes there wasn't room in my schedule but I still had lots of friends in the band. The new teacher started off the year by having the students sign a contract to practice. My memory was that they were to practice 1 hour a day at least 5 days a week but I could be wrong. A few people dropped out, but those who stayed ended up loving it because they were able to do so much more with the ensemble. Over the course of the next few years the program actual grew rather than shrunk because the bands were simply more fun to play in when everyone practiced.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Look at it this way. If math class required 20 minutes of homework five days a week from every child, that wouldn't make any sense.

Actually, that's about what most math teachers assign. The fact that some students can complete it in less time and some in more does not transfer easily to music practice. How would you measure "enough" practice on any given night?
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Orincoro
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My math classes were usually more like an hour of homework, 4 days a week.

in fact, of the 6 or 7 classes I usually was taking in high school, there was often about an hour or a half hour of work to be done at night. It was a ridiculously heavy load- I don't know how I managed it.

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rivka
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That IS excessive.
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BandoCommando
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It's been a while since I've replied to anything in this thread, but I have been reading. Allow me to make a few responses:

quote:
It should not be designed to make the kids good players.
This makes no sense to me. Certainly there are many goals to my music classes, many of which are more important that developing good players, but one of my goals is to design my class in such a way that the players become good. And once they get good, I find ways to encourage them to be great.

MPH: many of the accepted excuses for not practicing are laid out in advance, so it's not the kids coming up with arguments about why they could/couldn't practice.

The Rabbit: your points about the additional benefits of practice are appreciated.

Music classes, like Rabbit said, are elective, and often defined as co-curricular. This term means that the class is both curricular AND extra-curricular. As such, many, many programs around the country do grade for things that don't take place during the day, such as logs, attendance at performances and rehearsals outside of school hours, etc. So in many ways, the extra requirements in time and money are very similar to those that people make for the sake of athletic activities.

The question had been raised by a couple people about why I grade twice for essentially the same thing (kids who don't practice also tend to do poorly on competencies). The problem with this idea is that it has a negative impact on the kids who perform fantastically on a regular basis when playing with a group, who practice with good habits, and who are dependable musicians... but freak out on playtests. My predecessor at this program had students perform their playtests in front of the class, ticking off on a piece of paper whenever a student made an error. Can you imagine the stress of performing under this kind of scrutiny?! While this needs to be overcome eventually in order for a person to perform by themselves in public, that kind of playing is NOT a priority for my instruction at this level, except for my more talented kids. My division of the grade into a percentage for practice and a percentage for the results of the that practice allow me to more fairly grade a larger variety of learners.

If you made a reply and I forgot to reply to you, it is not because I have no regard for you; it is simply that I'm on my lunch break and need to stop procrastinating and get ready for my next class! Sorry!

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
That IS excessive.

I nearly died several times from falling asleep at the wheel of my car. I used to fall asleep while standing up in my shower. Again, I don't have that kind of constitution now, and I have no idea how I managed it then. I suppose some things do change between the ages of 17 and 24.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by la.SOMA:

i have a natural talent for music. piano, guitar, viola, cello, drums. anything i've ever set to play i've been able to excel at. i was never able to play in a school band or anything of the like due to the fact that i cannot read music. i can understand a teacher's need to set a standard of performance for everyone, i suppose, but there was no possibility of arranging a grade system for students that could play by ear.

Huh. How often I have heard these tired words. First the proclamation that one is inherently talented, and second the admission that this image of oneself has been built in order to defeat the suggestion that one should reach into areas that are not as easy or as enticing.

quote:

i probably should have learned to read music if i wanted to play with the school band. but even at age 12 i was able to understand that i should have been graded by my ability and performance and NOT how i gained the ability to perform.

And what age are you now? Because by now you hopefully understand that music classes are also meant to teach you how music works... which unfortunately for you includes something you didn't want to do, like learning how to read it. That's not music's fault, that's decidedly your fault.

Just a what if... suppose your whole band had to take the time to learn all the music it ever played by ear? Would that be a fair workload for your teacher? Would a section leader then be in any position to help the other members work on the music? Would the musicians then have been prepared adequately to play with any number of groups outside of school. The answer to all of these is no. That's why notation was invented, because it makes things easier, not because people don't like it and it's hard at first.

Gah.

Music is a field occupied and created by inherently lazy people. If a musician needs a way of doing something, you can bet that the easiest way is the one that will win out in the long term... and yet notation has been around for nearly a thousand years. You can bet there isn't a better, easier way.

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Fed Law
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I'm curious. Those of you who find Bando's assignment unreasonable, how would you feel if a school team required members to do 25 minutes of exercises 5 days a week in addition to the team practice?

If you wouldn't find that objectionable, what do you see as the difference?

The problem is that Bando is making kids keep a practice log for no reason other than to keep a practice log - a log that is easy to fake and ignore.

If a kid doesn't want to practice, he can still get credit for the log by simply falsifying it. Bando says that he can tell if a kid has done this by the results when he assesses their performance, which means that the log requirement is just useless busywork - it accomplishes nothing other than add some administrative overhead to the process, which will make kids who like music but hate paperwork end up hating band.

It is extra work for no gain whatsoever. bando asked what OSC thought about this, apparently assuming OSC would support him. OSC pointed this out. Bando then started arguing with OSC, revealing that he didn't want OSCs opinion unless it confirmed his own.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
bando asked what OSC thought about this

True.

quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
apparently assuming OSC would support him.

There is no evidence for that assumption.

quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
Bando then started arguing with OSC, revealing that he didn't want OSCs opinion unless it confirmed his own.

Clearly untrue.
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BandoCommando
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It's very atypical for a student to falsify an entire log, though I can imagine that it is pretty typical for students to fudge here and there.

The thing is, having the logs does indeed provide most of my students with guidance toward what should be done. Even if they fudge a couple minutes here and there or claim that they spent all 25 minutes on scales when they really played scales for 10 minutes and messed around the other 15 minutes, at least they had 25 minutes of time with the instrument on the face. They also have an almost daily contact with the instrument. Since the training of muscle groups (and the coordination of these muscles with the corresponding parts of the brain) benefit from daily exposure in small doses more than they benefit from one huge weekly dose, this is a good thing.

It is possible to argue with someone to get more information. This is how conversations often work. I state my point of view, others state their own. The statements of others allow me to fill in more information of my own as a response. This encourages a back-and-forth conversation.

Now, had I said something like "Hm. Well I think you're wrong and poo-poo on your shoes," then it might be a revelation that I cared nothing for the opinions of others. The very fact that I'm replying to arguments with what are (in my opinion) carefully considered responses indicates, in fact, that I'm interested in continued discussion. My lengthy reply to OSC's post, IIRC, started with an expression of my desire to continue the discussion.

Many statements made by posters here have been thought-provoking, and have helped to clarify my thinking on the subject, which was, in fact, my intention all along.

On a side note, I was reading Mr. Card's description of a jazz rehearsal he attended. This was in one of his recent review columns. As I read, I tried to objectively evaluate my own classroom in comparison to the one he described.

Objective evaluation of oneself, I understand, is nearly impossible, of course. Nevertheless, our education courses in college encourage us to examine our teaching using quantitative measures in addition to qualitative - how many minutes were spent with the teacher talking versus how many had the kids actively involved in playing; what percentage of the class is listening actively (defined by eye contact and apparent attention); and so on.

While I freely admit that my classroom is not as picture-perfect as the one Mr. Card describes, I feel that I come very close to approaching that ideal. My first year as a teacher in my first job, I definitely had an adversarial relationship between myself and the students. (It didn't help that their previous director was arrested and serving a prison term for screwing around with his students.) So I know what it feels like to be at odds with one's class. Now, however, I feel that my students respect my opinion as a musician and as their teacher, enjoy getting better, and trust that by listening to me, their musicianship will improve.

But then, only a visit from Mr. Card to my classroom would confirm or deny the similarities. It's entirely possible that I'm deluding myself.

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Orincoro
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Or it's possible that the students of that particular teacher despise him and mock him behind his back. Not saying that's very likely, or that it would necessarily make him less of a teacher than you are, but OSC's outsider opinion is good for what it is- it is objective, based on one observation. You have to live with your style of teaching and your students all the time, so there's a certain benefit to non-objectivity.

A suggestion: why don't you post a contract for your students at the door of the room, where they must sign every day or week for the number of practice sessions they have done? Suppose you had seven lines per week for each person, and they only had to sign 4 or 5 of them, choosing the days to practice for themselves. Surely some students practice every day, and could sign all of the lines, whereas others might not practice, and would pick 4 days to sign off and lie, but they would have to commit to signing off on a lie every day, thus reminding them that they have not fulfilled their end of the deal.

This would add time with the students signing at the beginning or the end of instruction, but you could split up the list into sections and post them separately, or pass the list around at the beginning of each class, or once a week. Time might not matter for some students- as I can recall I spent a lot of non-class time in the music department anyway.

Anyway, there is a psychological advantage to the students not having to take the piece of paper home with them, and if I recall my highschool days with accuracy, that is a considerably preferable activity to filling out any kind of form.

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BandoCommando
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Orincoro that's a fascinating suggestion. I'm going to let that bounce around in my brain for a while.
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Orincoro
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You might even tweak it a little by offering bonus points for extra practice, and counting the number of times the students have signed the sheet. It seems like an easy opportunity to cheat, and it is, but the trick is, by offering the bonuses on the honor system, the liars who might fill in the extra lines for the bonuses would then not only be lying, but also cheating and stealing.

The effect could be this: some students actually work harder to earn the lines they fill in, and so that they can mentally justify themselves. If students don't practice and still "steal" the extra points, they will get nervous that you will notice they haven't been improving. Also, if you notice a student that hasn't been doing so well, you can check the number of lines and point out to them that they haven't been putting in the needed practice. Since it's public, students will have to justify their signatures to you, and to each other.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Fed Law:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I'm curious. Those of you who find Bando's assignment unreasonable, how would you feel if a school team required members to do 25 minutes of exercises 5 days a week in addition to the team practice?

If you wouldn't find that objectionable, what do you see as the difference?

The problem is that Bando is making kids keep a practice log for no reason other than to keep a practice log - a log that is easy to fake and ignore.
Do I understand correctly that you object only to the requirement to keep a log and not to the underlying requirement to practice 25 minutes a night?

quote:
If a kid doesn't want to practice, he can still get credit for the log by simply falsifying it.
This same thing can be said for all types of homework. Students who don't want to do it can fake it by copy the answers from someone else or getting someone else to do it for them. These days students can often cut and paste answers from internet site. Some parents will actually do homework for their kids. I can't see that a practice log which parents are required to sign is significantly different from any other homework assignment. Do you object to all graded homework assignments?

quote:
Bando says that he can tell if a kid has done this by the results when he assesses their performance, which means that the log requirement is just useless busywork - it accomplishes nothing other than add some administrative overhead to the process, which will make kids who like music but hate paperwork end up hating band.

It is extra work for no gain whatsoever.

First, I think you are grossly exaggerating the burden of keeping a log. For a student who is actually doing the practice, this simply amounts to taking 30 seconds or less at the end of practice to note how long you practiced and what you practiced. I can't see anyone who actually loves music, end up hating it because it required 30 seconds a day of paperwork. There is far more busy work than this involved in neatly copying your answers. Do you find it objectionable if teachers requires homework to be turned in a neat standard form? What if they require reports to be typed or even just neatly copied?

Second, you've clearly never been a teacher or you would realize that this log does serve a purpose, probably more than one. As a student I hated all graded homework assignments, but it didn't take me very long as a teacher to realize that if I based part of the grade on homework most students were far more likely to do it. In the US, even at the college level, even at the graduate level and certainly at the junior high level where bando teaches, the fact that most students will do better on exams if they do the homework isn't enough to motivate them to do it. Its sad but unfortunately it true.


quote:
bando asked what OSC thought about this, apparently assuming OSC would support him. OSC pointed this out. Bando then started arguing with OSC, revealing that he didn't want OSCs opinion unless it confirmed his own. [/QB]
You speculation about why bando asked the initial question and what he expected are just that -- speculation. Speculating that other peoples motives are tainted is uncompassionate and unjust.

[ December 08, 2008, 08:35 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Anyway, there is a psychological advantage to the students not having to take the piece of paper home with them, and if I recall my highschool days with accuracy, that is a considerably preferable activity to filling out any kind of form.
This might be true in any other area, but since students must already be carrying their instrument and music home with them, the added burden of carrying a practice log is unlikely to be even noticed.

quote:
A suggestion: why don't you post a contract for your students at the door of the room, where they must sign every day or week for the number of practice sessions they have done?
I think students are less likely to be honest signing a sheet posted or circulated than they are in a practice log for several reasons. First, its way to easy for kids to just sign the list everyday as its circulated without even thinking about it. The log can be falsified too, but it takes a bit more thought. Second, the log has the advantage of requiring a parents signature. This isn't a perfect but many parents at least won't be willing to sign unless the log is substantially correct. Third, these lists would be quite public and peer pressure is extremely strong in Junior High. This could make it very difficult for students to admit that they haven't practiced or depending on their friends admit that they practice more than others.

Finally I would note that this is Junior High, not High School, there is a big big difference. I think the list would work well for an ensemble in the Junior and Senior years of high school. By that time, students who are still in the music program are generally independent and self motivated. A clear communication of expectations and the frequent reminder provided by signing the list are likely enough to get results. Additionally, the older students are much more likely to resent being forced to keep a log and the requirement for parental oversight.

Bando, I am curious. In you original post, the concerns raised weren't about the required log, they were about the time commitment and your question was whether this was too much time to require of 8th graders. How do your students feel about keeping the log? Have there been complaints from students about the log? Complaints from parents about the log? Do you sense any resentment about the log requirement? Do you have students who are playing well and making progress as musicians but who aren't keeping a log?

It's one thing for us to sit here as adults who don't teach middle school and speculate about how we would have felt about such an assignment at that age. It is also mostly pointless. You are in the classroom and much more in touch with the real world of your 8th graders. Do they resent the requirement to keep a log?

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BandoCommando
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What instigated the original post was an email I got from a fellow teacher. They had received complaints from several parents that students were coming home with about 4 hours of homework on top of their expected band practice.

The teacher forwarded me the email from the parent, but also asked for clarification on what my expectations were. As it turns out the band parents are very much in support of the practice expectations, even these concerned with hours of homework. I spoke with the parent about Mr. Card's articles on homework, since I felt that they might be useful in her pursuit of improving the homework situation at our school. I became curious to know whether Mr. Card would see instrument practice as an exception to the guidelines he laid out for homework. (I now have my answer :-j) I didn't think to ask what he thought about requiring practice as a principle, but whether he thought the time of 25 minutes for 5 days was reasonable.

Students don't frequently complain about the log; at least not beyond the typical whining of many middle school students. Parents have never complained to me about the log. But then, my predecessor had instituted a similar practice log system before I got here, so the parents and students were already 'trained', so to speak. Additionally, the level of musicality increased significantly back when my predecessor took over; parents regard much of what he did as the works of a minor deity.

The old director's system required a flat 150 weekly minutes of practice. It didn't matter if this was done all at once, or was spread throughout the week in his grading criteria. But I know from research and from personal experience that practicing in infrequent yet large chunks is much less useful than frequent small chunks. Thus my system encourages near-daily practice in manageable doses. It was a little tough for students to stomach that they could no longer practice extra one week to make up for practicing less another week, but when I explained my rationale, they seemed to understand.

There is the occasional student who makes progress musically without doing logs. These kids also seem to really enjoy being in band and playing their music (they still play now that they are at the high school) and when I ask them about their logs, it's usually a matter of forgetfulness or laziness. One kid in particular practices for probably 2 hours a day (he loves percussion) and just...never turned in a log. He regards the low grade as just a natural consequence of neglecting his logs, but when I make a point to remind him about it, he does better for a few weeks. I pointed out to him, "you're already doing the hard work, now just write it down and turn it in!!"

Since this is an elective class, if students really didn't like the practice requirement, they'd vote with their feet.

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Kwea
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I hated logs, but I was usually either 1st or second chair (on several instruments over time in several different bands), so requiring me to practice was redundant. I always was walking around my house playing something, and loved doing it.

I was in a nationally recognized band in high school that toured several states and was on national TV 11 times in 3 years. We marched in NFL half time shows, national parades, and in 2 Bowl game parades in 4 years. [Big Grin]

Everyone started with an A. If you missed after school practices or performances, you lost points and it affected your grade. The band teacher had a very intense band program, with lots of requitred performances...but the parents and students had a mandatory meeting very year, and were informed of the major performances, as well as the training dates and times. It was fairly pricy...but if a parent couldn't afford to pay for the band camo and training, the band boosters had programs where the costs could be defrayed.


But there was a clear expectation that you WOULD be at EVERY POSSIBLE performance. If you missed something minor you lost half a grade each time. If you missed 2 or mroe performances, you failed unless you could provide proof of a family emergency.


It worked well for all of us, and I loved it.

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Orincoro
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My biggest accolades in high school musical performance were: singing the national anthem (both American and Canadian) at an SF Giants game in 2003 with my men's chorus (14 members), and being given the National Choral Award, which is offered to one member of every Tri-M school chorus for leadership and excellence.

My only award in College was a department citation, but many friends felt I should have won a composer's award as well- but alas, I did not.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
There is the occasional student who makes progress musically without doing logs. These kids also seem to really enjoy being in band and playing their music (they still play now that they are at the high school) and when I ask them about their logs, it's usually a matter of forgetfulness or laziness. One kid in particular practices for probably 2 hours a day (he loves percussion) and just...never turned in a log. He regards the low grade as just a natural consequence of neglecting his logs, but when I make a point to remind him about it, he does better for a few weeks. I pointed out to him, "you're already doing the hard work, now just write it down and turn it in!!"
I was a student like this. With me its very likely an ADD thing, although that term wasn't used when I was a student. Junior high was the worst. I had numerous classes where I got 100% on all the tests but was barely passing the classes because I rarely completed the homework.

Now as a teacher I still have very mixed feeling about how much homework should contribute to a students grade. I know that if i require homework be turned in a graded, many more students will actually do it and their performance on exams will improve. Furthermore, by basing part of the grade on homework and projects I give students multiple different ways to demonstrate that they are learning. This is particularly beneficial to those students who just aren't able to demonstrate what they know on exams. Nonetheless, I don't want to punish students who are able to learn well without completing and submitting all the assignments. The best compromise I've come up with is as follows.
1. I require homework to be turned in but it is generally not a large fraction of the grade.

2. I offer a significant bonus to students who turn in every assignment (I don't accept assignments late unless there is major emergency). This is a good motivation for students to be consistent.

3. If a student gets an A on the comprehensive final exam (and sometimes term projects) they get an A in the class regardless of how they did on the homework, quizzes and midterms. If they can demonstrate they've mastered the material by the end of the semester -- I don't care what route they took to get there. In 15 years of teaching at the University level, I've only had one or two students who managed to get an A on the final but failed the homework but there have been one or two.

Maybe something like this could work well for the music class. You institute a policy where anyone who performs above a certain standard on the tests is exempt from the practice log. If you set the standard high enough, few students will risk not doing the log. But for those rare students who love music but for whom keeping and submitting the log is an onerous chore, it could be a great boon.

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PSI Teleport
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The thing that ticked me off about the "mandatory daily practice" that my band teacher gave me was that it was so poorly monitored. The other flutes never bothered with it; they left their flutes at school and never got called on for not doing the mandatory practice. However, accidentally leaving your instrument at home would give you a HUGE mark-down on your grades. The rest of our grades were based only on "participation", and very marginally on graded performances. As a result, I went from first chair to last chair (chairs were based on overall grades) in one day because I left my flute at home, and the other kids who never practiced at all weren't penalized. I've never gotten over that, and I never took my flute home again for practice.
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