Since I began working on my Master’s Degree at VanderCook, I’ve given a lot of thought to audiation, hearing pitches mentally. The Orff Level 1 certification class during the summer of 2008 was where I began to understand better how the concepts applied to teaching singing. In previous years of teaching general music, my focus had been teaching new music by rote, with a little bit of notation understanding. Now my focus has changed to teaching students to listen to pitches intently.
One of the pitfalls I experienced before the Orff class was that I ALWAYS sang with the students. I had heard in previous classes that I shouldn’t, but I’d never forced myself not to. I wanted to hear the music correctly! I didn’t always like what I heard when I listened to the students! However, after MUCH practice, I’ve learned to stop singing with them and really listen. I’ve found that when I do that, it gives me a chance to think about how to help them with their own listening and matching pitches. I’m doing a better job of using formative assessment!
The problem for me continues to be transferring that formative assessment to a meaningful grade. I know many other music teachers do this effectively. Another music teacher in my district showed me Google Forms for assessment at the ICE conference. I must learn how to use that! With my iPhone, I could incorporate it relatively easily. As with all new (for me) processes in teaching, it takes time to get it going. But I digress. Audiation…
As I’ve concentrated on listening to students rather than singing with them, I’ve noticed something: I’m modeling how to listen and think! I now try to point out how to listen by exaggerating my “thoughtful facial expression.”
I think my efforts are beginning to pay off. A few weeks ago, a third grade girl requested to sing in front of the class. She didn’t sing with a CD at all, but sang a current Taylor Swift song with great pitch and rhythm. I could tell she was hearing the music accompaniment and pitches in her head. She even sang the key change correctly! It’s very possible she could have done that before I started teaching the way I now do. However, I was able to use her singing as an example of audiation (hearing music in your mind and matching it) with the other students in the class. I asked them, “Were you able to hear the accompaniment in your mind while she waited for it to continue singing?” I could see them thinking about it as they nodded their heads!
One more compelling example for me of the effects of modeling is the one boy who didn’t match pitch at all last year as a first grader. He comes from a family of…I’ll use the modern vernacular…athletic jocks! 🙂 I’ve noticed that even though he didn’t match pitch well (notice the past tense) last year, he always pays attention and thinks about what I say. You know that thoughtful look on a student’s face. A few weeks ago, I walked by him while the class was singing, and he was matching pitch in the correct range for a boy his age!!! Yesterday, I confirmed by singing near him again. Is my modeling and teaching having an effect or would he have reached that stage regardless? I’m not certain of the answer. Part of the problem is I didn’t listen closely enough in earlier years because I was too busy singing myself! I like to think this new (for me) way of teaching is paying off.