My face is falling, my face is falling!

After only one session this week due to a busy schedule and being out of town for 4 days, I realized that I need to work on building my face muscles up to sustain a good embouchure. After about 20 minutes of practice, I start to struggle with my breathing, the air is escaping through the sides of my mouth, my cheeks are inflating like a blowfish, and there is inevitable squeaking. All of these are signs of poor embouchure due to my face falling or my face muscles weakening. The video below helped me realize that this is something that needs work and it can be done in slices. This means taking my practice time and slicing it into four manageable pieces with short breaks in between. This will allow me to give my face a rest but also build up my stamina and strength.

I also feel that I need to practice more often, but perhaps in shorter periods. I wonder if working in smaller chunks more often throughout the week would work better to help build my stamina and strength.

Aside from this realization, I’ve been very happy with my ability to label the notes on sheet music (however, I did notice an error during my practice session this week while playing). I had my daughter look over my work, for which she exclaimed, “This is weird. I’m the teacher correcting your work as a student. It seems backward.” I know that when I continue to practice labeling, it will help me eventually be able to read notes without them having to be identified. I actually tried this with my daughter’s music book, which isn’t labeled, but I struggled to be fluent while reading and playing. I’ll keep plugging along.

I have started to attempt playing several songs with minimal difficulties. I’m finding that I’m still needing to use my metronome app on my phone (courtesy of Soundbrenner) to keep the beat. I tend to be eager and speed up while playing, which results in more of a 4/8 time signature than 4/4. The songs demonstrated in the video below consists only of the notes E, D, & C but there is a mixture of whole and half notes, which takes some getting used to.

Again, I brought in my daughter as the expert to help give me feedback as I felt I wasn’t sounding right. She confirmed my progress and then showed me up by playing songs that not only consisted of the 8 notes used by the left hand, but she is starting to play note B with her right. After watching her play, I started to feel less progressive. It took me right back to Matteo‘s comment that in his experience, adults are slower learners. I’m going to hold that comment tight and use it to justify my progress compared to my daughter’s.

This week’s goals:

  1. Play more often in smaller time chunks that are sliced to allow for my facial muscles to have a rest yet build stamina.
  2. Play songs that incorporate all eight notes played by the left hand (A-G).
  3. Continue to practice labeling notes (A-G) on sheet music to build fluency in recognizing and reading.
  4. Attempt to play songs without the use of labeled notes using only notes C, D, & E.

Open School BC

During our grouping’s exploration of an Open Education Resource during class last week, my group randomly picked MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching). Subconsciously, I think this was because it shares the name of a fine wine. However, after some initial exploration, it didn’t leave me with a smooth finish of satisfaction like a bottle of merlot does. We compared it to the likes of shopping at Value Village due to having to tediously search through many options of a selected topic to find something of potential value. I also noticed that this resource is mainly geared towards those in secondary or post-secondary education. This was confirmed by WikiEducator for which they state that MERLOT is “designed primarily for faculty and students of higher education”. For this reason, I went on to search for an OER that was more geared towards my area of interest, elementary education.

However, much like Loreli identified in her post on OER’s, there is a lack of these resources for primary educators. To search for more relevant OER’s related to elementary outcomes, I typed into Google “open education primary school resources”. The first two that were listed were OER Commons and Open School BC. Allison had previously shared with me the Open School BC website when we had looked at OER’s earlier this term, so I thought I’d check it out for myself.

Making education and training effective is what we’re all about. We design and develop solutions for specific learning situations or needs – from math resources for first graders to online training for the workplace.

Open School BC

As learned through their Explore Our History link, this Open Education resource is a continuation of the printed correspondence courses offered to students in rural BC areas started in 1919. First off, the site offers public sector online courses, most for a cost of $45 (listed below).

Open Education BC Online Courses

However, the section on this website that was most useful to me was the K-12 resources. Within this link, there are four areas:

  • K-12 eTextbooks
  • Adult Education eTextbooks
  • Open Course Resources
  • Teacher Support Resources

Upon going through the eTextbooks, I was immediately downloading ALL (yes, all) of the resources here. Unfortunately, there isn’t a large amount of them and they primarily only pertain to Math and ELA (not all grade levels but could be used in all grades). I will be sure to share some of these with my colleagues.

Open School BC eTextbooks

Next, I easily navigated to the Open Course Resources. Here, learners can study Grade 10 to 12 non-credit course resources. To get full credit for them, they need to register for each online course through a BC school. There are two options for online courses: Access Free Courses or Professional Learning for educators. I decided to see what the free courses were all about and I registered (as a guest) in English 10.

It was well laid out and easy to navigate through. However, I was disappointed to see that it required some resources to be acquired by the learner (ex. Sightlines 10). On the plus side, there is the option to print the lesson resources for those that prefer a hard copy to use.

Last, but not least, I took a stroll through the Teacher Support Resources, which were simply a list of websites for both teachers and students that are categorized under specific topics.

Now for my Siskel & Ebert OER review, but instead of thumbs, I’ll use a 5-star rating!

It is user-friendly?

The site itself is very simple and easy to understand how to use. It wasn’t overwhelming like some other sites that I explored. The descriptions of each section were brief but succinct to allow for easy navigation.

Is it well-organized?

The organization was spot on with the use of menu links at the topic to help navigate to the sections of interest.

Are the resources typically of high-quality?

The resources that I accessed ranged from print and use resources, online references, to full course content. The pdf’s were extensive and provided parent, teacher, and student-specific guidance with accompanied activities.

Is it easy to navigate/search?

Due to the simple organization, it was easy to navigate and look for available resources. There is a catalogue of resources to search through but again, because the resources are so limited, it didn’t offer much for my inputted search topics.

Is it visually appealing?

It is not visually overwhelming with visual and text overload. The use of drop-down menus for specific topics also allows for easy viewing and usage.

Would it be valuable to educators that you work with?

Yes, but it is not a one-stop-shop OER. As much as it says K-12 resources, it really only focuses on middle years and secondary content.

All in all, this website is worth a peruse if you are middle years or high school focused. Let me know if you find value in it.

Establishing an End Goal

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

Bill Copeland

I have started to realize this week that I need an end goal to work towards by the end of this semester with regard to my learning process with the clarinet. I feel I have experienced some highs and lows in my journey, but I know this is expected and is part of the whole process. However, what is it that I’m trying to work towards exactly? Matteo has me thinking based on his comment on last week’s post, “I had a few adult students, and I found that they really learned things sort of differently (lol, to be honest, they were slower learners compared to most kids)”. Learn differently and slower learners is what really popped out at me (no offense taken). So based on that, here is what I’ve concluded that I would like to be able to do by the end of this term:

Ultimate Goal
Be able to play at least 5 different songs using my labeled sheet music that incorporates only the notes A-F (notes played with the left hand only).

Steps to Achieve Ultimate Goal
1. Be able to fluently label notes A-F on sheet music.
2. Be able to efficiently identify and play quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes in a 4/4 time signature
3. Be able to “master” my embouchure, articulation, and breathing.

I’m sure this may seem very basic for most people, but I feel that with my short time limit, these goals are realistic for me. I’ve come to realize that labeling notes is drastically different than being able to identify and play them at the same time. As I practiced (without labeling), I found that I was able to catch on to a song quicker by listening to the notes and tune rather than reading them as I learned. By taking out the step of reading notes and having them labeled, I was able to focus more on keeping the beat, especially with the incorporation of half notes, whole notes, and rests. Essentially, listening to a book over and over again is easier for me to learn and remember than reading individual words. I feel like I am a hypocrite in my own profession.

Insult Hypocrite GIF
Retrieved from Giphy

Moving on, here is a sample (Countdown) of my progress this week.

I sent this sample to my niece, my new teacher, to get her help with a few things I was having frustration with.

Please disregard our inconsistent use of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization throughout our conversation.

I know her advice on spending more time on learning theory is important, but time is of the essence and theory has to take a back seat to my goals listed above. So, I was able to find a pdf version of a Standard of Excellence Book, for which I printed off some pages and have been using to label notes on.

I’ve noticed that I’ve gone away from my Udemy.com course that I was very excited about. I think this is because it went way to fast for me and didn’t allow me enough time to practice the introductory notes like the Measures of Success book has that my daughter uses. Although it was exciting to think that I could go from beginner to pro in 5 hours, I only made it through three sections out of the ten offered before I became overwhelmed. I also don’t have the time to dedicate to this course as I feel you need to be following it regularly.

All in all, I feel better knowing I have an end goal and feel good about getting there!

Experiencing Progress

Well, I’ve brought in an expert this week, my talented 14-year-old niece. I couldn’t be more proud of her for not only setting aside time in her busy schedule to work with me (and my daughter) but having the patience to fine-tune some of the issues I have been experiencing. As Brooke identified in the comments of my last post, it is sometimes easier to have an “instructor present to help you through the struggles or to ask questions and receive immediate feedback.” I couldn’t agree more with this for my situation.

First off, she gave me praise for a number of things that I have been doing correctly, which helped build my confidence (proper fingering, posture, and rhythm). Then she gave me a few tips to help with my embouchure, breathing, and tonguing. However, the most useful tip was learning how to better breath into the instrument. I was trying to blow down into the reed rather than across it through the center of my lips. I also put a bit too much pressure on the reed which restricts the ability for the air to pass through, and in turn, forces me to have to work harder to blow air past the reed. What a relief!

Lastly, she became my ultimate musical hero when she explained to me how to read sheet music. I knew this had to take this on as there aren’t any tablatures (from what I could find) for clarinet as they are usually meant for stringed instruments. So alas, I had to dive into reading sheet music. To my amazement, there is a way to remember both the notes on the lines and notes in the spaces. For notes on the lines, the following acronym can be used:

Every
Good
Boy
Deserves
Fudge

Retrieved from Teaching Ideas

There are also other versions such as Every Good Boy Does Fine, or Every Good Boy Deserves Fun. I’ve chosen the first one as I instantly visualize a cute little chubby kid indulging in chocolate.

For notes within the spaces, it spells the word FACE.

Retrieved from Teaching Ideas

With these two ways to memorize reading notes, I just need to put in the time so that it becomes natural and easy. Therefore, I searched out some resources to help me practice. One resource I already had is the Standard of Excellence book that my daughter uses each day. I’m starting to understand it’s value in the step-by-step introduction and practice of specific notes in order. There are a number of small numbers that I can play and practice. My plan is to dive into this more this week.

With these two ways to memorize reading notes, I just need to put in the time so that it becomes natural and easy. Therefore, I searched out some resources to help me practice. One resource I already had is the Standard of Excellence book that my daughter uses each day. I’m starting to understand it’s value in the step-by-step introduction and practice of specific notes in order. There are a number of small numbers that I can play and practice. My plan is to dive into this more this week.

I also came across a note reading Mad Minute! How awesome is that!?! Several Mad Minute test competitions with my daughter and we’ll both come out victorious (hopefully).

Retrieved from Denise Gagne

Lastly, I came across this website for kids (or beginner adults) called Music Play I’ve set up an account and have found a few activities that allow me to practice more memorization of reading treble clef sheet music.

Well, with this week’s sessions focused on fixing a few flaws and finding some good resources to help me read music, I think I have my week of practicing set up for me.

Stay tuned!

Open Education

We have been asked to look into open education and the culture of sharing. I’ve always been one to share and collaborate with my colleagues as this is what teaching professionals naturally do to help each other out. As a beginning teacher, I gained so many ideas on how to plan, what to plan, how to instruct, how to manage students, how to adapt, how to engage, and how to assess. Fortunately, the things I have learned have been a good foundation for building my teaching practice. There have been some failures (lots!) and some successes (lots!) along the way, but my approach to teaching is always evolving as our world changes. I have witnessed the emergence of technology and how it can be utilized to benefit my job as well as student learning.

I came across a pros/cons list from the University of the Pacific, which examines Open Education Resources and Evaluation Methods. Below is a summary of what I learned:

Benefits of OER’s

  • Expand student access to learning
  • Easy to distribute universally with little or no cost
  • Can supplement and enhance textbooks and lectures with multimedia material
  • Quick circulation and availability of material may increase the timeliness and/or relevance of the material being presented.
  • Can substantially reduce the cost of course materials for students
  • Allows exposure of faculty research interests and expertise, which may enhance student and faculty recruitment efforts
  • Allows alumni to stay connected to the institution
  • Resources can be improved quickly through direct editing by users or through solicitation and incorporation of user feedback
  • Teachers can take an existing resource, adapt it for a class, and make the modified version available for others to use
Holland'S Next Top Model Yes GIF by RTL 5

Constraints of OER’s

  • Allows any user to create an account and post material which means some resources may not be relevant and/or accurate
  • Lack of human interaction between teachers and students through discussion and personal feedback.
  • Many OER’s are only available in English
  • Not all resources are culturally appropriate for all audiences
  • Difficulties accessing due to technical issues with a slow or erratic internet connection.
  • Some OER’s may require software that students don’t have and that they may not be able to afford
  • Intellectual property/copyright concerns because all content put online must be checked to ensure that it doesn’t violate copyright law
  • Sustainability issues due to creators of material not regularly updating their OER’s or ensuring that it will continue to be available online.
Disappointed Despicable Me GIF

I feel that this list is primarily based on secondary and post-secondary education, but many of the same restrictions on students would apply to educators as well, trying to access resources through open education websites and apps.

As I researched more about open education and the culture of sharing, I jotted down some personal thoughts that I’d like to expand on.

I couldn’t imagine NOT sharing resources with colleagues and keeping all of my ideas and resources to myself.

After viewing Dean Shareski’s video titled Sharing: The Moral Imperative, he brings up a good question; “Why would we hoard good teaching and learning? Shouldn’t we be a part of the sharing process?” I feel that education is a culture of sharing. We are the inspiration to the youth of tomorrow and have the opportunity to influence and arouse interest and creativity in our students. Open education allows this to happen.

Retrieved from David Wiley

If I can make it easier for others, I find that meaningful and valuable.

I can see why some may be reluctant to share what they have created. It can be scary to put yourself out there for others to critique your hard work. Kyla has indicated that she is “very hesitant to share anything that I have developed”. Amanda has also brought up some good questions, similar to what Dean Shareski mentioned in his video.

“The moment we focus on protecting our work we are at some ways the antithesis of a teacher… education is built on sharing”

Dean Shareski, 2010

I’d like to share and gather ideas and resources from others that are not direct colleagues that I’ve worked with. Where do I start?

I use Google Drive to share a lot of my resources as well as collaborate with other educators on it. I do access a ton of free resources from a former teacher, now stay-at-home mom, Anna, on her website titled the Measured Mom. I’ve also used Khan Academy as well as Super Teacher Worksheets (limited access to free resources; need to subscribe for full access). I’ve heard of MOOC’s, but don’t fully understand their function and purpose. Do you have other options that I should explore?

All in all, I’d like to leave you with one last thought. With increasing access to OER’s, does this lend itself to a rise in homeschooling? I’d love to hear your input.

Alison Brie Omg GIF

Reading is hard!

This week I reviewed previous lessons I had learned last week.  This included practicing notes E, F, & G and combining them with and without the use of 4 count rests.  I feel that my fingering of each of these notes is relatively decent, but I’m still struggling with how to be comfortable with my articulation and breathing.  It’s amazing how a couple of days off in between sessions sets you back and makes me feel like I’m stuck in a rut.  

stuck rooster GIFCredit: Giphy

To get another explanation of how articulation works, I found a YouTube video series created by Sean Osborn.  He has created a set of 10 short videos to help beginners become familiar with the playing clarinet.  I watched both the video on breathing and articulation and learned some new things that I didn’t learn from my Udemy course.  One of these new learnings was understanding that one should use “the minimum amount of tongue, moving the minimum amount of distance, touching the minimum amount of reed.”  To demonstrate this more, he was able to use a medical camera to get a video of the inside of this mouth to demonstrate his incredible ability to articulate (tongue) while playing.  Check it out (start watching at 3:40 into the video clip below)!

Apparently while trying to achieve proper articulation, there is something called “anchor tongue”.  This means you tongue the reed with the middle of your tongue instead of the tip and then rest the remainder of your tongue on the back of your teeth.  I don’t know if I have this problem, but I would love a medical camera to assess the situation for me if anyone is willing to lend me theirs.

Back to my Udemy.com course.  After I reviewed some lessons, I moved on to learning intervals, also known as scale in thirds (according to my Udemy.com course instructor).  I was taught how to transition from the lowest note (C), skip a note (D) and play (E), go back to (D), skip a note (F) and play (G), and so on.  This was more difficult for me as I tried to read the sheet music provided as a reference.  I have not spent enough time becoming familiar with sheet music to be able to play six different notes on it in a musical fashion.  However, I was given some sound advice in our last class discussion about our projects from my dear friend Brad Raes, for which he suggested that I don’t spend too much time learning how to read music.  Because he’s a smart guy, this week I decided to simply watch my instructor as she placed her fingers on the instrument instead and mimicked her actions.  Going back and repeatedly practicing allowed me to memorize the fingering as well as the sounds as I put them into practice.  I know this isn’t proper, but I  much preferred it.  Rather than learning to read music, I may have to spend some time translating the notes to letters to make it easier for me to read and follow.  Does anyone know if there are tablatures for clarinet like there are for guitar?

Here is a recording of my attempt at doing intervals solo, without the use of a metrinome or my online Udemy.com instructor.  You can tell that I still struggle with keeping a good breathe as I advance from note to note, especially at the end.  

I tried moving on to Section Four – Slurring, but didn’t get very far. This section introduces three new notes (B, A, and G), which required me to use my right hand. I’m not sure I’m ready for this as I feel I still need more practice with the first six notes that I’ve been practicing using my left hand. I may have to look for other resources to help get me more practice, such as the “Measures of Success” book that my daughter uses in school or other YouTube tutorials. Does anyone know of any other options I could explore? Udemy.com is moving much too quickly for me.

Flipgrid Review

I have decided to do a further investigation into Flipgrid and all it has to offer. Thanks to Matteo for his introduction and review of Screen-o-Matic, as this is how I decided to produce my post this week. Unfortunately, I was restricted to free versions of online video editing websites (WeVideo) that would only allow me very low-quality uploading (Clipchamp) of my over nine-minute video review, so I apologize.

In addition, I wanted to give you a pros and cons list of my findings during my Flipgrid exploration.

Pros:

  • It is 100% free.
  • Visually appealing.
  • Engaging for students, even reluctant ones.
  • Build student’s speaking and listening skills. 
  • Allows for student creativeness.
  • Student-to-student replies.
  • Quick, creative way to get formative assessment.
  • A different way for students to give output of information rather than through paper/pencil.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • Comes with an educator guide.
  • Option to view student videos prior to being posted. 
  • Great for parent involvement and communication.
  • It works for all subject areas.
  • Access to pre-made topics that other educators have created.
  • Accessible from anywhere using an internet connection.
  • Utilizes popular social media sites and apps (many that I just learned about through my exploration).
  • Great way to build a classroom community.
  • Ability to connect and collaborate with others around the world.
  • Parent consent sample letter available to use.

Cons:

  • There are so many options and possibilities that it can be overwhelming for educators.
  • Students could spend A LOT of time adding images, emojis, drawings, etc. which may not be relevant to the assignment.
  • Privacy concerns for sharing of information if the account is made public and shared with others (check with your school division for permission).

Overall, I was very impressed with this site and am excited to use it with other teachers that I support that have either not been exposed to it yet or who are afraid to try this type of integrated technology wizardry to enhance student learning.