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I recently posted my classroom tour video and blog post (you can check out the video here or the blog post here). I also posted pictures on my Instagram account. Throughout all of this, I got a lot of questions about different areas in my room. Some of those questions included:
- Why do you have standards and I can statements up?
- Do you have to use anchor charts?
- You HAVE to have interactive bulletin boards?
- What the heck is a data wall?
Now, the short answer to these and other similar questions is that I have these things because I am told that I have to have these things in order to comply with my district’s standards based classroom requirement.
So what exactly is a standards based classroom?
Standards based classrooms have two different components– they have a classroom component and also a lesson component. We will get into both of those down below.
Now, you may not need to have a standards based classroom. I understand that this blog post will not resonate with everyone. But when I was told that I had to have a standards based classroom, and that what I previously had did not cut it, I could not find ANYONE talking about a standards based classroom in music. So here I am, talking about a standards based classroom in music. So that you will not be totally lost.
I am basing this post off of what I have learned about in Georgia. You may have different requirements in a different state.
Along with this blog post, I am putting up a FREE standards based classroom checklist in my free resource library. To get access, you will need to sign up here so that you can get the password. I will also send you exclusive tips, tricks, and lesson round ups each week to help you even more!
What is the point of a Standards Based Classroom?
A standards based classroom is just a fancy way to say that you are focusing your instruction, as well as your decor, on the standards. This way, you are focused on what you are teaching, and your classroom reflects that. Students should know what they are learning, have examples of it (in anchor chart or student work form), and be able to reference materials. They should also know where they stand in relation with the standards (how well they are doing) without making them feel singled out.
Don’t worry. We will get into the nitty gritty right now.
What are the components of a standards based classroom?
Standards, I Can Statements, Schedules
Standards, I can statements, and schedules are probably the first things that popped into your mind when I said standards based classroom. For every lesson, you should have your standards posted. This shows the kids what you are working on. You should also have I Can statements or Essential Questions posted– this is basically the main theme of your lesson. If students are going to learn ONE thing, then what would it be?
I actually find these really hard, because in music, our standards are things like “singing” and “playing instrument” and “moving to music” and “describing music” and I’m like… we are doing all of those things.
For the purpose of your standards based classroom, just pick one that is your MAIN focus.
You should also have a schedule up, so that your students at least know how much time they have in your classroom. To have a perfect standards based classroom, you should really have a schedule for each class, but I have a funky schedule, and I finally convinced our academic coaches that that was not going to word for me.
Next up is examples. Students need to know what to do and how to do it. There are a few different ways that you should show your examples in your classroom.
A word wall is necessary, of course. This is just a dedicated bulletin board space with vocabulary words. I have seen people order them by alphabet or by concept. The main difference between a standards based classroom and a normal classroom, however, is that the words go up AS YOU LEARN THEM. So your word wall should not be full the first week of school. If you noticed in my classroom tour, mine is nearly empty, because the first week of school, we were reviewing. Each lesson, I add more and more to the word wall (If I remember……)
Secondly, you have anchor charts. Anchor charts are basically posters that you print or make that show students what to do or how to do it. Ideally, anchor charts are made with your class and are specific. Teaching music, however, that is not always a possibility (because I am not making five different anchor charts for first grade). So you can make them, or you can even get student input into what to put on them. I sometime laminate my anchor charts so that I can do them with the students with expo markers.
Student work should also be up in or outside of your room. It should be graded, and have commentary as to whether or not the students met the standard. Yes, I am aware that that is a lot. I did not come up with this, I am just relaying messages.
In a standards based classroom, there should be spaces for students to work independently, in groups, or in partners. Now, to be honest, my students just sit on the floor.
But technically, that qualifies. We have assigned seats for independent work, I separate them to different carpets for group work, and partners sit around the room.
SoI wouldn’t stress about this one– just think through if your room is conducive to all of those things.
Side note: Someone posted on Instagram asking if it was ok to put students into rows instead of the groups they had the students in currently. She said they were way too chatty. The answer to that is YES. When you decide where students will sit, think about what message that sends to them. If you have them at tables looking at each other, it sends the message that they should collaborate– it does not send the message that they should sit quietly and look at the teacher. If you want them to sit quietly and look at the teacher, then they need to be facing wherever you normally are.
Data walls are probably the least helpful thing in music, if we are being honest.
Standards based classrooms have data walls so that students know where they are in terms of the standards…. AKA, how are they doing on the standardized tests. Yeah. Don’t get me started.
In my county, we don’t take any standardized tests for music (yay!), so this has been a challenge. Through the years, I have talked with my (4) different academic coaches to come up with different ideas that would be conducive to having 750 students. Here are a few things I have tried:
- An “I can keep a steady beat” or “I can use my singing voice” chart. I just wrote teacher’s names on pieces of paper, and as my kindergarteners showed these skills, I added their names to it.
- Recorder karate– or piano karate or whatever. I just printed out some charts from PowerSchool and checked off different skills as my fourth graders passed their piano tests.
- Pie charts: I do give pretests/posttests in my class (but I make them myself). At the beginning of the year, I print out pie charts that show the percentage of the students in the class that are approaching/meeting/exceeding standards. Hypothetically, I update this mid way through the year but… that has never actually happened..
This year, I think I am going to try a modified version of the pie charts. I will get back to you if that works out.
Standards Based Classroom Lessons
We are not going to go super deep into the lessons in a standards based classroom, we will talk a bit about it. The components include:
- Opening: During the opening, the teacher should introduce the standards and the learning targets, and help students access prior knowledge.
- Transition: Guided student practice of the concept.
- Work session: Students work independently or with a small group. Teacher monitors, assists, and assesses students.
- Closing: Formally or informally assesses students. Summarizes progress.
That is a lot of educational words.
I music, that might look totally different than in other classes. Let’s have an example. Let’s say we are working on quarter note and barred eighth notes in first grade. A practice lesson might look like this:
- Opening: Students sing the song Tick Tock and perform actions with a partner (this would be the “hook”). Afterward, the teacher reminds students of ta and titi. They talk about how ta is one sound and titi is two sounds. The teacher “figures out” the rhythm for the first line of the song, then asks students to assist in figuring out the rhythm of the rest of the song.
- Transition: Students get popsicle sticks. The teacher shows how they can use popsicle sticks to make ta and titi. They practice making rhythms from the song along with the teacher.
- Work session: Students work independently or with a small group to figure out the rhythms of another song they are working on with their popsicle sticks. The teacher walks around and assists if needed.
- Closing: Teacher could dictate rhythms for the students to notate with their sticks. Alternatively, they could fill out an exit ticket in which they write the rhythms of a song on the paper for the teacher to assess.
Not so scary, right?
Now, again, I would not stress too much about this for music class. In music, we are always working on multiple things, so it is not as conducive to having one thing. But throughout your units, make sure that you are following this model– even if it happens on four different lessons.
Need some more info? I got mine from the GA Department of Education. It talks about standards based lessons here.
Do you have to have a Standards Based Classroom? Let us know in the comments!