Even though Day #1 went pretty well, I really started getting nervous over the past couple of weeks. What if this doesn't work? What if I give my students this freedom and it ends up being a bust? How much instructional time will I have wasted with them then? What if they can't come up with any ideas? What if they think this is stupid? I really had to take a deep breath and let go of my fears...and the control I'm used to having in my classroom!
What we Did:To begin with, I sent my students to several websites to explore ideas to push their thinking about what "music-related" could be. That is the one parameter I am putting on their projects - they have to relate to music somehow. One website was noteflight.com, with composition software. The next was gym.pencilcode.net, which uses code to play music. I directed my students to a video or one of my previous students playing an instrument that he had wired up (I don't know exactly how he did it, but it lit up and played notes on a touch sensor), gave them some questions to think about if they were stuck, and finally asked them to fill out a Google Form letting me know what they were thinking about the project.
In Their Words:Excerpts from the Google Form (very representative of the rest of the responses that didn't make it onto the blog):
"For this project I am not really set on an idea yet. But I am very excited. This project will make me understand music more and go more deeply then just playing the violin. I feel a little worried just because it is going to be such a big project but i think we will have enough time to really make it a good project."
"I feel really good about this project. I am really excited to try something new and do something more independent."
"I'm getting very exited for this!!!!!"
"I do not have an idea for this project yet. I am feeling really nervous about this project, because I have to have a solid idea before I can feel I do anything. This project could help me accomplish my musical goals by giving me a chance to try out different things in a learning environment, which you can't normally do."
"I think the Force Project is exciting but it is little bit scary. It's scary because in school we've never been able to choose what we want but that makes it really exciting at the same time."
"This will be an exciting adventure! I am very excited to test my limits and learn a new instrument. And set high goals for my self."
"This project excites me because I really want to learn In a group with my friends because I feel more supported and confident."
"This project makes me excited, because I can really choose my own thing, and can learn other things that we might not learn in class every day. However, this makes me a little nervous, because I'm not totally sure what I want to do yet, and I'm not sure the end result can be as good as I want. I am mainly very excited for this project, and can't wait to do something new."
"This project is really scary to me because when I have mostly unlimited options I can´t choose what to do."
"I am feeling very excited because I now can do something that I came up with and not the teacher explaining."
They are buying in! Although there is some fear there, the vast majority of my students expressed their excitement for the chance to direct their own learning and try something new. A lot of them have a pretty good idea of what they want to learn about as well.
In a performance-based class, deciding to take a day away from rehearsal every week felt like a huge risk. I know that there will continue to be ups and downs in the journey, but for today, I am basking in the joy of seeing students open themselves up to new possibilities and view school as a place of learning, and not just grades.