Skip to main content

Writing Objectives

March 2016: I've been working with objectives for a few more weeks now. I did another Star Wars Crawl and noticed what works and what doesn't. Here is this week's objectives video. (No, I don't do one every week, but it's fun for me. Whenever I get another "aha" moment with objectives, I get so jazzed, I make a video.)

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm refining the whole process of objectives in my mind. Our school is using the book, Classroom Instruction that Works, as our professional development base text for the year. I still don't see a substantive difference between "know" and "understand." I don't think kids will know or care about it either, so I just don't do it. I ask myself...

What is the core skill area?
What specific skill will students explore in depth?
What activities will we do to exhibit that skill?

This week the answer are...

What is the core skill area?
What specific skill will students explore in depth? 
 Improvising melodies on repeated rhythms
What activities will we do to exhibit that skill? 
T-claps a single rhythm from a series of choices on the board. She does this four times in succession. Students have to name the rhythm.
S- volunteers can play a rhythm 4x and other students guess which one they did.
T-plays a single rhythm four times using tuned temple blocks, recorder, or Bass Xylophone. Students have to guess what the rhythm is. T-points out that the notes aren't always the same, but the rhythm is. "We're going to play with the notes, but keep the rhythm the same."
Each table gets a xylophone and the students rotate to play various rhythms in 4 measure songs.

Writing the learning objectives has forced me to eliminate a lot of the games and activities in my lesson in favor of games and activities more concentrated on a single skill. I'm honing my craft and tightening the practice. I feel more constrained in a way. I can't do a little of everything each lesson. Instead, I sing every lesson (not negotiable) and then concentrate on a skill area, trying to incorporate as many core skills as I can in the process.

How have you been writing objectives?
Are you frustrated by the jargon?
How do you get around that?

February 2016: A few years back, I wrote about essential questions: those unanswerable mysteries that fuel learning throughout life and inform our lessons. They were all the rage back then. No doubt, they will be again. But in my district, right now (2016), objectives are the thing.

So I looked into it and became more confused than ever. Objectives are:

  • in three parts
  • go from specific to very general
  • can remain the same for weeks and even months
  • start with--the student will be able to...the student will understand...the student will know, respectively.
I was perplexed. What's the difference between "understanding" and "knowing"? Where's the definition of those words? Aren't they synonyms? Is this just busy work in the latest edu-fad?

Let's start by answering that last question first. Yes, if you don't buy into the growth this new thinking will give you, this is the latest edu-fad. You can pay attention to it as urgently as you did essential questions or learning styles or Responsive Classroom. If you are burnt out, there isn't any inspiration in it at all. 


If you still have some flame of passion for your profession, these objectives can rekindle your deep thinking about lessons. It's important to realize that the latest edu-fads can be very helpful to your practice. The important thing is to:
  1. check that there is research to support the fad
  2. imagine the students' experience from implementation. Will they be less confused? Will they learn more? Will their learning be more durable?
What's the point?

Why are you taking my time for this music class? 

These are two, very important questions that your students ask themselves in your class. When you have established yourself in a school and students have varied experiences "having fun" in music class and "feeling successful" at the tasks they are set, the answers to these questions are very simple and almost universally understood. They may range from:

"I'm here to have fun."


"I just need to get by so I don't get in trouble...again."

There's also,

"This is the only thing I'm any good at,"


"I love doing this," as well. 

Have you noticed that NONE of these answers has anything to do with the actual subject matter of music? None of these reasons has to do with singing, literacy, creative movement, or playing instruments? 

So, do students not care about actual learning?

No, they care. They care very intently, probably even more than you do. They want to succeed, to meet and exceed expectations, to please you, and to make something beautiful with their classmates. But their primary need in your class is emotional. They need to know that they will be spiritually nourished in your class. That they:
  • will be safe, never bullied or forced to do anything they physically cannot do. 
  • will be accepted and liked by you.
  • will be challenged, but not without preparation. They need to know you will set them up for success.
I'm six months into my new job. It will be three or four years before the "kids are mine," and I can enjoy good assumptions from students entering my room. Each and every class, I have to reestablish my relationship with my students and the trust that I want to go with that. It's been tough, but it's also been very rewarding. Students have learned music reading skills they did not think they were capable of. They can read stick notation and improvise on the recorder and Orff instruments. I've been careful NOT to point out their accomplishments until they had the material down so well that it was second nature. Then I brought them back and showed them where they were in September. I showed them how far they've come, and they had real, deep pride in their achievements. 

So that brings me to objectives. If I write what I really want them to learn, that will intimidate them. They'll turn off and not even listen to me. If I had written my actual objectives in September, and gone over them BEFORE teaching the material, I can guarantee my students wouldn't be able to do what they can today. It would have been too scary. 

But I have to post the objectives. I have to clue students in. I have to, it's my district's new thing, and plus, the research shows that it works. 


So I'm embarking on a journey. For the next few months, I'm going to refine and specialize my objectives. I'm going to make them seem very doable. I'm finding that literacy lessons are the most universally successful. Perhaps this is because they are so consistent in the building. Only phys ed and music do movement for assessment, and only in music is the movement linked to sound and rhythm. Perhaps that explains why creative movement, the favorite lessons of my former, affluent students, are the least successful with my current students. The freedom is scary to them. They easily go too far and they know that that means failure. I need to dial-back my movement objectives. They cannot be age appropriate. They need to be more fundamental. Rather than creating 8-beat phrases of movement, my current students need to keep a steady beat with their peers. I need to do Kindergarten or first grade skills in much later grades because my students simply haven't had the experience. I need to do this without letting the students feel less-than. 

This is what I want:

The students will be able to sing "That's Right," "Abraham Lincoln," and "In the Wild" with appropriate expression. 

The students will understand that breath control, dynamics, timbre, and articulation are elements of singing that create the mood (feeling) of a song. 

The students will know how to sing expressively. 

That's a lot of words. I think it's too many words. I need simpler language, smaller words, and fewer of them. How about this? I have the list of songs/games/activities on the board, and students fill in the blanks in the objectives at the beginning of class. 

I will sing the songs ____________, _________________, and ________________ with the right feeling. 

I will understand how the way I sing creates the mood of a song. 

I will know how to sing songs appropriately. 

I like the "I" statements. I'll keep this post updated so it evolves with my understanding of these objectives. The essential question is, "What makes good singing?" or "How do I make music with others?" 

John Feierabend
Here is a creative movement set of objectives.

The students will perform a variety of John Feierabend and Phyllis Weikhart dances and use similar steps and movement to choreograph a piece of music in AB or ABA form. 
The students will understand how different movements depict different moods in music. 
The students will know how to match choreography to the form of music.

Too tough for my students. This needs to be broken down into the composition, form objective, a series of lessons/objectives having to do with swinging, jumping, expanding, etc in the Mary Joyce book, and at least three lessons where we as a group, choreograph songs together. In other words, this lesson is not possible this year. It would take at least 10 prep lessons. I don't have that kind of time this year. I need to start from the beginning. Perhaps I can try this choreography objective in 2018-19 school year? Well, I'll hint at it in 2017-18, but I'm not going to assume success until my current Kindergarteners are in third grade. 

This is more realistic. 

I will learn a new dance to a song in ABABA form. 
I will understand how the form of music and the form of the dance to go with the music are the same.
I will know two dances (last week's and this week's) by heart. 


Lee Ann said…
What about another education format? The workshop model? Are you familiar with this and is it successful in teaching with the Kodaly approach?
Rhonda Chalone said…
Do you post your videos on youtube?
I would love to see more!

Popular posts from this blog

D, Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba!

Back to the Orffabet! Today's letter is D, the shape of the popsicle prongs on a homemade Kalimba!

Lisa Lehmberg of the University of Massachusetts, has agreed to share this portion of her book chapter. Hurray, Lisa! Let's make a Kalimba out of popsicle sticks, paper plates, and some scrap wood!
You'll need: two small, sturdy paper platesone wood block (3cm x 7cm* x 1cm) To convert to inches click here.  This block is inside the plates and keeps them from collapsing.7 cm* piece of thin plywood five flat popsicle sticks7 cm* strip of flimsy wood moldingbrads or small screws (optional)paper gluewood glue*the length is determined by the size of the paper plates. These measurements are for the structural stability of the instrument, NOT the intonation. Just eyeball or loosely measure the wood.
Glue a block of wood to a paper plate near its edge. Glue another paper plate (plates facing each other) to the original plate and the wood block. Spread glue on both the rims of the…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass

Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

"P", The Bucket Routine for older students

Today's Orffabet letter is P, for the shape of buckets and sticks when they are in storage in our guest teacher's classroom.

The following post and series of videos is for Upper Elementary, Middle School, or High School Students.  This is a rare opportunity for you to learn a routine without having to go to a workshop or Orff level.  You will learn the routine as your students would.

John is a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools.  He has taught this routine to Upper Elementary students as an after school program.  John's students worked on the routine for an hour or so every day for 6 weeks.  To see John in an earlier post, click here.

The "students" in this video are Orff Level I students in the Worcester Public Schools class of 2010.  They learned the routine in a 90 minute session with Level III students who already knew it.  Here is the routine after those 90 minutes.

This routine, inspired by African dance and Orff body percussion, is well outside the …