SmartMusic Blog: “I had a bunch of kids failing at mid-quarter…”

Do you ever feel like you’re not communicating with your students?

Chris Porter, director of bands at Brooklyn Center High School, instructed her students to play their concert pieces with SmartMusic and submit the assessments. She indicated that the quality of their performances would not affect their grade, only whether or not they were submitted. She would subsequently review each submission, offer feedback, and work with students to meet learning targets. But first they had to submit an assessment.

Not every student responded. So she reiterated that the assessment didn’t have to be good, she just had to receive it.

And still there were stragglers. Chris explains: “I had a bunch of kids failing band at mid-quarter because they didn’t submit their assessments.” The problem wasn’t technical. “Many students had the hardest time turning something in that wasn’t as good as they’d like, and they subsequently shut down.”

So, in the true spirit of differentiated instruction, she tried a different tactic. She created a web video featuring “Bando,” a cartoon character made of cardboard boxes, and shared it with her students. Click below to watch the video.

I especially like the ninja-like skill attributed to band directors in the second half of the video!

To Chris’ surprise, the video did the trick: “Once the kids understood how it worked, I couldn’t believe the difference in student engagement! Almost immediately, kids were coming down on their own to work on their learning targets and wanted to get better.”

It’s not clear whether it’s the comedy of Bando’s deadpan repetition that made the difference, or that kids simply pay more attention to YouTube videos than to teachers. What is clear is that after Chris tried another approach her students are submitting their assessments. Now she can provide feedback and they can work together to meet learning targets.

“I think it’s hilarious that their comprehension improves when listening to an animated cardboard robot, but whatever works!”

Join me in applauding Chris’ imaginative solution and share examples of how you’ve been creative in communicating with your students by clicking on “Comments” below.

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