It took me a while to get through it, but wow was it a lot of fun reviewing this Music and Keyboard in the Classroom curriculum by Michael Griffin. Even though I am an independent music teacher and this curriculum is designed to be used in a Middle School general music class, I found myself getting so excited about it that now I want to start a Middle School music class just so I can use it!
I started out by reviewing books one and two of the curriculum, The Fundamentals and Getting Creative, respectively, and then sat down to read through the 50-page Teacher’s Guide that accompanies the curriculum. I quickly realized that I had done things backwards and should have read the Teacher’s Guide first. What a treasure trove of philosophical nuggets and practical gems! It was both inspiring and full of helpful ideas that could easily be adopted by any music teacher.
Mr. Griffin’s approach is based on the philosophy that students should be actively involved in the music-making process, rather than just listening to music or learning musical facts. Through this curriculum, students are introduced to music by learning to play the keyboard. Rhythm, notation, music history, and more are taught as part of the process of learning to play fun, familiar songs on the keyboard – something that is sure to motivate and appeal to any Middle School student!
Here are some of the specific things I really like about the curriculum:
• Students are instructed to draw a keyboard diagram in the first lesson (Now why haven’t I ever thought of having students do that?!). These can then be referenced and used for the duration of the year.
• After each piece there is a place on the page for both the student and teacher to sign and date, affirming that, “This piece has been played successfully.” Mr. Griffin especially encourages teachers to require their students to sign before asking the teacher whether they can pass the piece. This challenges the students to take responsibility for their own progress and also frees them up to move on to the next lesson without having to wait for the availability of the teacher.
• Good questions at the conclusion of most lessons gauge the students’ comprehension of the concepts. I really like that these questions are not mindless, but force the student to think and/or find additional information on their own. (i.e. Find a definition for a musical scale.)
• Specific listening assignments are scattered throughout the lessons.
• A few Research Projects are assigned and the students are given very thought-provoking questions to help them conduct their research.
• A Student Reflections page in the back of the book gives students a place to record positive or frustrating moments in their keyboard studies.
• I loved the inclusion of lots of familiar Classical tunes that students will be familiar with and will be motivated to learn.
Book One covers a lot of the fundamentals of music and then Book Two builds on those and delves more into creative assignments, including transposition, form, dynamics, playing in a round, minor keys, using extended fingerings, learning accidentals, and improvisation. Here are a few things related to Book Two that I really like:
• Creative and helpful learning strategies are laid out step-by-step for the student.
• Specific guidelines are given for improvisation activities that still leave the students plenty of room for experimentation and individuality.
• For one of the activities, students are placed in a group and instructed to create a two-minute story (they may select from a list of possible story themes) and support it with special effects from the keyboard.
• I absolutely love the student teacher idea! (Read more about this in the forthcoming interview with Michael Griffin.)
Mr. Griffin has also started a page on his website with additional resources that correspond to the lessons in the curriculum. This will be extremely helpful to teachers as they develop their lesson plans! If you are interested in purchasing the Music and Keyboard in the Classroom curriculum and Teacher Guide, please contact Mr. Griffin by e-mail.
Book 1 The Fundamentals $19.99
Book 2 Getting Creative $19.99
Teacher’s Manual $34.99 (compulsory purchase with other books as it explains the pedagogy)
Payment may be made by credit card or via PayPal.
Join us tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Music and Keyboard in the Classroom author, Michael Griffin!