How do you start long-range planning for the year, when you don’t know what next year looks like? Recently, I wrote about long-range planning for the spring, but in this post, I’ll describe how I am navigating long-range planning for the fall…when I’m not exactly sure what will happen this fall.
What to Consider
When I long-range plan, I often start with concept plans, then create song lists, then create year plans.
This year, I might not be able to take that route. There are so many questions in the air, so before I sit down to long range plan, I'm asking myself some questions, such as:
Will I mostly review, or teach new concepts?
I think that for many of us, our first instinct is to only review. However, after listening to this podcast by Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy, in which she mentioned this article, I find myself wanting to do a little review, but mostly spiraling, in which I teach new concepts but keep spiraling back to old concepts. We often do this instinctively as music educators, but we may have to be more intentional.
You may have been told by your district that you are only allowed to review concepts. If that is the case, then that’s what you do!
Which concepts can I teach?
Will you do different kinds of concepts than normal because of social distancing/ distance learning? If you can’t sing with students, will you be able to teach melodic concepts? If so, how? If you can’t play instruments with students, will you be able to teach rhythmic concepts, or note names? If so, how?
What are my “big rocks”?
For an idea of what “big rocks” as it applies to life, watch this short video:
What does this mean for education? Figure out the important standards/ concepts (your big rocks) and plan for those now. Your big rocks might not be ti-tika and low la. Instead, they might be building relationships with students, connecting music to students’ lives, and listening to a diverse selection of music. It’s up to you. But if you plan for those first and you don’t fit in the other stuff, it’s okay.
What projects lend themselves well to this situation?
As you plan, think about which projects you’ve done with students, that could work well in a distance learning or blended learning situation. Have you tried PBL, or project-based learning? Have you tried another project that your kids love? Make a list of which projects you’ve tried, and then reflect on how you’d have to adapt those projects to make them work.
Social distancing games?
We play so many singing games in the music room that involve hand holding and being close to one another. Are there any games you can think of that could work with social distancing? Could you have students adapt the game, simply by reviewing the way the game is typically played, then reminding them of their current guidelines?
Usually, when I long range plan, I have to account for performances. I think next year, there will likely be no performances, or at least none until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. This at least clears up some time for curriculum, when you would typically be preparing for performances. Maybe that's not the case for you though–either way, plan for what you think is likely to happen.
How can you assess?
I’ve written several blog posts about how to assess with distance learning. The ideas could work well for blended learning as well, and include:
After reading over the blog posts and/or reflecting on what worked for you in the spring, decide how and what you will assess.
Which platforms do you have access to?
If you use Google Classroom, or another learning management system (LMS) in your school district, such as Canvas or Schoology, will you use those platforms to deliver the material? Will you integrate with another tool, such as Nearpod or Edpuzzle? Or will you deliver the lessons in Google Slides?
You might even change the platform, depending on what you want to accomplish, whether or not that grade level uses the LMS consistently, etc. I suggest not switching between too many platforms, as that can be confusing and frustrating for parents and students, but being able to think ahead about platforms can be helpful.
Can you collaborate with another special areas teacher?
I’ve heard from some music educators that they are collaborating with other special areas teachers. If you have a good collaborative relationship with at least one member of your team, you might plan for a lesson here or there that involves collaboration, whether you are playing “Plainsies Clapsies” with second graders while collaborating with your PE teacher, learning about the art of Kandinsky while collaborating with your art teacher, or coding with Scratch while you are collaborating with your technology teacher!
How long should I plan for?
As you consider all of these questions and begin planning, you might only plan for the first half of the year, since everything is so up in the air, and your regulations may change in January, depending on whether or not a vaccine is available.
Here is an example of two weeks worth of planning for me, for first grade:
If you are interested in ready-made templates to guide you with long-range planning, check out this set: