Friday, September 10, 2010

Incentive Program 2010-11 - It's A Mystery!


"Agent M, you have been recruited as an Apprentice Field Operator (A.F.O.) in the Musical Arts (M.A.). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is twofold.
1. Advance your status in the agency by becoming a member in as many Agency Directories (A.D.) as possible. 2. Discover a hidden message and communicate that message to headquarters by the end of the school year. "

I'm happy to report that all of my students are excited about this year's theme - Mastering the Mystery of Music! This is the 3rd one of Natalie's incentive programs that I've used, and so far, it's my favorite!

Natalie recently posted about student incentives and mentioned that many teachers use her theme ideas as a jumping off place for their own ideas. I'm one of those. You can read Natalie's description of the program here. I've adopted her theme, her assignment pages, and her mastery challenges, but have tweaked and simplified the rest to make it work for me. I don't want to give all of the specifics away because I want you to actually purchase her program, of course! I will say that I found it very easy to adapt everything to suit my needs. As students complete mastery challenges, they earn clues. In my studio, the clues give hints about the identity of a mystery composer. At each group class (I have 4 per year), we'll discover the identity of each of 4 mystery composers and do an activity relating to either the composer or one of his famous works. It's a way to sneak in a little music appreciation since I don't have much time for that in lessons. At the end of the year, once they've discovered the identity of all 4 composers (and learned about other composers through their research), they'll use a decoder sheet to find a secret message to communicate back to headquarters, thus completing their "mission."

I took pictures of all of my students in their secret agent sunglasses and posted them on a bulletin board in my studio along with all of the "Directory Rosters." Even my high school students thought it was cool!

I did not have a booklet printed and bound for this program. My students bring ring-binders, so I just photocopied the pages they needed and created inserts for their binders. They all loved the cover sheet that looked like a secret case file! Natalie does a great job of carrying the theme through with all of the materials. I do have a bulletin board in my studio where I highlight the theme for the year, but it's not really necessary. Everything for this program can be contained within the students' notebooks.

As I was telling one of my colleagues how excited I was about this year's theme, she questioned whether it takes up a lot of time in my lessons. That's certainly something I think about when I adopt any incentive program. The mastery challenges that we address in the lessons are scales, sight-reading, rhythm drills, note-reading challenges, musical terminology, etc. These are all things I would address anyway. The program provides a structured way to make progress in all of those various skills, and I have various mastery challenges keyed to student levels. It takes lesss than 30 seconds to flip to the proper page in a student's notebook and check off when he has mastered one of the challenges. The students are highly motivated to move through those checklists of skills, and I think that having all of those goals outlined from the start, not just in my own head, but on paper for each student, is a great benefit. Instead of working from week to week, students can see a long-term plan.

Tonight is our first group class, a.k.a. "Private Eye Workshop." I plan to wear my trenchcoat, fedora, and sunglasses.