UPDATE: fixed the link to Steve Owen’s blog

Well, I survived day one of the Orff Schulwerk conference! I started the day with an invigorating run along the Allegheny river with my roommate and education guru, Steve Owens (check out his amazing blog). Then, it was off to be creative with Sofia Lopez-Ibor, one of my personal mentors, for 2 1/2 hours. Every time I see Sofia, I am amazed at what she does. She can take over an hour to do one project, which incorporates games, poetry, movement, drawing, and singing, and you are completely swept up in the process the entire time. There is no pressure to perform, yet you create beautiful music at the end. The inclusion of poetry, dance, and visual art demonstrate cross-curricular teaching at its finest.

Speaking of cross-curricular teaching, I believe that Orff Schulwerk is the general music method to connect with modern trends in education as a whole. The buzzwords I hear from my colleagues and administrators these days are all things that I have been doing in Orff Schulwerk for the past decade (and others have been doing for half a century):

  • Student-centered Classroom: Orff Schulwerk students are in charge of the creative process and the final product/performance. The teacher is the facilitator of student and group work.
  • Project-Based Learning: In my classroom, we take a song, theme, story, or activity, and begin exploring the concepts, improvising and composing original music, and arranging ideas into a final performance. Even when there’s no concert in sight, we are finalizing projects year-round and performing for ourselves!
  • Cross-curricular Teaching: As mentioned above, Orff Schulwerk integrates physical movement, speech, literature, poetry, and occasionally visual art into the music classroom. In addition, the project-based creative process allow us to draw in any theme from the regular classroom – dinosaurs, butterflies, Mother Goose, planets, Africa, etc.
  • Authentic Assessment: As schools, districts, and states move away from high-stakes pencil and paper tests, they are moving directly toward a model from the music classroom. Authentic assessment means assessing the students as they are working on a project, giving direct and immediate feedback, and documenting the assessment in a meaningful way. With the use of video recording, audio recording, and project rubrics, I can travel around the room while my students work and assess their learning in real time.

By the way, the Rainbow Crow Native American inspired session today was a huge success! I’m hoping to post a video of our final performance soon!

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