external image i_love_music__by_SmilingIdeea.jpg
~ An inquiry of how one music teacher discovered new ways to reach her students ~

Welcome! My name is Jessica Higbee and I teach elementary and middle school band and general music in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. I also direct the high school steel drum ensemble for the district. This is my second year as a participant in the Arts Educator 2.0 project and I am so honored to be a part of this incredible opportunity and a most fabulous group of arts educators. What I have learned and gained from this course has changed my teaching forever. As a newer teacher, I thought I had a lot of fresh, innovative ideas, and I did have some, but my inquiry group really taught me how to hone in on not just what I want to teach with my content but what I can teach through my content. If you would like to learn more about my journey and the things I discovered this year, read on!

We chose the following 21st century skills to focus on:

If you would like to learn more about 21st century skills and see the framework that helped us, please click here: www.p21.

I began blogging back in January and will use my blog posts to summarize the process of teaching and inquiry I went through. With them, I have included various pictures, clips and examples of students' work. Please note that I chose to focus my research on my junior high general music classes, simply because these students are placed in this course as a requirement and are often the hardest to reach when it comes to this subject. Students I have in band are there because they chose to be, so I wanted to begin at the most challenging place in my teaching. My blog postings are in black text and my additional comments now are in purple. I also highlighted key phrases that I said throughout my posts for easier reading.

My first post
Here's to my very first blog, cheers! :)
I have not been a very good blogger yet...and I have discovered that I enjoy using word press MUCH more on my computer than my iPad. It is very hard to navigate, for instance: I was reading people's posts but I had no idea who they were frustrating! Additionally, I can not access a previous draft of a post I had begun either. So, as much as this girl loves her iPad it unfortunately is not going to cut it with word press...or at least, not yet!

Update and looking for ideas
Posted on by jessicahigbee
Hello my fellow bloggers! Thought I would let you all know a project I am currently doing with my junior high students and also get some ideas from all of you since many of you (well, really ALL of you) are so brilliant!
I am really striving in my classroom as of late to make sure my students understand and grasp how the content and processes they are learning are relevant to them, their lives and the skills they need to be successful.
The first project I just began with my classes last week is a biography research project on a musician of their choice. I typed up a biography question and answer sheet and each student in my classes are doing someone different. I did it that way so that everyone in the class will learn a variety of information about separate people and they are going to share what they discovered. I also have them using a simplified version of citation for their resources and I explained to them how they will use a more structured form if citing in high school and college, and how this will help prepare them for that.
I just thought of something I should have discussed with them, but I didn’t! The validity of their resources! Hmmm, it looks like I will need to go back and make sure I explain this because it is very important. Anyways, now here is where I would really appreciate some input…
I want my students to present their findings to the class. But I really want to do it by 1. Using technology and 2. Doing it in an innovative way. Had I already received my document camera, I definitely would have had them use that to present but I do not have it, so please keep that in perspective. Also, I know the typical “presentation” is something visual, such as a poster or collage and then speaking to the class. I would love to come up with something a bit more creative for them to do in presenting than this…I just haven’t thought of anything myself so I am hoping to solicit some help from all of you! Any ideas or suggestions would be very appreciated!

After posting this blog, I received some great ideas from my collaborative inquiry group (a.k.a. CIG) and I was able to find a way to present their information in a way that was innovative, creative and used technology.

The LowDown on the LoTi

Posted on by jessicahigbee

Assessing Teaching and Learning with the LOTI/HEAT Scale
  • Higher-Order Thinking Look-Fors
    • Students taking notes only; no questions asked
    • Student learning/questioning at Remembering level
    • Student learning/questioning at Understanding level
    • Student learning/questioning at Applying level
    • Student learning/questioning at Analyzing level
    • Student learning/questioning at Evaluating/Creating levels

  • Engaged Learning Look-Fors
    • Students report what they have learned only
    • Students report what they have learned only; collaborate with others
    • Students given options to solve a teacher-directed problem
    • Students given options to solve a teacher-directed problem; collaborate with others
    • Students collaborate to define the task, the process, and/or the solution
    • Students collaborate to define the task, the process, and/or the solution; collaboration extends beyond the classroom

  • Authentic Connections Look-Fors
    • The learning experience is missing or too vague to determine relevance
    • The learning experience provides no real world application, or represents a group of connected activities
    • The learning experience provides limited real world relevance
    • The learning experience provides extensive real world relevance
    • The learning experience provides real world relevance and opportunity for students to apply their learning to a real world situation
    • The learning experience is directly relevant to students and involves creating a product that has a purpose beyond the classroom that directly impacts the students

  • Technology Use Look-Fors
    • No technology use is evident
    • Technology is used only by the teacher
    • Student technology use appears to be an add-on and is not needed for task completion
    • Student technology use is somewhat connected to task completion
    • Student technology use is directly connected to task completion with shared or limited resources
    • Student technology use is directly connected to task completion with one-to-one or unlimited resources

This post is in regard to out LoTi Framkework that Cory gave us at our last IU meeting and I am pretty sure I began a post about it but I don’t know how to retrieve it. We are supposed to write where we see our classroom and where we see ourselves. Let’s begin with my classroom:
I would classify my classroom at a level 3 – Infusion. I am still trying to learn new ways to incorporate technology and to make their learning relevant to the real world. I would also have to say I myself am at a level 3, and to me, it only makes sense that my classroom is the same. I am the one who sets the “heat temperature” for my classroom. I am the thermostat…they are the thermometers. If I keep the heat up, they will reflect that heat eventually, but it’s not going to work the other way around. My classroom will not change if I don’t. When I change, everything changes. Looks like it’s time to turn up the heat!

My CIG leader gave us this framework as a means to assess our teaching and our classrooms in regard to 21st century learning. It is a great tool for helpingyou see how effective you are in the classroom environment.

If you would like to view this framework please click here:

One of the most impacting things I have gained through focusing on 21st century is the impact of relevance to my subject. Many students at the beginning of the year complained about classroom assignments. "Why do I need to learn this?" and "What is so important about music anyway?" I even had a student who said their parent told them as long as they were passing "core" subjects, they didn't care if they failed music because it wasn't important. I knew I had to do something and FAST, because I was lossing them! After learning more about 21st century skills and the LoTi framework, I was able to dissect and form the assignments and projects I wanted to do and explain to my students how this particular project would teach them these particular skills, which in turn would prepare them for their future. This made an immense difference to the response they had to their work, as you will see in my next blog post.

Lunch break blog

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So I decided to blog a little bit during my lunch break today about the progress that has been taking place in my classroom. As stated before, I am doing a musician biography project with my junior high students. After introducing the project, many of them displayed excitement, which I think occurred because I allowed them to choose their music artist instead of assigning them one. I made a sheet with questions which I will attach to the blog and explained to them how I wanted them to cite their sources. To my surprise I had students asking to take their assignment home to work on it before I had a chance to tell them they could! Since I do have a number of students who don’t have Internet access at home I wanted them to have the opportunity to do this at school. The school has many computers in the library as well as mobile labs. I used both with my students for their research since many of them chose newer artists and most of the information would be found on the internet.
The first week we went to the library as a class was chaos. Why? Not because of my students behavior, but because only a handful of my students were able to actually access Internet due to problems with login names, transfers, and computer issues. I felt so bad for the librarian because she was helping me and I had to keep making her lists of students who couldn’t log on. I realized that things like this are often the reason why more teachers don’t want to branch out and use more technology in their classrooms. However, as frustrating as it was, I will not let that stop me! But it did make some of my students very annoyed and many of them were discouraged to the point of not wanting to do the assignment. We managed to get things ironed out and I was very pleased with the results. Most of my students took the assignment home and treated it very seriously. I did have a few students try and make up information for their sources though.
At this point I am looking forward to the next part of this project which will be the presentation portion, but I will save that information for another post!

My classroom went from a group of students who couldn't care less about music assignments to a group of students who were taking their assignments seriously. All because I began to make my teaching relevant to them...and I explained to them how it would help them in the future.
If you would like to see the biography paper they had to fill out or if you would like to use this as a resource in your own classrooms, click here:

The projects that I decided to do with my students as their presentation for their biographies were: 1. Hanging Mobiles and 2. Pod casts
The Mobiles had to include the information they found about their musician (date of birth, real name, childhood, musical background) as well as pictures of the band or person. The pod casts were audio recordings that mimicked that of a radio talk show in which students would pretend to be their musician and another student would "interview" them asking questions they had answered on their papers.

Alls well that ends well

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So what has been happening in my classroom and with my students’ projects? My students began working on their mobiles and pod casts a couple weeks ago. I gave them the choice of which one they would prefer to do the most. I was surprised that most of them chose to do the mobiles, considering with the podcasts they would be able to use the Q3 vidoe/audio recorder! I even had an entire class that all chose mobiles!
My first idea with making the mobiles was to have the students use hangers, but seeing as I had a limited amount of wire hangers at my fingertips and most of my students were more than likely not going to remember to bring their own, I opted for using Popsicle sticks. The students hot glued them together (with my help!) and then they colored them and decorated them however they liked. They had to use the information they found on their artist and also pictures of the group or person. Some of them were so needy it seemed…”how do I tie the string?” “how do I put holes in the sticks?” “what am I supposed to do now?”. All these questions even though I drew a diagram on the board of what a mobile should look like and I wrote an explanation of the elements it needed on the board AND I verbally went through the directions with the class! Not really sure what more I could have done here other than having a pre-made example. Maybe I should have done that…Hmmmm
With the podcasts I simply showed the students how to record, stop, delete and listen to them on the Q3 and then I let them lose with it. Having practice rooms was SO nice because they used the room as their “recording studio” and no one was allowed to bother them, it was really fun! They did very well with this and seemed to enjoy it a lot!
Yesterday, after school I took my Q3 with me and realized I could hook it up to my car speakers and listen to my students’ podcasts. They made my day! I was laughing so much at how cute and involved they got in them. I loved hearing how they really made such a great effort to sound “official” and change their voices to create a persona for their musician. I realized that more kids than I thought were making a great effort in their projects and were having a good time while doing it! It was the inspiration and encouragement I needed to help keep me going strong!

Here are some of the finished mobiles that my students made for their projects:

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Here are some of the finished pod casts that my students made for their project:

Interview with "Adam Lambert":

Interview with "Sum 41" lead singer:

Interview with "Katy Perry":

Interview with "Chris Jericho":

Interview with "Ozzy Osborne":

Interview with "The Devil Wore Prada" lead singer:

Gimme a boost!

Posted on by jessicahigbee

The mobile projects and pod casts have come to a close. The projects that are complete I am very pleased with overall. We had what I called a "Gallery Day" where the students went around the room and viewed everyone's mobiles and then we all listened to their pod casts. The students filled out short questionnaires about the podcasts and mobiles, they got to pick their favorite ones and tell me different information they learned about artists they liked that they didn’t know before. Then I tallied them up and put them on the board. It was refreshing to see that they really didn’t make it a popularity contest, but truly, the students who put the most time and effort received the accolades. What was even better was that many of those students were ones who often don’t get much “attention” from their classmates and can seem a bit ostracized, but then when they see that their mobile was voted “class favorite” or “best pictures”….wow what a nice thing to experience! I think it really shows them that their hard work not only didn’t go unnoticed by me, but more importantly for them (I think), it didn’t go unnoticed by their peers. How’s that for a confidence builder?

Here are some pictures from the "Gallery Days" I held in my classroom:


Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot

Posted on by jessicahigbee
Whenever I hear the words of my post’s title, I always think of my steel drum ensemble playing the song “Hot, Hot, Hot” and it brings a smile to my face. Looking over the H.E.A.T. framework did the same thing!

At the beginning of this school year everything about my job completely changed (again) and I went from feeling like I had found my niche to feeling like I had been thrown out to the sea of educational chaos and was expected to somehow float on a lifesaver that was made of all I had learned in the past. I found out very quickly that this was not enough. Experience had only taught me so much…I needed to learn much more.

Thanks to Arts Ed and the most FANTASTIC group of arts colleagues (I truly mean that!) I was able to learn and grow SO much this year! Here are the results I discovered from reviewing the HEAT meter:

H – High Order Thinking
Students learning/questioning at evaluating/creating levels. I only feel I tapped into the learning and creating part of this one. But I have some lessons in my head to do at the end of the year that I believe will also bring forth the evaluating and questioning aspects.

E – Engaged Learning Look-Fors
Students collaborate to define the process, the task, and/or solution; collaboration goes beyond the classroom.
The whole “collaboration beyond the classroom” definitly took place in my junior high classes, much to even my own surprise. There was more collaboration in the classroom, but I think it still is awesome there was outisde as well. My only question is I am not certain how I can come up with things that the students define a solution to when it comes to music. I allowed them ways to define a task, but the solution part puzzles me. This is a part I need to work on.

A – Authentic Connections Look-Fors
The learning experience provides real world relevance and opportunity for students to apply their learning to a real world situation.
I would have chosen the last one on this list, because it refers to relating to outside the classroom, but I don’t think I had the whole “product with a purpose” part down yet. I’m not sure if the creative process of creating a mobile to describe a musician or writing an original song and recording are products that my students can use for a purpose beyond the classroom. Maybe I am just being too small minded.

T – Technology Use Look-Fors
Student technology use is directly connected to task completion with shared or limited resources.
I chose this one as opposed to the unlimited resource one because I feel that my students use of technology is still limited and I would like to see them have more opportunity and a better pool of resources than what is available to them currently. I have been able to use technology this year in my class as being directly connected to my teaching and not just and add-on, which is very exciting.
Upon the finish of this summary, I can see that I have really grown in my teaching this year in big ways, and yet I can also see there are places I have questions and can improve. But this is exactly what I want, because that means my process continues and goes beyond my days at Arts Ed. And isn’t that what this is really all about anyways?

Looking back and re-evaluating myself using the same scale as I did at the beginning of this research was very encouraging. I think it is something I would like to make a practice of at the end of each year, or even each quarter. It helps give me some specific goals for my teaching for the next year.

I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!!!

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I decided I would write this immediately after experiencing one of the most exciting moments in my teaching career! This way it’s fresh and all my emotion is still right here with me. Today, I was saw a real change in my students work in class. The jr high kids are doing a project where they write their own songs and record them using song maker. The class that I always have the toughest time with was sooooooo into it today! When I showed them how to use the app it really enticed them to get creative and start working. I have one student who has his own music making program and he is going to use that instead. You must understand, this student has been one of the “problem” kids in class…not bad, just not that good either. But today I was able to talk to him and learn about how he started his own website and has his own music group. It was really exciting! I am really learning more each day how impacting using technology and allowing students to create and express themselves can really change their performance in class!

In class, I taught my students about how all music is essentially poetry. We read lyrics from various artists and talked about different styles of poetry and how they influence song writing. I gave them three choices on a topic for their song:
1. My Favorite Things
2. Who or What Inspires Me
3. Where I'm going

They were allowed to choose to work alone or with one or two other people. Each person was responsible for contributing 16 lines of the song. They had to use imagery and rhyme at least once in their piece. Other than that, the rest was up to their imaginations!

Here are some examples of songs that my students wrote:

Chocolate Chip cookies: (My Favorite Things)

Football rap: (What Inspires Me)

Josh: (My Favorite Things)

Pushin': (Where I'm Going)

Sarah Martin: (My Favorite Things)

I believe, as I did last year, that this is only the beginning for my discoveries in making a greater impact on my students through enhancing their skills that they will need to be successful in this 21st centurty world we live in.

As a wise person once said:

"My content is music, but I teach collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking!"