Thursday, March 5, 2020

Sharing Our Secrets: Higher Order Thinking

Hi friends! These are my notes in preparation for our demo group discussion today at ASTA 2020.

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts. I hope you find some of this information helpful.


Sharing Our Secrets: Higher Order Thinking

In this panel and demo group session, presenters will share tips and secrets that promote higher order thinking in the orchestra and string class setting. Topics will include a variety of approaches to musical problem solving, strategies for promoting independent thinking, musical habits of mind, taxonomy models, engaging students in critical listening, and more. Exercises that challenge and promote musical student independence will be demonstrated. Attendees are certain to enjoy and gain from the panel interaction with students and with each other. Together the presenters represent over 60 years of K-12 classroom experience at every level of instruction.


Habits of Mind 

  • "Habits of Mind are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions of which are not immediately apparent." (Professor Art Costa)

  • Persistence 

  • Managing Impulsivity

  • Listening with Empathy and Understanding

  • Thinking Flexibly

  • Thinking about your Thinking : Metacognition

  • Striving for Accuracy

  • Applying Past Knowledge

  • Questioning and Posing Problems

  • Gathering Data Through All Senses

  • Creating, Imagining & Innovating

  • Responding With Wonderment and Awe

  • Taking Responsible Risks

  • Finding Humor

  • Thinking Interdependently

  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

Ensemble Musician’s Taxonomy

  • Accurate Rhythm and Time

Obviously, these are the first steps in learning a piece of music.  Right notes played out of time are wrong notes. So, I place a great deal of emphasis on rhythm early in the rehearsal process.

  • Accurate Notes and Key 

Very close behind rhythm is tonal center and correct notes.  Obviously. The thing is that many teachers never get past this spot in the taxonomy.  This is understandable. If the students are out of tune, this must be corrected.

  • Playing Technique

I try to give all of my students individual technique goals. These can be left or right hand position, bow hold, set up, right had fluidity, vibrato, etc.  Then, they can focus on this when they have learned the basics of their part.

  • Written Dynamics

This is the next obvious step in preparing a part.  It is written on the page, for goodness sake. I encourage my students not to  think about dynamics as some fixed value, but rather to consider them in the context of the overall piece.

  • Fingering/Shifting

This is one of the first big shifts in thinking that I find I can affect.  So many kids think that they only need to shift when the part gets high. I try to change that way of thinking to looking at fingering from a perspective of ease of passage, tone color, and string crossing.

  • Bow Direction and Use

In a perfect world,  this would be higher in the taxonomy.  I feel like this is incorporated into every moment of every rehearsal.  I don't usually over-bow string parts for my orchestra. I want them to be thinking critically about direction as it pertains to style, dynamics, and articulation.  Bow direction is so subjective. I usually have very clear priorities, but I love to articulate them in the context of a great discussion about bow direction.

  • Articulation

This is strongly related to bow direction.  I find that students often come to me with a very limited palette of articulation options.  I try to get them thinking about the initiation of sound throughout the rehearsal process.

  • Vibrato/Tone Production

Vibrato  and tone production are often the difference between an average overall sound and a mature sound.  But, where do changes occur and how can these be varied? These are important questions for each musician to be constantly asking themselves.

  • Artistry/Direction of line

This is where real musicianship develops and emerges.  When we can get a student to think about this independently, they are truly on the way.

  • Tempo/ Push-Pull

This is typically dictated by the conductor, but the students that are intuitive with this can help the group along!

  • Section and Individual Balance

Where do I fit in the dynamic balance of the orchestra? Where does my section fit in the dynamic balance of the orchestra?

  • Section and Individual Role

What is my role in this passage?  What is my section's role in this passage?  Melody? Harmony? Off Melody? Bass line? Engine?  Rhythmic Underpinning? Sustain/Pads? Teacher? Student?  What else?

  • Perspective and Emotion/ Performance

Functional String Improvisation

Defining Functional Musicianship (my guitar/piano class)

Computational Thinking

The characteristics that define computational thinking are decomposition, pattern recognition / data representation, generalization/abstraction, and algorithms.[9][10] By decomposing a problem, identifying the variables involved using data representation, and creating algorithms, a generic solution results. The generic solution is a generalization or abstraction that can be used to solve a multitude of variations of the initial problem.

The "three As" Computational Thinking Process describes computational thinking as a set of three steps: abstraction, automation, and analysis.

Another characterization of computational thinking is the "three As" iterative process based on three stages:

  1. Abstraction: Problem formulation;

  2. Automation: Solution expression;

  3. Analyses: Solution execution and evaluation.[citation needed]

The four Cs of 21st century learning are communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. The fifth C could be computational thinking which entails the capability to resolve problems algorithmically and logically. It includes tools that produce models and visualise data.[11] Computational thinking is applicable across subjects beyond science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which include the social sciences and language arts. Students can engage in activities where they identify patterns in grammar as well as sentence structure and use models for studying relationships.[12]

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