What's the BIG Picture for your school music program? Have you taken the time as a K-12 music department to put into writing the BIG Goals you have for students?
In my recent posts about music curriculum, I have mentioned that our district has undertaken a thorough review of all course curriculum using the Understanding by Design framework. Good curriculum starts with the end in mind, and in Understanding by Design, the "end" is called "Enduring Understandings". These are the big ideas that should remain with students long past the time when they leave your classroom.
Honestly, we did a lot of searching online and found a lot of ... not so great ... examples of Enduring Understandings in a music program. Written by well-intentioned teachers who may not have known what an Enduring Understanding really represents. The only exception is #1, which did come from another source (though I have since lost the source). They are open-ended ideas, not specific skills or targets.
As a K-12 music department, it took us several months to come to consensus on our Enduring Understandings. We decided (as did our PE and art colleagues) to have a single set of Enduring Understandings for all of our courses. We wanted a set of questions that could work for any grade level, so that no matter if a student is in 5K general music or 12th grade band, the reasons for music study and the final goals remain the same, even if the rigor increases.
Here are the five we now live:
1. Students will understand that, at its core, music is about tapping into things deeply human: the desire to learn, to grow, to be in community with others, to contribute, to service, and to make sense of our time on earth.
2. Students will understand that music provides a means of creativity and expression.
3. Students will understand that all music has value, even if it differs from an individual's musical preferences.
4. Students will understand that music is an important and influential element of the history and culture of humankind.
5. Students will understand that music is an aural experience, but also a written language.
Notice there is nothing in the list about intonation, technique, playing xylophones, phrasing, or performing certain genres of music. This list of Enduring Understandings is just that - the ideas we hope will endure; the ideas students should take with them. And these understandings can be used at any age level - from 5K through 12th grade.