Musical Instruments

This example includes a description of teaching and an assessment task, although the assessment task is indistinguishable from the teaching activity. The example begins with the teachers at King School working as a team involved in school reform. The team naturally builds on previous efforts; for example, the technology unit is modified from an existing unit. Other indicators that King School is working toward becoming a community of learners is the availability of older students to help the younger students with tasks beyond their physical abilities and the decision for one class to give a concert for another class. In her planning, Ms. R. integrates the study of the science of sound with the technology of producing sound. Recognizing the different interests and abilities of the students, Ms. R. allows students to work alone or in groups and plans a mixture of whole-class discussions and work time. She encourages the students in planning and communicating their designs. She imposes constraints on materials and time.

[This example highlights some elements of all of the Teaching Standards; Assessment Standard A; K-4 Content Standards B, E, and F; and Program Standards A, D, and E.]

The King School was reforming its science curriculum. After considerable research into existing curriculum materials and much discussion, the team decided to build a technology piece into some of the current science studies. The third-grade teacher on the team, Ms. R., said that she would like to work with two or three of her colleagues on the third-grade science curriculum. They selected three topics that they knew they would be teaching the following year: life cycles, sound, and water.

Ms. R. chose to introduce technology as part of the study of sound. That winter, when the end of the sound study neared, Ms. R. was ready with a new culminating activity—making musical instruments. She posed a question to the entire class: Having studied sound for almost 6 weeks, could they design and make musical instruments that would produce sounds for entertainment? Ms. R. had collected a variety of materials, which she now displayed on a table, including boxes, tubes, string, wire, hooks, scrap wood, dowels, plastic, rubber, fabric, and more. The students had been working in groups of four during the sound study, and Ms. R. asked them to gather into those groups to think about the kinds of instruments they would like to make. Ms. R. asked the students to think particularly about what they knew about sound, what kind of sound they would like their instruments to make, and what kind of instrument it would be. How would the sound be produced? What would make the sound? She suggested they might want to look at the materials she had brought in, but they could think about other materials too.

Ms. R. sent the students to work in their groups. Collaborative work had been the basis of most of the science inquiry the students had done; for this phase, Ms. R. felt that the students should work together to discuss and share ideas, but she suggested that each student might want to have an instrument at the end to play and to take home.

As the students began to talk in their groups, Ms. R. added elements to the activity. They would have only the following 2 weeks to make their instruments. Furthermore, any materials they



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