by Cori Hilsgen
Kristen Bauer wanted to challenge Kennedy Community School fourth-grade students with an interesting experience in her music room. Instead of a more traditional test, Bauer challenged her students to show their learning.
This is Bauer’s first year teaching at Kennedy. She teaches general music to grades 1-4. She has taught at Lincoln Elementary in St. Cloud for the past eight years.
All music teachers in the St. Cloud School District work on Native American music and culture units. Bauer expanded the unit for her fourth-grade students. Students had nine options to show their learning in a Tic-Tac-Toe board. The options ranged from writing an original story to composing a rap or song, making posters, creating a Native American flute, making a television or radio advertisement and many others.
“The kids put a lot of time into their projects and were very creative,” Bauer said.
There were 42 projects. Some students chose to do a project with partners and others decided to work alone. Many students chose to create replicas of a Native American love flute; a television or radio advertisement announcing the purposes of a powwow; a poster showing what to find at a powwow; a thinking map comparing and contrasting the orchestral flute and the Native American flute; or a game about the Native American drum, flute, dance and powwows.
Many students loved the option of creating a game. They will soon be able to play all of the games they created during a stations’ day in the music room.
Bauer said she was proud of the students.
“I could not have been more proud of the time and energy these fantastic fourth-graders put into their projects,” Bauer said. “They showed much enthusiasm when coming into the classroom, and during the work time. Many students took other time during the day to come down and work, and many did independent work outside of the school day to create outstanding projects that showed their learning throughout our Native American music and culture unit.”
Principal Dr. Judy Nagel was able to visit the classroom during a part of one of the presentations.
“The students enjoyed learning more about Native Americans and Minnesota history through this unit in Mrs. Bauer’s music class,” Nagel said. “Everyone did a great job demonstrating what they’ve learned with their creative presentations and activities that engaged the entire class.”
Several students commented on their excitement of the unit.
“It was fun to express our creativity,” Zach Stang said.
“It was very fun,” Justin Funk said.
“It was challenging and fun,” Allison Moon said.
“No two projects were the same,” Lindsey Zimmer said.
“I liked doing something different and having many choices,” Taylor Wald said.
Bauer found inspiration for the projects from her graduate classes. She focused her final thesis project for her master’s-degree program on differentiation in the music classroom.
“A lot of assessing in the music room is me listening, observing and of course some writing, but I wanted students to be able to expand their horizons when choosing a way to show their learning,” Bauer said. “I also got the idea when I was taking graduate classes through St. Mary’s University, and we were focusing on differentiation in the classroom. I realized how important it was to allow students to learn and show their learning in many different ways.”