Music Educators Toolbox: Inside the Classroom with Lindsay Brown
Lindsay Brown is a teacher at PS/MS 161M and was one of the original teachers to help develop the Music Educators Toolbox. She recently shared what the impact of the Toolbox has been on her teaching and how she uses the resources to spark spontaneity and joy in her classroom.
What kind of long-term impact have these resources had on your teaching?
Lindsay Brown: The long-term impact has been an added sense of confidence, creativity, and freedom in curriculum planning and development. Like most music teachers, I teach multiple grade levels and types of music classes—instrumental, vocal, general music education, and music technology. The Music Educators Toolbox provides a framework for making unit plans, scope and sequence decisions, and repertoire choices because the skills, techniques, and concepts have been organized by grade level and can be applied to all areas of music study. The resources are also beautifully crafted and help me think about how best to introduce a concept using graphics and listening examples. I am lucky to have a Smartboard, and the resources help me provide differentiated instruction that keeps students engaged.
What Toolbox resources do you find particularly useful for planning your lessons?
LB: Honestly, I find all of them helpful, but I find the formative and summative assessments most helpful because they help me decide which concepts to focus on and how to design lessons that allow me to monitor student comprehension and growth. I particularly find the student worksheets helpful because I can circulate them around the room and provide individual feedback to students because everyone is engaged in an activity. They also provide documentation for communicating to parents and administrators about student achievement.
Students in Lindsay Brown's class explore musical expression through movement.
How do you incorporate the Toolbox into your yearlong curriculum?
LB: The Toolbox is very helpful in providing a framework for developing units and lessons without limiting my own creativity. For example, this year I taught fifth grade for the first time. By reviewing the assessments, I familiarized myself with the concepts and skills a fifth grader should be able to perform at the end of the year. I then mapped out which skills I would assess and when. The fact that there are three formative assessments for each concept makes this task very easy. Then I get to have fun! The best part about being a music teacher is that you get to expose students to music they have never heard before, and you get to teach them how to use their voices and the instruments to express themselves. But there is so much amazing music out there that it can be hard to decide what to focus on, so the concepts in the Toolbox help provide parameters. Also, because we teach the same classes each year, recycling the same music every year can take the joy and spontaneity out teaching. Because the Toolbox is not a set curriculum, the teacher has the freedom to decide which repertoire to use and when to teach it. Finally, I really appreciate the mobility the resources provide. Having everything available online allows me to write my lessons at the library, at home, in a coffee shop, or wherever I happen to be.