Engineering Design Process Lesson 2

Last time, we began our adventure of learning about the Engineering Design process through music, particularly Music Mapping. The first lesson in this series familiarized the children with Music Maps and taught them to OBSERVE things about the music by ‘reading’ (following along with) the Map of the song Coppelia Waltz. This second lesson covered the next step in the Process: IMAGINE.

For this lesson, I created a… unique sort of Music Map, to accompany the song “I Bought Me a Cat” by Aaron Copland. This charming folk song is an add-on song, similar to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” with a variety of different farm animals expressed in the music. This video illustrates the Music Map I made and how it plays out in practice:

Note: There was a slight error in this recording, but when I went through this Map with the class, fortunately, everything went off without a hitch.

As you can see, the real fun of “I Bought Me a Cat” is the reveal of each new animal. Keeping the next icon covered up until the last moment keeps the students very engaged, and gets them wondering and even predicting what might come next. It was precisely this curiosity that I took advantage of to teach about the “Imagine” step of the Engineering Design. Here is the lesson plan I created for this experience:

Click HERE to view my complete lesson plan for Lesson 2: IMAGINE

This lesson required some extra help from Mrs. Amesse, who played and paused the recording in the appropriate spots. It took a little bit of coordination, but she was a great help to me in this! The students were very participatory; they had a great time making predictions about what the next animal would be, what sound it would make, how MANY times it would make that sound, and so on. Overall this lesson went well, but there were a few things I would definitely change or improve on before teaching it again:

One issue I had in teaching this lesson was getting the volume turned up on the class media system; I did not take enough time to practice in the classroom and make sure I could handle any technology issues, and I wasn’t able to figure out how to get the volume turned up in the moment, and as a result the recording was a little bit too quiet. In someways this was an unanticipated benefit, because the children REALLY had to be quiet and listen carefully in order to follow along; however, I definitely would have preferred to have the volume louder. The next time I went in to teach, I made sure to arrive earlier so I could have enough time to solve those problems (it was more difficult than it seems!). I am a BIG believer in preparation, and this experience only served to reinforce that lesson for me!

The more time I spend teaching these first graders, the more classroom management skills I learn. I’ve talked about the theory and “how to’s” of classroom management in school, but there really is no substitute for actually being in front of a group of children and trying it out! In this lesson, rather than saying “Who can tell me about such-and-such,” I made my questions more direct by asking, “Jessica (not her real name), can you tell me about such-and-such?” This was very helpful because it cut down on a lot of the talking out of turn that happens whenever you ask first graders a question and expect them to raise their hands. Sometimes they do remember to raise their hands- they really are trying- but they’re so young and so eager, holding back an answer is nearly impossible for many of them unless someone else is specifically called upon to answer.

The closing activity for this lesson was to give the students a brief opportunity to try their hands at making music maps. I think in my lesson plan, I wasn’t clear enough about the objective of this activity. It was NOT to teach them to produce a Music Map or be able to successfully create one. That will come later on. At this stage, the objective was merely to get the students thinking musically, thinking in sound and how they might represent it. They had to imagine their own ways of interpreting the song “I Bought Me a Cat.”As I walked around the classroom assessing their work, it became clear that I was right not to expect the children to be able to produce their own map yet. Some of the students were unable to understand the difference between my specific Music Map and any Music Map in general; when asked to Map “I Bought Me a Cat,” they simply copied exactly what I had done on the board. Some students, though, really were beginning to get it; it was amazing to me that I could see that from what I drew, but it was really obvious from looking at their drawings! From this assessment I determined that further exposure to Music Mapping would be necessary before trying an activity like this again. The students clearly need numerous sensory experiences to be able to understand this concept abstractly, and I kept that very much in mind while preparing my next lesson. Can YOU imagine what that lesson might be about?

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