The Most Powerful Way to Remember What You Study.

The following is an excellent link for teaching students and teachers about how to effectively use their study time.  It includes a few systems for memorizing.  Youtuber Thomas Frank, quotes from Pierce J. Howard’s book “The Owner’s Manual of the Brain and Benedict Carey’s book “How We Learn”.  He explains a couple of methods which are time efficient because they use spaced repetition.  This also ties into John Hatties research.  Spaced vs. mass practice with an effect  size of .71.

Reading Comprehension in Music

Reading comprehension is a decidedly important aspect of a good education.  In the chorus room there are two key questions.  First, how well does the student comprehend the music notation they’re learning.  Secondly, does the music student comprehend the poetry in the pieces that they’re singing?  In addition, can they absorb the poetry and then transfer the feelings, emotions and passion to their audience?

The following article is an excellent resource for guiding students to understanding poetry.   It takes an investigative approach and addresses the readers fear of reading poems aloud. This will be beneficial in promoting authentic performance.  It uses strategies to integrate with prior knowledge.  This strategy has an effect size of .93.

The following link puts the science of the brain and how it works in simplistic terms.  The video is narrated by a child and is easier to comprehend than most articles on the brain.  I believe that by inviting students to learn about how they’re learning and how their emotions and feelings affect their learning that we can help students to feel more in control of their learning.  This uses the strategy of  self efficacy which has an effect size of .92.

Another reading strategy that I use is a form of retelling.  For instance, maybe we’re singing a song from a musical.  I find a synopsis of the musical and cut it up into several sections.  I divide the class into that many groups and I have them put together a tableau based on their section of the synopsis.  First they read their portion of the synopsis to the class and then they perform their tableau for the rest of the class.  Each group has the opportunity to act out a scene from the musical and the rest of the class enjoys watching the scenes play out.  This way they are able to view the musical in a very succinct and simplistic way and internalize the emotions and feelings of the characters as they try to communicate the meaning of each scene.  This is a creative strategy and has an effect size of .65

Another reading strategy that I use is to have the students compose music.  As students write they become better at reading the music.   It makes them more aware of the symbols being used and it gives them the opportunity to use critical thinking skills.  They also work together with another student to see if the other student can sing what they wrote.  The strategies being used are writing and peer tutoring.  These have an effect size of .44 and .55.

Another reading strategy that I use is to have them read the text of the song aloud.  This helps them to focus just on the lyrics.  Often they will be so distracted by the music or the rhythm that they don’t even know what the song is about.  We also add another level to this which is to “perform” the text as if they were doing a reading.  This helps them to get away from a monotone voice and realize that they have a part to play in making the story or poem come alive.  They get instant feedback from their peers. This utilizes the strategy of feedback which has an effect size of .73.





Music in the Middle Resources

The following links have inspired activities and practices that I use in my classroom on a daily basis to engage students.  They embody best practices because students are cooperatively engaged in practice, rehearsal and memorization in addition to Piagetian programs.


  1. Here is a link that introduces the first level of teaching solfeggio.   example of Best practices: Practice, rehearsal, cooperation, piagetian programs
  2. A game to “trick” students into practicing solfeggio but students are actually focused on something else.    example of Best practices: Practice, rehearsal, cooperation.
  3. Great warm up with explanations of students needs  example of Best practices: Piagetian programs
  4.  Indianapolis Children’s Choir warm-up example of Best practices: cooperative learning, practice and rehearsal.
  5.  Indianapolis Children’s Choir refocus on vowels example of Best practices: cooperative learning, practice and rehearsal.

Visible Learning and Effect Size

The term “Visible Learning” is based on an exhaustive research by John Hattie in which he took the findings from 1400 meta-analyses, of 80,000 studies, involving 300 million students and synthesized them into a condensed version of the most to the least and even detrimental influences that effect student learning.  This is the largest evidence based study of its kind.  In short what we’ve learned from these studies are specific things we can do to influence student learning and to what degree students will be influenced.

          In this study, Effect Size quantifies the difference between two groups. It is a statistical term that expresses the average percent of improvement during one year of study.  It quantifies the difference between two groups.  Effect size emphasises the size difference, not to be confused with the sample size.

Effect size can be interpreted as follows:

.10 effect is considered small

.30 effect is considered medium.

.50 effect is considered large.

See the chart below for the top ten influences on student learning according to John Hattie’s collection of Data.

The five things that were most impactful to me were; predictors for happiness in adult life, that anyone with a pulse could enhance student learning, that students become engaged in an activity when they become skilled at it, why some teachers are better than others, and the power and effect of an excellent teacher.

The latest research concludes the predictor for happiness in adult life.  Hattie states, “According to Henry Livings research, the best predictor for health, wealth and happiness in adult life was not achievement at school.  It was the number of years of schooling.”  Hattie persists that we need to make schools more inviting.  He contends that there doesn’t need to be a correlation that physical education or music is going to improve test scores or academic achievement to earn their place in the school day. They justify space in school because they attract students who enjoy participation in sports and the passion of learning Music.


Anybody can teach.  If somebody comes up with a great idea for increased learning.  They are right, it will work.  Virtually anything we do to help students learn, will work.  The question becomes to what degree will it work?  We need to use our time using those influences that have the greatest impact.  We need to be diligent in finding best practices and generous in sharing these ideas.

Students enjoy learning when they develop skills, mastery and passion.  We don’t need to come up with ideas of engaging activities for kids to do.  It’s just the opposite, a student becomes engaged when they develop skills and mastery.  This seems to speak to the theory that in middle school we should offer students more electives, so they can explore what they might like.  We need to offer depth in electives where skilled and experienced teachers encourage passion and mastery.

According to John Hattie’s studies, some are teaching more effectively than others.  That is the point of best practices and becoming a master teacher.  Someone who lives and breathes in the coveted green zone.  One of the most important factors for success is getting feedback; both from our peers and from our students. Becoming more specialized as teaching experts we can encapsulate and share these areas of greater influence.  There is a real jealousy that exists between teachers and perceived successes.  We need to erase these boundaries and recognize the benefit of team building as we learn to become better teachers.  Teachers need to learn to be more teachable… imagine that?

John Hattie says, “How we teach children to enjoy the practice, is the art of learning”.  I love this because it is something I am familiar with.  Being a musician I would trick myself into believing that I was having fun when I was practicing.  Usually it was a lie, but I had to tell myself it was fun because I wanted the result.  I wanted to be a musician.  I have spent tens of thousands of hours in a practice room trying to perfect, express, and emote this beautiful language.  In addition, I have spent thousands of hours in the classroom practicing and perfecting the art of teaching. Georgia O Keefe said this, “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.  Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you.”

We need to inspire our students to be teachable through our own example.  Becoming an agent of change requires me as the teacher to be honest with myself.  Am I willing to:

  • Create a climate where error is not only tolerated but encouraged.
  • Be the first to inquire if I’m doing a good job.
  • Ask the students for feedback.
  • Collect data for evidenced based teaching and learning.
  • Teach the same concepts in a variety of ways.


Specific steps I think will be beneficial at this time:

  1. Become more familiar with Google classroom.  Determine if it will be a benefit in self-reported grading or not.
  2. Develop a process of formative evaluations.
  3. Improve intervention processes for my learning-disabled community.

A First Look at Visible Learning

Q. “How do you make schools inviting places?” 

A. “You get students engaged in an activity where they learn to become skilled.”

The link below is from John Hattie, based on the best predictors for adult success (health, wealth and happiness).  This is not tied to how well a child does in school, but to the number of years of schooling.