One Music Teacher’s Experience with Common Curriculum
This article is an unsponsored, unsolicited conversation between Justine Dolorfino and Afton Kreush. Afton shares how she uses Common Curriculum software in her music classroom.
Welcome to Leading Notes, Afton! Let’s start by introducing you and what you do! What kind of music do you teach?
Hello! My name is Afton Kreush and I am a general music and chorus teacher in a rural county in Maryland. My school is basically in the middle of a corn field. Often times my students get distracted by the guinea hens next door that are running through the yard! My school has a very wide distribution of students from different socioeconomic statuses. I teach in a portable classroom (which I sort of love because we can make as much noise as we want). I love helping all students find connections with music in any and as many ways as I possibly can.
What is “Common Curriculum” and why would a music teacher like yourself be interested in using it?
Common Curriculum is a cloud-based plan book. I was initially interested in it for 3 reasons:
- I didn’t have to bog up my computer with all the plan files that I was saving
- It was cloud based so I could pick up on my material from anywhere on (almost) any device, and
- It was free!
The program also has an optional feature where you can post your plans to a web-site for students and administration to access. Lesson plans can also be easily downloaded, emailed, or embedded.
Would you recommend Common Curriculum to another music teacher?
I definitely would. First, it is highly customizable. I was able to create a template for my lessons that fit what I actually teach and not a math/science/reading classroom. I can also link to online content right from my plan.
For instance, if I’ve found the perfect Youtube video for my a capella lesson, I can link it right to my plan and access it from anywhere. AND since I post my lessons on my classroom website, students can follow my plan, download the materials I used in class that day, and complete the work we did in class from home.
Best of all, the staff is very accessible. I’m able to send a message to CC with an issue or a suggestion and get an e-mail sometime that day or an instant message moments later! When you are on a time crunch and your technology isn’t doing what you want it to, having tech support close by is invaluable.
Before trying Common Curriculum, what did you use to plan your curriculum units and lessons?
When I first started planning, I just used a template in a Word document. Then, as I needed to add more indicators and standards to my lessons, I switched over to Excel and created some drop down menus for myself to make things easier.
Can you share specific examples of how you used Common Curriculum last year?
I used CC in my day-to-day planning and, by the end of the year, was using it every day.
Last year they didn’t have the Fine Arts Common Core Connections in the program so I had to create a place for them in my template and list all of them. Then when I planned from day-to-day, I would delete the ones I didn’t need. I’m hoping they have updated that with the new version this fall. I was also able to create templates that had places for beginning warm-ups, the pieces we were working on in rehearsal each day, and any extra materials I would need.
I was able to select the items in my plan that I would want my students to be able to see and hide the content that was meant just for me. I then linked that website to my own classroom website so students could access what we had done in class that day at any time. It helped to eliminate some of those “what did we do when I was gone yesterday?” questions.
Lastly, I also used it to email my plans to my administrators when they came to observe me. This comes in super handy because then I don’t have to print my plans and hand them over, I can just send them right along with the click of a mouse.
Are there changes that you would make to your curriculum planning for the next school year?
I didn’t really use the Unit Planning function of the program last year because I started using it about halfway through the year. I plan on trying to utilize that a little bit more in the coming year. CC is also coming out with an update in the fall so I am looking forward to seeing the new features they add to the program.
Are there any music teachers (e.g., certain content or ensemble teachers) who may not be able to get as much benefit from using this program?
I think that any teacher will be able to find some benefit in this program because it is easily accessible, fairly user friendly, highly customizable, and free to use. CC seems to be always working to make it the best program it can be. I use it to plan both my ensemble rehearsals and my general music lesson plans.
Have you used Common Curriculum or another dedicated electronic resource to plan your music lessons? We’d love to hear from you! Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.
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