“Issues in Marching Band Instruction - UNwrapped”
Does your marching band have a broad range of student achievement levels? Do some students just “get it” and others need lots of work? It is time to take a hard look at your marching band members and figure out exactly what each student needs so that by the end of the season they will all be achieving at a high level. At the end of last season, our staff met specifically to try to figure out why some students did not succeed. We then developed ideas for interventions. This year, as we teach, we are constantly trying to be aware of the “Un” list (both who is in what category and how to help them).
As you read the following descriptions, take a moment to jot down the names of the students who immediately pop into your mind.
This describes students that have an attitude problem. Often they have the same demeanor in other classes (and at home) too. Sometimes these are the kids who are “forced” to do band by their parents and they are mad about it. On the flip side - A few band programs have more than a handful of these kids... If so, the directors and staff better take a long look in the mirror! Strategies for improvement: individual conferences, parent conferences, grade deductions, removal of “privileges”, and resolve staff issues.
These kids can’t get their bodies to cooperate. They know what is being asked of them and they are sometimes physically fit enough to do it, but they have “two left feet”. Strategies for improvement: using a mirror, one-on-one tutoring, remedial block (a separate fundamentals block for students who need more attention), drum major interventions, and physical fitness goals.
This describes students who really don’t know that they are failing to do what the instructors are asking. They think that they look great, but in reality- they don’t. Let’s be honest... some (many) seniors put themselves in this category because they fall into the trap of thinking that just because they are the oldest they are the wisest! They just can’t imagine that they might have a problem. Strategies for improvement: individual conferences detailing exactly where they are falling short, video, still-photos, using the mirror, one-on-one tutoring, remedial block, drum major interventions.
Mainly they are unprepared because they don’t have dot books, they are unorganized to the extreme, they miss rehearsals and don’t figure out what they missed, etc. These are typical school problems - just like in science class. In fact, the individual names on this list changes every day! Strategies for improvement: individual conferences, parent conferences, remedial block, drum major interventions, making up extra time.
These kids just don’t understand what we are saying. They can do it, but need to hear the explanation in a different way or see it (there are multiple learning styles). It is also possible that we are not presenting the information in a clear manner. Sometimes you have to ask a student who always “gets it” to explain the concept back to you. Strategies for improvement: videotaping (the iPhone is great for instant feedback!), still photos, using the mirror, one-on-one tutoring, remedial block, drum major interventions, higher-level of planning and attention to detail from the directors and staff.
They need more flexibility and strength. Marching band is a very physical activity and these days, the demands of marching band are similar to playing a sport. Strategies for improvement: physical fitness goals, stretching exercises, etc.
This is really about performance. Many kids cannot get fired up to “throw down” and “puff up” at a competition. They do not exude confidence. Strategies for improvement: work on the mental game with the kids more, establish and accomplish rehearsal goals relating to “performance” and not just achievement.
Each of these students can succeed, but some of the “Un” characteristics are harder to deal with than others. Uncaring is the hardest one, but usually this is a small number of students. Students might initially push back from the interventions, but once they realize you are implementing them because you care they will make significant strides and eventually they won’t be in the uncool group.