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Leading Voices: Agile Development Instructional Framework
I am now in my fourth week of Distance Learning and am finally getting a handle on teaching High
School Music Theory and Choral Music online. It is challenging work, and at times it gets very
frustrating, but also intriguing. The innovation and creativity I see at work with my colleagues and my
students' work are remarkable. Though this is a challenging time, we are also witnessing tremendous
As I search for teaching resources and research distance learning initiatives, I see our profession
applying and adapting the traditional classroom choral music paradigm into the distance learning
platform. For me, to make sense of remote instruction, I am beginning with the distance learning
platform. This starting point gives me the flexibility and creativity I need to develop and implement
applicable online lessons and experiences for my students.
With my ensembles dispersed, and we are currently unable to sing and be together, through Distance
Learning, I continue to search for the answer to our Leading Voices question:
How do we actively engage students in lifelong music learning and participation at this
time through Distance Learning?
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Students Teaching Students - Sprints
Through applying the Agile Development Instructional Framework (ADIF) for the past five years in the
music classroom, my students developed the skills and abilities needed to work through sections of
music together using what we call "Sprints." A Sprint is a short rehearsal event (Iteration) that can last
from three minutes to forty minutes or longer. Each Sprint focuses on one distinct skill or concept the
students identify as essential to learning and performing a piece of music.
Below is an overview of the ADIF Sprint process and how students can actively participate in the
learning process together and then apply these skills towards independent learning. First, as a Choir,
then as a Section, and finally as an Individual.
Full Choir Sprint Planning
Earlier this year, students learned the importance of essential rehearsal expectations, choral skills, and
individual responsibility that formed the foundation for the coming year. For one activity, the choir
listened to a new song and concentrated on specific areas they felt would be challenging. The purpose?
Their assignment was to create a lesson plan for our next rehearsal. At the beginning of our next class, I
literally shuffled the papers, randomly selected one of their responses (no names mentioned), and off we
went. A lot of fun and very enlightening!
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The choir as a group first realized that they could tell what section the anonymous lesson plan was from
- many of the students' responses were voice part specific. Through this activity, the choir recognizes
that each section had different rehearsal needs. At the same time, students saw similarities and realized
that they were also dependent on each other.
Sectional Sprint Planning
Next, the choir worked in their SATB sections. Each voice part collaborated and created a lesson plan
for their section. This plan is either called a Backlog list (non-prioritized list) or a Burndown Chart (A
MHS Select Choir Alto Backlog List
After the Sectional Sprint Planning process, each section gives a brief presentation to the full choir
outlining what they learned and what they plan on working on during their Sectional Sprints.
For the last step, students now work independently and take ownership and responsibility for their
musicianship. This final step is where I find myself starting as I work with my students during the
pandemic. Most of my effort and focus is on developing and expanding each choir member's
For our next concert, each choir will learn a song on their own. The catch is, we will not rehearse the
song as a choir. The first time we will sing the song together as a choir will be for our next concert. The
ladies in the Women's Choir are currently planning and practicing their parts for I See the Light from
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TANGLED. This assignment is on Flipgrid, and the audio clip below is from one of my sophomore
sopranos. I am very proud of her.
YOUTUBE Video Link, https://youtu.be/9ILHLHcoTFs
Through Flipgrid, each choir member submitted a ninety-second video clip discussing what they are
working on and how they plan on learning the song (students don't have to be in the video - most
showed the music as the spoke). The students enjoy this platform because they can see and hear their
friends talk about music and get some tips on how others will practice the music.
The statistics for Flipgrids' student engagement for the Women's Choir is currently at 4.1 hours of
viewing, with 148 views. My Concert Choir has 15.1 hours of viewing, with 655 views on Flipgrid! To
have some fun with my classes, the top three videos with the most hits gets the honorary distinction of
"Ackles Top Video Picks of the week."
Conclusion: ADIF Sprints
The underlying philosophy of ADIF is the desire to teach and enable each student to discover and
develop their ability to respond and think musically. It is the realization that each student has the
inherent capacity to evaluate, plan, execute, and evaluate a musical experience in a way that is valuable
to both the individual and the ensemble. It is the ability and capacity to learn with each other, for each
other, and themselves.
Check out Parker J. Palmers' book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a
Teacher's Life. I am currently on Chapter five: Teaching in Community, A subject-centered Education.
A most enjoyable read.
Ackles, Brian O., 2018. Agile Development Instructional Framework (ADIF): A New Strategy for
Student-Centered Music Education. Choral Journal, September 2018. Vol. 59, No. 2