I love to plan and teach open ended music lessons at school. These are lessons where I present basic information such as a chant, rhyme or song but then let the students create where we go from there. Can we add movements, an ostinato, and instruments? What musical form shall we present our new creation in—AB or ABA or ABACA?
Sometimes we create the movements and form together as a whole group, and other times I divide the class into small groups and let each group come up with their own ideas. Then the groups perform for each other. I love to see the creativity that evolves.
But other things happen during an open ended lesson plan that aren’t just musical. Students learn to brainstorm, cooperate, and develop leadership skills. Each group always ends up with some child becoming the leader, either by default or because they talk louder and faster than anyone else. Once in a while no student leader will surface in a group and the kids will just stand there staring at each other. Then a new learning opportunity evolves and I lead them to discover how to brainstorm and talk and communicate with each other.
When students contribute to the lesson, they internalize the ideas and make it their own. Learning happens and sticks. They feel valued, and involved and in control.
So how can this type of open ended learning atmosphere be used elsewhere in life or in the home?
Piano teachers--or any other kind of instrument teacher, can ask students at their lessons which one of their pieces they would like to play first. They can ask them what needs to be changed or how to make the piece sound better. They can ask them for ideas on how to practice it at home.
Parents can use open ended learning in the home by asking children how they would like to organize the chore schedule, or when would be the best time for them to do their home work. When looking in their bedroom and seeing that, yes indeed, a tornado DID hit, ask for ideas on how to clean it the quickest way. On Saturday ask for ideas on how to get the work of the day done in a fun way where everyone is helping.
When you involve children in the decision making, and let them use their creativity, they become part owners in the situation and will work to make it successful. Try it! I would love to hear your ideas and the results of your “tries”.