MYP Music Plan Example - Protest Songs in Grade 7

Let’s kill two birds with one stone – I’m going to show you how to complete an MYP Music Unit Planner and I’m going to show you how to complete ManageBac, all in one go.

The unit I’ll be using is my grade 7 protest song unit. It’s the unit I use for my Building Quality Curriculum moderation, so I’ve already run it through the IB’s unit evaluation guidebook; I’m pretty confident that it’s a sturdy unit ready to be shared. 

I’ve completed my ManageBac checklist (you’ll see it at the side of the page when you are completing your unit.)  The only check I missed is for interdisciplinary learning, since this unit isn’t part of an IDU. Once the checklist is done, this summary sheet is generated by ManageBac.

ManageBac's At-A-Glance Summary

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Add your unit summary information (title, dates, etc.)

The first part of building your ManageBac unit is pretty easy – you just have to name your unit, give the starting month, which week of the school year in which it’ll start, how many weeks it is, etc.  You can also add a description for parents or administrators to view. Lastly, if you are sharing this unit with other classes, you can set that permission. Pretty basic stuff — next we’ll dive into the hard stuff (key concepts, related concepts, etc.)

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The hardest part... nailing your Key Concept and Related Concepts

Only pick one key concept. Check your MYP guide (and in our case, that’s the MYP Arts Guide) for the definitions of the key concepts. The guide will also tell you which concepts are especially relevant to the Arts. In our case, we can use any concepts, but the guide tells us that Identity, Change, Aesthetics and Creativity are the main concepts we should be pulling from.

Below this you see the related concepts. We need to use 2 – 3 concepts in order to shape our lessons. If we use only 1 related concept, then our unit will be too narrow and it’ll finish too fast. If we use too many related concepts, the unit will go on forever! 

Here’s an important warning about related concepts: Read their definitions carefully in the guide. To quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think that means.”  Do you want to use play? In this case, it actually means ‘playful,’ as in ‘improvisation.’  Best not to choose it for every single music unit!

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Now things are getting harder... we need to come up with the conceptual understanding statement.

This part used to kill me. If you don’t enjoy wordsmithing (or don’t have the time for it), then this is the hardest part of the entire unit planner – The inquiry statement!

We were told, in one or my workshops, that the inquiry statement must be vague enough to be used in any class.  That’s why for this grade 7 unit, I chose, “Good communication skills are required to express our beliefs.” I thought this’d be a good inquiry statement because I want the kids to know that protest songs – first and foremost – have to be good songs. If they aren’t ‘sticky’ then they won’t influence people’s hearts and potential cause action. But yes, this concept could also be used in a multitude of different subject areas. 

Next, add your Global Context.  Don’t immediately jump to Personal and Cultural Expression! Check through your guide and your ‘further guidance’ document for definitions. In our case, ManageBac has substrands to click.  In my example, we are going to look at how protest songs highlight inequality, which falls under Fairness & Development.

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You need to justify why this unit is authentic and applicable.. and then come up with a statement of inquiry.

In my last workshop, we learned that the best way to make an inquiry statement is to take the words you’ve used for your key concept and related concepts, incorporate your word from the global context, and make sure its vague enough. If you use this method, then you’d say something like, “Persuasive Art expresses and communicates messages of inequality through targeted presentations.”  (Aka… for a protest song to work, it’s got to communicate its message correctly to its niched-down market.)

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Let's add your 3 inquiry questions - Conceptual, Factual, and Debatable.

If you are an MYP veteran, then you know all about Guiding Questions. (A few years ago, we were told we could no longer use this term because of copyright issues. Now they are called Inquiry Questions.)

You’ve got to have inquiry question that goes after the big idea – the conceptual question. For me, I’m asking how music can influence or change a society. Yep, that’s protest songs, for sure. I need to link that to one of my key or related concepts, so I’m linking it to communication.

Next, you need a factual question. It’s not all fuzzy-feeling inquiry; the kids need to know some facts! I’ve linked this to expression, and my question relates to lyrics (what the IB calls ‘extra-musical findings’). 

Lastly, we don’t want to raise little robots. Our kiddos need to know they can argue and debate different perspectives, so now we need the debatable question. Mine is linked to presentation, and I’m asking why we should enjoy protest songs.  I hope this sparks debate, because one student might argue that you don’t have to like a protest song, while another might mention that ‘stickiness’ is an important factor in making a protest song memorable. 

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Great. We're done the big, scary stuff, and now we are going to be check-boxing our way through SLOs.

This is easy. Your school should have already uploaded the student learning outcomes (SLOs) into ManageBac, so now you just have to check-off which apply to your unit. If you are doing a full run-through of the creative cycle, you’ll probably have all 4 MYP criteria.  Then you’ll need your school’s SLOs and the general content and skills you’ll be covering. 

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Approaches to Learning Skills

Okay, here is a contentious issue. How many ATLs should we be assessing? On our report cards, we have all ATL skills list and are expected to report on all of them. I know in other schools, they want you to focus on only one – maybe two – and to do a deep dive on them. Please check with your MYP coordinator to see what they want you to do. 

With our school, we might touch on all aspects, but we choose a smaller number on which to really drill down. It can be really challenging for music teachers, whose programs are based solely on collaborative, inquiry-based work. For us, all substrates of social and self-management are equally applicable. However, choices have to be made, so I look at which strands are my non-negotiable absolutes and then click those in ManageBac. 

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Let's add our Learner Profile traits (NOT just for PYP students, BTW!)

Let’s just be clear, for a second; the Learner Profile is applicable for everyone, from Early Years all the way up to the Diploma Programme.  I’ve been to MYP category 2 workshops in which the instructor first had to teach the group what the Learner’s Profile was! Now that my rant is over, let’s get into choosing our Learner Profile traits.

For this unit, I’m going to encourage the students to be Reflective Communicators.  This is because we will be looking at issues of social inequality… in an International School where the kids all have nannies and private drivers. Their home and host countries will have instances of inequality (all countries do), but these students are often insulated in a bubble.

First of all, we start looking at wider examples of inequality. Climate change? It’s unfair that Lagos is sinking when you consider that 15 countries account for 72% of all pollution. Police Brutality? It’s unfair that Blacks are 2.5x more likely to be killed during black interactions. Poverty? It’s unfair that over 25% of all indigenous urban-Canadians live in poverty.

Once the students start seeing inequality in the wider world, then we start asking them what inequalities they see around them. I live in China, so I currently have a group looking at anti-Asian racism, which has always existed, but which became even more prominent during and after COVID-19. 

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International Mindedness, Interdisciplinary Links and Academic Honesty

I start off by recognising my own biases here. I’m from North America, so most of the songs I know come from that culture. Also, I recognise that protest songs exist on different sides of issues, so I like to explore them. We will listen to anti-war songs, such as “War” or anything from Green Day.  Then, we’ll start looking at pro-war / support our troops songs, such as “Arlington” or “Voices that Care.”  I also recognise that my students’ cultures have their own protest songs.  

My favourite example is a group who performed a piece about the MV Sewol ferry sinking, in their home language. It was really emotional to see teenagers singing a protest song, in their home language, about a ferry sinking that killed 250 teenager the year before.

We also list what other subjects could be integrated. I’ve listed English and Humanities, though it’s not an interdisciplinary unit (IDU).  At our school, The Arts are electives that runs on a semester  system.  We tried to do IDUs, but found that not all students chose Music and those who did weren’t necessarily in the semester when it was running. 

Lastly, discussing Academic Integrity.  Our school, of course, has an Academic Honesty guideline that scaffolds academic honesty for students in early years up to DP (growing progressively more complicated, until they get to full APA citations.)

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Let's add your connections.

This is pretty self-explanatory. Just add how you will support language learners (especially important in international schools with transient populations). How are you using technology? How might this link to Service as Action?

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We had some easy checkboxes, but we are back to the hard stuff again - Assessments!

I learned something new about ManageBac’s assessments this week… as I create assessments for my grade book, they are automatically added to ManageBac’s MYP unit plan assessment tab.  I jumped into ManageBac to grab this screenshot for you and realised that my assessments and activities were already added as links. NICE!  (Not all were added, so I have to find out why some get added and some don’t.)

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Learning Experiences - When I first started teaching, I thought these came first...

Before I experienced the MYP and its focus on Understanding by Design, I always thought learning experiences came first. I remember looking at unit planners and thinking, “What’s all this junk about concept statements and inquiry statements? What are these kids actually learning?!?!” (BTW… is that you now? It was definitely me, once upon a time.)  Now I have a better understanding that you need to understand your Why and your Where before you can start planning your How.