An invaluable, essential tool across all there music areas..

What are they and why use them?

Process Journals are paper-based or electronic scrapbooks that gather evidence of using the creative cycle to gather extra-musical findings and to present music.

A process journal is more than just a music workbook.  It’s a music diary or journal.  In it, students gather evidence of Criterion A (Knowledge & Understanding).  Like a typical music workbook, they include written assignments, theory sheets, information sheets, and any other written work that gives them a deeper understanding of the topics being studied.  Where the Developmental Workbook is different is its relationship to Criteria B (Developing Skills), C (Creative Thinking), and D (Responding).  We use the creative cycle in the Arts; the students’ progress through the creative cycle – their process – is recorded in their process journal. 

My kids used to hate process journals.  They didn’t know what to write and they didn’t care about reflecting.  Over the years I tried several different types of PJs (as we call them) until one year I finally happened upon my best practice – electronic PJs (which is feasible since I’m in a 1:1 laptop school). The electronic versions are so much better because students take ownership over their work.  I tell them they can use any software that accepts video files, which means I typically get Pages, Keynote, iWeb or iBook Author files.  The students take  pride in decorating their documents and personalising their work as much as possible.

What's in a process journal?

A better question is - What ISN'T in a process journal?

A typical grade 7 Process Journal might include this:
– Title page about the student
– Creative cycle title page (so they can look back and see how assessments work in music)
– Information sheets about Chinese music
– Worksheets / Answers to questions about Chinese music
– Pieces of music composed in Chinese style, including a screen capture of the score, an MP3 file of the music, a photo of the student’s ensemble group, and a video of their group performing their piece
– A chapter on how their music was composed, with graduated screen captures showing progress.
– Feedback given by family, friends, and teachers, as well as the students’ written responses to that feedback
– Evidence of using the Creative Cycle, including planning write-ups, score mark-ups, progress videos, progress evaluations, reflections, progress evaluations, external feedback, responses to feedback, a final video, a final reflection, and a final evaluation
– Evidence of musicing outside of school (e.g. attending concerts, jamming with friends, etc.)

Creative Cycle Wall Display

My display board is a visual reminder that the process journal is involved in every step of the creative cycle.

I designed this banner for my classroom.  It’s 2 X 2 metres and takes up an entire display case.  I’ve got it positioned directly across from the main classroom door so that it’s the first thing students see as they walk in the door.  The drama teacher and I share resources, so I also made one for her classroom, which measures 1 X 2 metres in length. 

How do I use this display?  When I see good examples of score mark-ups, I blue tack them to the display.  I also take photos of students practicing and working well and again I blue tack them up.  I ensure that the evidence is placed beside where the kids were in the creative cycle.

I’ve got a floor rug sitting in front of the display, so I take my students and sit them in front of the creative cycle and we discuss what the cycle looks like and how to use it efficiently.  I find it really effective in visually showing students what I mean. For example, I had one group who were very proficient on their instruments. I noticed they were almost perfect, though they had just started the process.  I asked them to choose a new piece that was more challenging, but they protested.  Then I took them over to the Creative Cycle display and showed them, “Guys.  You are moving straight from planning / practicing to performing.  You are completely missing polishing because your music is too easy!”  When they saw it visually, they accepted their reality and went to look for music that was more challenging.

DeBono Thinking Hats - Reflection Prompts

DeBono Thinking Hats are incredibly helpful when using PJs because they give the students starting prompts when reflecting and evaluating.  They also ensure that the teacher has ensured that a final assessment has looked at a performance from all possible angles. So what are DeBono Thinking Hats? According to Wikipedia, the hats include:

  • Information: (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Bad points judgment (Black) – logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch
  • Good points judgment (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes
  • Thinking (Blue) – thinking about thinking

    When I was doing my Category 2 training we were warned against using prompts in the PJs because many people find that students are trapped with using the hats and so don’t truly reflect, and in some part I think this is true.  However, I see the DeBono Hats as a starting point and as scaffolding for differentiation.  The fact is, students who are “self-starters” and/or proficient in the language of instruction often write far beyond the hats.  They may use the prompts, but typically they write paragraphs more in which they really dive into their evaluations / reflections.  These are the students who add extra paragraphs about their musicing – who go the extra mile.  On the other hand, I once had an Asperger’s student who simply could not write without prompts.  She simply didn’t see the point.  And what about my ESL students? Our school has a highly transient population, 46% of whom may speak little or no English.  These students, as well as the “non-starters” would happily write nothing in their DWs, whether from inability or in-difference.  The DeBono hats give them a scaffold; the students can use them as a support, before moving beyond them when needed.

    How do I use the Hats as a teacher?  I use the Hats when designing assessments and when reflecting on my own work. 

  • Designing Assessments: After my students have completed a large unit and are ready for the final, summative assessment, I like to use the DeBono Hats to structure my written assessment if it is in essay form (I structure my tests using Bloom’s Taxonomy, but more on that on my Assessments Page). For example, if the students have completed a composition, then I will use DeBono Hats as prompts to evaluate it as part of their Criterion A.
  • Reflecting on my own work: The students once asked whether teachers had to reflect as well.  (Yes, some students get tired of having to reflect in every class!)  Of course we reflect on our own work!  For example, last month we put on our first annual Music Festival.  Immediately afterwards, we setup a wiki and asked for all volunteers to reflect on its success.  The questions we used related to Yellow (what went well about the music festival), Black (What do we need to improve for next year), Blue (How did we think about the festival and what strategies should we use to improve), White (Facts about how it was implemented), Green (Creativity – What made the festival fun and cool) and Red (How did we feel when it was finished?)

Sample DeBono Hat for the Creative Cycle

White Hat: Who are the members of your group? What instruments will they be playing? What parts of music are they playing (descant, melody, harmony, bass, rhythm/percussion)? What piece have you chosen and why? What is your stylistic plan for this piece (personal interpretation is Criterion B: Strand 1)?

Black Hat: Looking at your score, what potential problems do you see? What might be challenging for your group?

Yellow Hat: What areas of your score look feasible? About what are you feeling confident regarding your ensemble’s performance?

Blue Hat: What strategies are you going to use in putting this piece together? How are you going to ensure that your work through the creative cycle is effective and on-task?

Green Hat: How are you going to make your personal interpretation creative and musical?

Red Hat: How do you feel about the start of this project so far?