10 Helpful Apps for Elementary Music Educators
In the past two years, I have presented sessions and written a variety of articles on apps for the elementary music classroom. As I continue this “Top 10” series of blog posts, I felt that I had to write about 10 helpful apps for elementary music educators. I would not go so far as to say “top 10” because I feel like the “app world” changes daily because many are updated and more are added. In addition, one app might work well for one teacher, but another app might work well for another. Therefore, look over this list and feel free to check some out.
Teacher Organizational App: iDoceo ($6.99)
I adore this app! I use this app to keep track of all of my students’ grades, assessments and seating charts. I was able to take the student list from excel (saved as a .csv file) and import it to iDoceo using dropbox. If the excel file contains more than their names, you can arrange the excel file to import the additional information as well. I then created tabs in each class such as “attendance chart,” “assessments chart,” “recorder star chart,” and “Orff chart.” In the attendance chart, I can create icons for “present,” “absent,” “bathroom,” “at nurse” or “other.” Before each class, I create a column that automatically inserts the date. If everyone is present, I can touch and hold the column and the “Attend All” option comes up, which when pressed, all check marks appear next to the students’ names. It is a quick way to take attendance. In the assessment chart, I can customize icons to use when I perform an assessment game like “I’m the fastest turkey” (from Denise Gagné’s Sing and Play on Special Days), so that when I assess the student, I can input the icon (like a smiley face, a check mark, a flag, etc.) and the student will not be able to interpret the icon. In the recorder star chart, I keep track of the students’ recorder assessments and input the stars into the chart when they earn their recorder stars. In the Orff chart, I keep track of which Orff instruments they have performed on so that I do not repeat the instrument.
Some other items that I adore about this app are:
1) When I double click on the student’s name, all of their info shows up on the screen. If I click on the link icon, I can take a picture of the student, add a photo, add a file, record a video, record audio, or add a URL. The option to record a video or audio is a wonderful option for a music educator because when I have used it, I have been able to videotape my 5th graders’ instrumental performance tests, I have been able to record audio of the students’ vocalizations assessments and I have been able to revisit them when I needed to write progress reports.
2) The seating charts are wonderful. You can create five seating charts for each class. You can also add photos of each
student by adding the photo of the student, or taking a photo of the student using the app. You can also email the seating charts with the pictures to yourself. This has been very helpful on days when I have needed a sub.
I can print out the seating charts with pictures and give them to the sub, who now will be able to see the students’ names and pictures on one page. Finally, there is a random select tool within the seating chart so that when you have the seating chart window up on screen, you can click on the “dice” and it will randomly select a student from the chart.
3) If you create a grading system, the app will average it for you. If you make notes in the app, you can email the notes to the teacher or the parents with one click.
4) You can back it up often (I have it back up to google drive) and their website has great quickstart guides to answer many questions you would have about the app.
Helpful App for Reward System: ClassDojo (free)
ClassDojo can run on the laptop or on a mobile device. I use this app for classes that come to me at rough times during the day. Whether they are coming to me very late in the day or they are coming to me after they have been transitioning all throughout the day, I feel that I need some sort of reward system to help them stay on task because they are tired and/or exhausted. ClassDojo does just that and my younger students love seeing their points increase as they stay on task. I have seen an educator use it on her mobile tablet so that if her students spoke out of turn while they were walking in the hallway, she would take a point away. The sound of the point being taken away reminded all of the students that they were not to talk in the hallway. It worked very well and was very successful. Inputting a list into ClassDojo was effortless as it also just required copying the column from the excel file and pasting it into ClassDojo.
App for Creating Music with Grades Two and Up: GarageBand (free-additional GarageBand instruments and sounds are available for a one-time in-app purchase of $4.99)
The GarageBand app is so self-intuitive that my younger students have successfully been able to create music with this app by clicking and dragging loops onto the screen. They also enjoy recording themselves singing with the accompaniments that they create. By doing all of this, they then learn about balance and mixing the volumes of each track to ensure a song with a good sound.
App for Ear Training: Blob Chorus (Free)
Your students will find this app (also a website) to be fun because it is based around singing blobs. However, this app is an ear training app where you can set the ear training game to have two to eight blobs singing pitches. The students have to match King Blob’s pitch with the pitch of blob 1 or blob 2 (if you choose only two blobs). If you have one iPad, project this app to the screen and have the students pass around the iPad to each take a turn.
App for Reflecting iPad to the Screen: Reflector ($12.99)
For $12.99, you can install this onto your laptop and it will mirror your iPad onto the screen. It requires a wifi network in order for it to work and streaming can be slow. However, with all that said, I have used it successfully to display several iPads at once onto the screen in my music classroom. Here is a great article that compares seven ways to show your iPad onto the screen.
App for getting Flash Websites to Work on Your Mobile Device: Photon Flash Browser for Kids – ABC, Math, Phonics, Vowels and Free Educational Web Games ($4.99)
Would you like to use incredibox.com, quavermusic.com, musictechteacher.com, and other flash-based websites on your iPad? Try Photon Flash Browser EDU. I had my students create music using incredibox.com on the iPads with help from this app. There are some time latency issues when using incredibox with the Photon Flash Browser EDU app, however, my second graders were still able to successfully utilize incredibox well with this app on their iPads.
Great PreK Music App: “Duck Duck Moose” Apps ($1.99)
Duck Duck Moose makes a variety of apps from music to reading. Their music apps such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus,” and “Old MacDonald” are interactive musical apps that allow the students to tap items on the screen that will add sounds to the song. The two items that I like best about these apps are 1) You can have the students record themselves singing the song so that their voices would be heard throughout the app and 2) Many of their songs can be played in a variety of languages. For example, “Old MacDonald” can be sung in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German.
Wonderful Book Creating App for Elementary Students: Book Creator for iPad (Free trial/$4.99)
This app is very self-intuitive that my third graders thoroughly enjoyed creating recorder books that included songs, recordings, videos, and various writings about how to play the recorder, how to finger notes, etc. The books can be opened in iBooks so the students can experience reading their newly-authored e-books.
App to Create Ostinato: isle of tune ($1.99)
isle of tune is an app and a website that you personally, could sit there and create these musical islands for hours. However, in the elementary music classroom, your students could use it to create an ostinato. Once the ostinato is created, have the students write out rhythm patterns and use classroom percussion instruments to create a musical piece.
App to Get Your Shiest Student Using His/Her Voice: Songify ($2.99)
I have used this app to help my shiest students tap into their inner musicians. I have had them write a poem and then record it into the songify app. They then choose the style of music to accompany their poem. The app then plays back for them an auto-tuned version of their recorded voices with the musical styles they chose as the accompaniments. Some of my shyest students blossom after using this app. The smiles on my students’ faces as they make musical creations with this app are priceless.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com