12 Student-Approved Tech Tools for the Elementary Music Classroom: Part 1 (#1-6)
Recently, there have been many elementary music educators sharing their student work that involves technology in the music classroom. This prompted me to write this post, which will be given in two parts, because when one considers having their students use tech tools in the music classroom, many questions arise:
- What do I do if I have one device?
- What do I do if I have multiple devices? A set of devices? 1:1?
- Why should I use tech? The kids get enough of it at home.
These questions are valid and when I present on the topic of technology integration in the elementary music classroom, I continuously state that in my elementary music classroom we sing, create music, perform on instruments, respond to music through such ways as listening and moving, and connect music across the curriculum. Technology is another tool I use to reach my students. In addition, it is not something I use every day in my elementary music classroom. For me, if I can use technology as another tool to reach my students, and it relates to them in ways that other tools cannot, and it can make some aspects of music more successful for them, then the question becomes, “How could I not use this tool in my music classroom?”
Here are tech tools (#1-6) that my students love to use in the elementary classroom and how we use them:. Therefore, these are student-approved tech tools for the elementary music classroom.
- Monkey Drum App: Price: Free. Grades: PreK/K. Activity-Rhythm Names: You can use this with one iPad that you pass around the room, or one iPad projected onto a screen (through Apple TV, Reflector App, or a Digital HDMI Adapter (Lightning for current models and 30-pin for older iPad models). My youngest students love to perform the rhythms of their names. When you launch the app, press “Play”, have a student tap his/her name, have everyone repeat and clap the name, then the monkey will perform the same rhythm pattern on his drum.
- Music Tech Teacher: Price: Free. Grades: 2 and up. Activity-Instrument Family Assessment Game: You can perform this activity with one computer projected onto a screen or if your classroom is 1:1, grouping two students together per device. After performing activities and lessons that teach the instrumental families (I use listening, moving, manipulatives, etc., to teach this), I divide the class into two teams and perform one of Karen Garrett’s quizzes she created on this wonderful and free website full of lesson plans, worksheets, activities, quizzes, and more. I launch musictechteacher.com and click on “Quizzes/Piano”. I then click on “Instrument Family Quiz”. I click “Next,” then click the arrow to create 2 teams. Click “Next” and your teams can click an avatar to represent their team. If you do not want to create an avatar, click “Next”. The program shows the two teams on their ships (very much like Pirates of the Caribbean) and begins with the first of ten questions. I have team Blue answer questions 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, and team Yellow answer questions 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. The questions’ points default to 100 for #1, 200 for #2, 300 for #3, 400 for #4….1000 for #10. If you click on the teams’ points, you can change them. Depending on the class size and my students, I will play this in two ways: 1) One student from each team comes up to the computer or interactive white board and answers the question or 2) the team works together to answer the questions together. When the game is finished, the team with the most points stays on the boat while the team with the least points loses their boat and is now swimming in shark-infested waters.
Virtual Instruments: Price: Free and up. Grades: PreK and up. Activity-Virtual and Acoustic Ensemble: One of the first things I loved about the iPads was that there were virtual instrument apps that could enhance your classroom. There are instruments I do not have the budget to cover, like timpani, or world instruments I would not access to, like a pipa or erhu, but I would love to have them in my classroom. Or, an autoharp that is always in tune. In addition, there are times when the students cannot successfully play an Orff instrument due to injury or their fine motor skills are still progressing. Finally, virtual instruments can enhance an acoustic ensemble. If you plug your iPad into a good set of speakers, you can have some students perform on virtual instruments. It produces a nice sound, enhances your Orffestrations, and all of your students feel some sort of success in performance. In this performance, my 3rd graders are using Orff instruments, a recorder, tubano drums, and virtual strings being played on the iPads and amplified through speakers. The video has a special effect placed on it so the students’ faces cannot be seen.
- Noteflight: Price: Free and up (for subscriptions). Grades: 2 and up. Activity-Music Composition: Can you change the E Song? By second grade, my students are singing and reading the notes in a pentatonic scale (Do Re Mi Sol and La). Though numerous students can utilize a pencil and paper well at this point, I have come to find that when they compose with a program as opposed to pencil and paper, more elementary students feel successful. The students can relate to technology well and when they compose with a program such as Noteflight, they can place the notes on the staff well and they can comprehend meter better. In this activity, I used five laptops and divided the students to work in groups. Each student had a measure in the melody that they could compose. I created an “E Melody,” by launching noteflight, clicking “New Score”, clicking “Lead Sheet”, and pressing the E key on the computer’s keyboard. After I had three measures of E quarter notes, I pressed the E note again in measure four and then clicked on the half note. I did this once more and created two half notes for the fourth measure. The students logged in and launched this E piece. They clicked on the first note and then used the arrow keys to make the melody pentatonic using the notes C, D, E, G, and A. When they finished, they added their first names as composers and a title to the piece. Some groups wanted more of a challenge, so they added lyrics and some added colored notation. Once finished, we continued the project with using SoundTrap or Soundation4Education or GarageBand. For the continuation, see #5. This procedure is for computers. You can also compose using iOS and tablets. Chrome Books could use Noteflight or Flat, a google app for notation that is very similar. In the video below, you will see what was stated above.
- Soundtrap: Soundtrap is a digital audio workstation (DAW) accessible directly in your browser from a variety of devices, such as Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Linux, Android phones and tablets and iPads. Use Soundtrap by yourself to create your next hit or collaborate in the music making with people from all over the world. Price: Free and up (for subscriptions). Grades: 2 and up. Activity- Extension to Music Composition: Can you change the E Song? In years’ past, I have done this extension lesson using GarageBand, but this year my second graders were greatly successful with a SoundTrap Education subscription. You can create a free educational account for yourself to try it out for 30 days, which will then revert you to the basic free version, which is not useful for students but could be useful for you. The students were divided into groups and used five laptops (though it does work on mobile devices but not as stable) and given a genre to create an accompaniment to their melodies. As one student told me, “The melody is the meat of the taco. But, I also want to create the shell which are the drums, the tomatoes which are the guitars, and the lettuce which is the keyboard.” My students loved working with Soundtrap and were extremely successful. Why use Soundtrap when you could use GarageBand? I chose Soundtrap because you can collaborate with other students from outside your school. Are there still kinks to be worked out? Yes, because I feel that their education version is good, but it is pricey. I also feel that the collaboration tool needs to grow more where there could be a listing of schools and countries and you could click and choose to contact them, as opposed to sending a general email out through the collaboration tool. I am not sold on Soundtrap yet, but my students loved using it. Here is an example of this extension activity from one of the examples shown in #4.
- GarageBand: App for iOS (Price $4.99) or GarageBand for MAC. Grades: 2 and up. My good friend and one of my music technology professors, Dr. Scott Watson (author of Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity), has taught a course to music educators titled, GarageBand Does It All, for years. Why? Because the GarageBand app and program for MAC can do it all. Your students can create, record, mix, master, and share music, create EDM and Hip Hop beats, watch tutorials on how to play an instrument, record vocal assessments, create live beats, create sampled music, create accompaniments, utilize smart instruments, have students use the virtual instruments to enhance an ensemble, utilize their new feature of Chinese instruments for a cultural music study, and so much more. But, how can we use it in the elementary music classroom? Activity-Create a song with an ABA form. After studying ABA form through singing, moving to music, and creating/performing a B section to a song using Orff instruments and movements, I divided the students into five groups and had them use iPads to launch the GarageBand app to create a guided ABA song. They clicked on “Create New Song”, clicked “Audio Recorder” (make sure you are in “TRACKS” and not “LIVE LOOPS”), and then the screen will appear with an audio recorder. To access the loops, press the tracks button at the top left of the screen, two away from “My Songs”. The screen will change and a loop button will appear on the top right of the screen, three away from the end. It looks like the old matchbox loop for matchbox cars. Click the loop button and set each group up with a genre because this will limit choices and gives you a teaching moment about musical genres. You can choose the genre or let them select, depending on your students. For this activity, I had them use only four tracks (2 for the A Section and an additional 2 for the B Section). Once they have auditioned loops and created an A section with two tracks that were not stacked on top of each other (they had to listen and adapt them by making them longer or shorter), they pressed the “+” button after measure 8 and a new menu appeared called “Song Sections.” They clicked “Add”, and Section B for 8 bars appeared. They doubled clicked on that and created a section with two additional tracks. Once finished with the B Section, they clicked the “+” button, clicked on “Section A”, clicked “Duplicate” (which duplicated Section A, but unfortunately calls it Section C), and finally clicked on “All Sections”. They now have created an ABA piece that they present to the class and their classmates answer the following questions: What instruments do you hear and what musical genre do you think it could be? Here is an example from a group of third graders:
Want to see more wonderful activities that involve iPads in the music classroom? Check out these three great resources:
- Check out my free ebook, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or More iPads!: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/help!-i-am-elementary-music/id910037233?mt=11
- Katie Wardrobe’s iPad Projects Book: https://midnightmusic.leadpages.net/ipad-projects-ebook/
- Cherie Herring, an elementary music educator in SC who teaches in 1:1 iPad school, has excellent activities created for the iPad using a variety of apps. Her lessons are revered and when you see her present, you see videos from her classroom of engaged music students who are loving everything she is teaching. http://www.cphmusic.net/
Next week: 12 Student-Approved Tech Tools for the Elementary Music Classroom: Part 2 (7-12)
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