In the era of the digital age and “going green,” more and more schools opt to communicate with parents via eblasts, websites, text messages, and more. Back in 2000, when I was taking a TI:ME 1B course taught by Dr. Scott Watson, he showed us how to make a classroom webpage to showcase our students’ works, display our curriculum, announce our concert schedules and concert dress codes, and post any other announcements that would benefit our communication with our parents. I was hooked. At that time (and I know that I am aging myself here), I was using Netscape Composer to create a music webpage for my students and parents. It had our curriculum, schedules, announcements, fliers, newsletters, students’ works, and recordings of songs. It was tough to get people to check the website because posting everything there as opposed to sending the notice home, was a very new concept.
Fast forward to 2012, and most schools have gone green and paperless and most forms of communication occur in some digital form. My school now provides me with an internal website that can only be accessed by the school, parents, and students. I have a music webpage for every grade from PreK Youngers to Grade 5. My most challenging webpages are the ones for my early childhood/PreK music classes. These webpages are for the parents and I want to make them more than announcements, schedules, and curriculum. We can post videos and audio files, which led me to this post.
Many things! Here is a list of what I post, but please note that the webpage is internal and password protected. If you are doing this on a webpage that can be accessed by anyone, then you must get permission for any photos, videos, or recordings that you are using.
- Curriculum – Let the parents know that you are not just “singing fun songs” with their young children. You are teaching basic musical concepts to what I feel, is the greatest age.
- Announcements – I always invite my parents to a “Bring Your Parent/Grandparent/Aunt/Family Friend to Music Class” event each February
- Schedule – The parents should know when, where, and how often their children attend music class.
- Students’ works from the process of learning songs to creating musical works with looped-based software (Groovy was my favorite).
- Pictures of the students enjoying music. Yes, difficult to do when you might be the only adult in the classroom, but we are teachers and we can be very creative when it comes to this.
- Videos of the students performing a song, a musical activity, acting out a music book, performing music and movement activities, etc.
- Recordings – This is my favorite. I like to post recordings of the children singing their favorite songs. In addition, I like to post recordings of me singing the songs from our class. This lets the parents know what we are singing in each class and they can also play the songs from their computer and sing along with their children. It always brings a smile to my face when a three-year-old comes into class and says “Mrs. Burns! Mommy and I listened to you sing about the spider!” I always respond with “Did you sing along?” The answers vary, but usually they answer with an emphatic, “yes!”
Those recordings referenced above do not need to be high quality. In the past, I have used multiple devices to record a song from my GarageBand app on my iPad or iPhone, to Audacity on my laptop with the internal mic or the Snowball mic, from my Microtracks recorder or iPod recorder with an external mic. All have proven successful. I usually choose the device depending on how much time I have to make the recording and post it on the website. This takes literally a few minutes and it is worth it. Anything that gets my music curriculum out of my classroom and into the hands of my parents is always worth the time and effort.
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