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Recently, there have been many elementary music educators sharing their amazing 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, 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 (#7-12) 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.
During the spring trimester, the kindergartners at Far Hills study the form of Vivaldi’s Spring, Movement 1, from The Four Seasons. The form is ABACADAEA. We experience this song through movement, with pictures, and by creating a song with the same form. Using MusicFirst’s Groovy Shapes, I created the A section and each Kindergarten class created their own section (in this example, one kindergarten class created sections B and E, and another kindergarten class created sections C and D). Each student had a turn coming up to the SMART Board (you do not need the interactive whiteboard to perform this lesson) and choosing “the missing part of the song” to add as a loop. For example, if the student added a drum square, the next student would add something that was not there, like a melody circle. Structuring the lesson this way kept the students engaged and assisted them with listening for items missing in the music. If you subscribe to Silver Burdett’s Online Learning Exchange (https://www.onlinelearningexchange.com/content/products/music.html), you can find a poem that I wrote that coordinates with this lesson. To listen to the completed song created by my kindergartners, see below. The video’s audio is very low quality. I also included a video of my third graders performing one of the kindergartner’s melody lines with an accompaniment created in Groovy Shapes by both kindergartners and third graders.
8. Book Creator from Red Jumper: Price: Free for one book. There is an in-app purchase that enables unlimited books and an education version with unlimited books and no in-app purchases. Grades: K and up. Activity: Creating ebooks for next year’s beginner recorder players. Each year, my third graders begin recorder and overcome many struggles. In order for them to reflect on those struggles and for me to assess what they have learned, I divide them into groups and they use Book Creator to create a book of “recorder tips” for the next year’s beginner recorder players. My next year’s students love reading these books that also include pictures, writing, audio excerpts, and video examples. This project works for a few iPads in the classroom or a 1:1 classroom. This might be challenging to successfully produce in a classroom with one iPad projected onto a screen.
9. Explain Everything Interactive Whiteboard Price: $5.99 Grades: K and up Activity: Use Explain Everything to Assess Rhythm Patterns.
When I teach the song H E A R T to the tune of Bingo, I use the app Explain Everything to assess the rhythm used in the song. The song is as follows:
To show you like your special friend, just give them each a heart.
H E A R T
H E A R T
H E A R T
Each heart says “I Love You!”
Have the students sing and clap the rhythms in the song. Place five hearts on the Explain Everything screen and have the students use the draw tool to write the rhythms. Press the record button in Explain Everything, give them the iPad, and have them write the rhythm pattern. By recording them, you can listen to and see their learning process.
I have also used Explain Everything to have students record themselves with the red pointer found in the app to point to the lyrics as they sing along with the song. In addition, I have used it to create listening maps. I found these ideas from the blog posts written by Cherie Herring, an elementary music educator in SC who teaches in 1:1 iPad school: http://www.cphmusic.net/. Cherie is the queen of Explain Everything. She uses it for class collaboration projects, for cross-curricular projects, and as a tool to flip the recorder classroom curriculum. She is amazing and if you need ideas on how to use this app, which can be used on multiple devices from a simple to a more intricate activity, please check out her blog.
Explain Everything Collaborative Whiteboard kicks it up a notch because if your school subscribes to this, it will be a more successful experience sharing the activities you create on your iPad with the students on their iPads.
10. Do Re Me 1-2-3 Price: Free to $2.99 Grades: K and up Activity: Warming up with Solfege This activity works with one iPad projected to a screen. Launch Do Re Mi 1-2-3. Click Play. Press the rainbow button to make your own music. I then click on Rockin River (the first square). I then choose the panda character. The students will love his “hey” sound. Now you will see eight pandas who sing “hey”. Change the dial from panda to the eighth notes and the solfege syllables will appear. If you press a syllable, a child’s singing voice now appears and the first Do is sung at middle C. I then will press sol-la-sol and have the students repeat singing on the pitches and using the coordinating hand signals. I then ask a student to create their own three-note pattern for us to sing using guided pitches. Note: Use the iPad’s guided access if you want to block some of the other pitches from being accessed (go to my book Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or More iPads to learn more about this). Note: The video’s sound lags behind the picture. That does not happen in the app. Reflector 2 had a latency issue when recording.
11. Incredibox Price: Website is free. The app is $1.99. Grades: 1 and up. Activity: First Day of School-Learn the Students’ Names. For this activity, I use version 2 because it has the most successful tempo for young students. However, if you do not like your cartoon male beat boxers shirtless, then use version 1. I begin with a rhythmic chant of, “Say your name and when you do, we will say it back to you,” to the rhythms of ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ta, ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ta. We begin by performing a steady beat using body percussion. I then launch Incredibox and project it onto the screen. I then show the students the musical elements and they help me create a beat-boxing accompaniment. We then say the chant again. Afterward, I pick seven of the best listeners and they each create one beat boxer. We then begin the rhythmic chant again. At this point, you have begun to learn their names. In addition, the students go home and talk about music class because they thought that your class was the best class they had all day!
Here is an example of the new Incredibox app:
12. Staff Wars V2.2/Joytunes (Staff Wars Live App – .99) Grades: 3 and up. Activity: I will load the Staff Wars V2.2 program from themusicinteractive.com on some computers and Joytunes on the others. I will group my students so that they work together to move up levels in both games. In Joytunes, when you have a group of students on the first level with the note B, it quickly teaches them to blow quietly through the recorder because they cannot progress to the next level unless they have mastered this. My students love both of these programs. Some great note reading apps that they also love: Staff Wars the app, Flashnote Derby, and Notesquish (found in the iPhone apps).
These are some of my students’ favorite tech tools to assist them with music creativity, music making, music reading, composing music, recording music, assessing skills, and so much more. There are many more and I am sure that some of you could make a list of your own and they would be twelve very different tech tools that your students use in your music classroom. And that is wonderful! Your music classroom should reflect what you love to teach and what you hope that your students will walk away with when they progress to the next grade levels. If tech can assist you with giving your students an amazing musical experience, then I hope that this blog post helps you.
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