Top Ten Reasons to Enhance Your Elementary Music Classroom with Technology: #4 and #3 Creating and Composing Music in Non-Traditional Ways

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2019 is fast approaching and we come to #4 and #3 on the list of Top Ten Reasons to Enhance Your Elementary Music Classroom with Technology. We define enhancement as something that technology can do that traditional methods could not or lacked. In addition, please remember that this list is like a dessert buffet. Please only try a couple of desserts. Do not eat them all because it will become overwhelming very quickly. Finally, when the series ends on New Year’s Day, it will have a free webinar where you can see the items in action!

Music Composition

Disclaimer: Composition in young elementary should be introduced when the music educator feels that the students are ready. I feel that this usually occurs when the music educator has taught the students for awhile and knows their abilities well.

Capstone Research Project With Elementary Students’ Compositions

When I was pursuing my Masters Degree of Science in Music Education, my Capstone Research Project was how composition in the elementary grades helped learn and master musical concepts better than just learning the concepts without composition. This included a control group learning musical concepts with traditional methods. It also had an experimental group one that learned musical concepts through traditional methods and traditional composition. Finally, it had a experimental group two that learned musical concepts through traditional methods and using technology to compose.

In the end, I found a significant increase in understanding of musical concepts from experimental group two. The experimental group one showed very little improvement in understanding musical concepts and the control group showed some improvement. The data was collected through pre- and post-tests.

One of the reasons I felt that experimental group two showed a significant improvement was because elementary students using technology to compose gave them more confidence due to many young students struggling to hold a pencil at ages severn and eight. In addition, when working with technology, if they tried to compose five beats into a common time measure, the computer stopped them. This made them reflect as to why. They also did not question the technology when this occurred. My assumption was that when they played games with technology and they could not achieve the next level, they just tried again as opposed to questioning the program.

However, when experimental group one wrote numerous beats in one measure, most of them told me that since they could write it to fit into a measure, then it was OK to do. This showed me that they were not mastering the concepts or did not know how to apply what they knew.

Noteflight

I have used Noteflight for years with my elementary students, grades 2 and higher. Noteflight is a cloud-based program that you can use to set up a free account and try. However, for using it in the classroom, I highly recommend using the subscription-based version that comes with more advantages when working in a classroom with students.

My students were given a template of four to eight measures to compose with notes that they have been studying. For example, in the ebook below we did not have 1:1 devices so the third graders were divided into small groups. They were given the following guidelines:

  • They must use the notes G A and B, the same notes they have been performing on the recorder.
  • The students are to use quarter, half, whole, and/or eighth notes.
  • They can create a drum line, as to create a duet.
  • When finished, they should be able to perform it.
  • Their compositions turned out wonderfully and my favorite part was watching them create and perform. The example below shows their ebook of compositions that we shared with their parents at the end of the school year. They “leveled up” their compositions by adding an accompaniment created in Soundtrap (see below).

Noteflight works well on multiple devices and can be found on their website, as well as in great services like MusicFirst. Flat is an alternative to Noteflight, but I stick with Noteflight as my students have successfully composed using this tool for years and I know it well.

 

Cloning Music and Rhythm Patterns to Compose: Using Notebook or Google Slides with Young Elementary

Notebook

One of the wonderful items about using the interactive whiteboard programs like Notebook, is that they have the ability to infinite clone. Within Notebook’s program, there are music notes that you can make into a rhythm pattern. Here is an example of one of my lessons using infinite cloning. I created the rhythm patterns with the notation found in the program, grouped the patterns, and turned on the infinite clone feature. This is a very successful way for young elementary to begin composition.

Google Slides

With many schools discontinuing their subscription to Notebook, Google Slides has become an alternative for digital, interactive manipulatives. However, Google Slides lacks the notation that you can find in Notebook. It also lacks the infinite cloning technique that makes the above composition activity possible. Through some research, I found a way to infinite clone in google slides, but you cannot be in presentation mode to do this.

  • Paste the picture of the notation (I drew the notation in google drawings to do this) into the slide.
  • Then continue to paste the same picture until you have the number you need.
  • Then select all of those pictures.
  • Now align them horizontally to the center (I used Command*Click to do this on a MAC/Control*Click on a PC).
  • Then align them vertically in the middle.
  • They are now all lined up on top of each other. Click outside the pictures so that they are no longer in the “select all” mode.
  • Now you have an “infinite cloned” image (well cloned to as many times as you chose to clone).

Can you do this with traditional manipulatives? Yes, of course. I like to do this traditionally as well as digitally. Therefore, I know I am connecting with most of my learners, who all have various learning abilities.

Music Creation

Soundtrap

    • Soundtrap – In the previous posts of this top 10 countdown, Soundtrap has appeared numerous times. It is an amazing tool to showcase students’ creativity. From podcasting to music creating to recording, Soundtrap can do so much. Since it is web-based, it works on most school devices. In addition, it easily shares to other apps such as google classroom and Seesaw. The EDU version makes it intuitive for elementary students to use and keeps a great safe wall for them to share their music creations. I have used Soundtrap to enhance their compositions made in Noteflight as well as create podcasts, recordings for self reflections, music in guided forms, and so much more.
      • With the example above, I gave them a musical style to experiment with in creating an accompaniment.
      • We created one together as a class. I took their suggestions and had them listen.
      • They immediately recognized that the music was “too busy” – it has three drummers, four guitarists, etc.
      • We then decided that the accompaniment had to have one drummer, one guitarist, and possibly  another instrument.
      • Finally, the accompaniment could not overpower the recorder melody, which helped them learn how to listen and mix.
      • I also did some editing to have the accompaniment’s key match the composition’s key.

GarageBand

  • GarageBand – Garageband’s iOS app and program only work on Mac-based products. However, GarageBand is very intuitive for elementary students to use to record, create music, and more. Though I tend to lean towards Soundtrap more nowadays, I still use GarageBand for their jam sessions (great if your students have iPads) and for their virtual instruments. In this example below, my students created a song for the Chinese New Year using the virtual instruments found in the GarageBand iOS app. This project used one iPad and kindergartners using the Erhu to create musical phrases that contained low and high sounds.

Kindergarten Musical Creation for the Chinese New Year 2017 from Amy M Burns on Vimeo.

Check back tomorrow for the New Year’s Eve post of #2 on the list of Top Ten Reasons to Enhance Your Elementary Music Classroom with Technology. New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite days as my girls and I get fun items to celebrate the new year!

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