Last week, I wrote about the TI:ME National Conference and TMEA Conference highlighting sessions from the first two days. This post highlights some more technology and elementary music sessions from the final two days of this four-day conference.


I feel that every music educator will have to run a sound system at some point in their career. This is always a challenge as unless you were trained on the system, this complex item can be a scary thing to figure out. Dr. Freedman gave wonderful examples and advice as she shared her knowledge of how certain microphones amplify musicians, how to find the best microphone for your specific needs, why EQ is important, and that if you purchase cheaper equipment, you get what you pay for.

One take away: There were many take aways from this session. Plus, I have watched her present this session many times and I go so that I can learn more each time. This time, this one take away is so simple, but it is one I forget often and need to remember: If you are running a sound system for a graduation and your speakers have the choice of a condenser mic or a handheld mic (like a Shure SM 58, the vocal mic choice of Mic Jagger), then the speaker needs to be able to do this below when using a condenser mic, and have the length of three fingers between them and the mic when using a handheld mic.

Music and the Brain

“Every child comes to us with an empty slate that we have to write on” – Jo Kirk

Jo Kirk – Lullabies to Circle Games

I attended a couple of sessions that involved music, mind brain education (MBE), and neuroscience. Jo Kirk was the featured elementary music presenter and she showcased numerous games in her session titled, “Lullabies to Circle Games”. She explained the goals of each game from establishing moving to the steady beat to improvising words to the songs. She reminded us that singing is a skill and a skill is taught, modeled, and learned.

“Every child comes to us with an empty slate that we have to write on” – Jo Kirk. Image found at

One Take Away: Jo spoke about multiple modalities when teaching early childhood music. She geared this statement to those who have young children. She spoke about showing videos to young children. If this occurs with babies for the goal of learning, then you must have two other modalities in the mix, like movement and speech. For example, if nana is in the video, then form the letter “a” for nana, sing a song to bounce to the steady beat, and then ask where is nana so the baby points to her. She reminded us that every child comes to us with an empty slate that we have to write on. This is similar to Dr. Missy Strong’s talk about how each child comes to us with a lump of clay that we can mold during the preschool and elementary school years.

Mary Knysh – Teaching Ukulele with the Brain in Mind

Mary’s session’s focused on the question, “Why are music and creative play so important?” She spoke about how Harvard neuroscientists in Boston, MA, have determined that there are four ways to actually build a better brain throughout our lives through “neuroplasticity,” which are the growth of the connectors between left and right hemispheres of the brain.

These four elements that have the most important effect are:

Image from Mary Knysh’s presentaiton
  • Music making
  • Movement
  • Creative Play (returning to childlike attitude of play, imagination)
  • Numinous Experience (those experiences in which our sense of self is absorbed into something bigger than we are)

Mary referenced Anita Collins’s TED Talk titled, “How playing an instrument benefits your brain” and the powerful effects music has on our brains. She then showed ways to incorporate these MBE techniques when teaching students to play ukuleles.

One Take Away: I loved the technique of brain-based movement strategies to track chord changes. When the students were changing chords, the students swayed their bodies to the left or right. This technique enhances the theory that our body influences our brain and our brain influences our body.

Game Changer

To hear that something can be a game changer in your classroom can make you skeptical because classrooms vary in learning styles, teacher to student ratio, and so much more. During the last slot on a Saturday afternoon, I presented the session, “Seesaw: A Game Changer in the Elementary Music Classroom”. Seesaw is a student-driven learning journal that showcases students’ musical works and connects their journal to their caregivers and parents.

Love finding this special lady at conferences. I will follow Dr. Missy Strong anywhere to hear her present and hang out with her!

When I titled the session, I did not write those words in the title lightly. In the hour-long session, I showed elementary music educators with no budget (Seesaw is free with some nice, extra features in the paid version) to great budgets, those with one device in the classroom to multiple devices, and more, how this one item can take your curriculum from your classroom and make it accessible to your parents from their mobile devices. When this occurs, your parents and caregivers learn that you have a curriculum that has only a portion of it that involves concert preparation. They realize that the music curriculum involves students becoming tuneful, beatful, and artful. That the students learn how to create, compose, and respond to music, as well as connect to music to other subjects in extremely successful ways. By the end of the session, it was my hope that the elementary music educators could see what a game changer Seesaw can be.

One Take Away: One take away was how to begin with Seesaw. I always remind music educators to begin small and have a support system. This means that the music educator might want to begin Seesaw with just one class and pilot it for the year. Or, they might want to begin Seesaw with a classroom teacher so that they can support each other as they learn how to use it with their students for the first year.

This was truly an amazing conference as I set out goals and achieved them. I wanted to learn about MBE with music. I wanted to learn more about how to run a sound system, about techniques for teaching early childhood music, about free resources, and about how to connect with my students’ musical tastes. I am so grateful for all those who take time out of their busy schedules to come and present at the state conferences. If you ever get the chance to come to a state conference, even one that might not be in your own state, I encourage you to try to find a way to attend and learn from the presenters. Finally, I encourage you to network as much as you can with other music educators, as well as listen to some great student musicians.

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