It’s Time for a Sale!

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As some of you may know, I have a small-but-growing Teachers Pay Teachers store for which I’ve spent quite a bit of time building products. I’ve been recently updating some of my older files and adding a bunch of composition worksheets, since composing and improvising is something I’m really striving to include more of in my own classroom. To say thank you for my supporters, I’ve decided to throw a 15% off sale, Thursday 3/23 through Sunday 3/26! 

Here is a preview of some of my new and updated items, including some sugary-sweet peeps for Easter!

 

My Top 10 Favorite iPad Apps for the Elementary Music Classroom

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Let’s talk iPads! From one to 1-to-1, no matter how many iPads you have can be an excellent way to extend your students’ learning and engage them in one of their favorite (for better or for worse) items – technology.

First off, don’t be scared of technology. The most wonderful thing about it is that your students will probably not only figure out any issues you might encounter but might help discover new features or ideas within the apps you use. You should, of course, preview anything you show (check for inappropriate ads or prompts to purchase upgrades). Sometimes when we get a new app or find a new website, I’ll have the students help me play around and explore. We’ll experiment a little bit and then reconvene – what did you find? What didn’t you understand?

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite 10 apps – most are free, some can be used at stations and some can be led by the teacher during whole group. Feel free to explore them, try them out, and let me know what others you have fallen in love with!

1. GarageBand ($)

This is a STAPLE. GarageBand has so many opportunities and options for you! It is wonderful for our students because the Smart Instruments and the loops provide no-fail ways for your students to compose their own projects. The tempos default to the same speed as you record new tracks and the loops tend to overlap in key correctly (not all, but they tend to work more often than not).

When we need to practice singing a song but need to shake up the repetitions, I’ll ask individual students to select and piece together a Smart Drum track to accompany us. Talk about instant interest!

New on the iOS update is this new “Live Loops” feature – suddenly your students can be their own DJ and mix together dubstep loops, Chinese modern loops, funk loops – you name it!

2. Rhythm Cat Lite (free)

This is a great app for your upper kiddos – Rhythm Cat Lite (or the paid version) will help reinforce rhythms with your students. I’d start this app with 2nd grade after they’ve learned half notes – the first couple of levels start right off with quarter notes and half notes and then extend to whole notes and dotted half notes. It’s not quite in line with typical Kodaly sequences (it’s probably better for piano students) but it’s a great way to practice rhythms kinesthetically (by pressing and holding the button for the durations).

Also, kitties!

3. Falling Stars (free)

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This is a fabulous app to explore timbre and creative sound. My Kindergarteners beg to play this game! Simply put, you choose a leaf pattern at the bottom, draw with your finger, and then let the stars fall on the drawings and listen to the result. Each leaf pattern makes a different sound when the star falls on it – we use it as a way to start discussing timbres and how sounds are differentiated from each other.

4. DoReMi Zoo (free)

What a great way to practice solfege! My students use this at stations with flashcards – they play the keyboard on the screen and hear the patterns as played by the iPad. You could also use this as a way for students to hear their compositions – while I want to trust that I have perfectly built up their aural skills, I know they aren’t perfect, so this let’s them hear accurate patterns and helps to reinforce the correct skills and not best-guesses.

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5. Playpad (free) img_0091

This takes a slightly different direction than DoReMi Zoo (app #4). This one makes sound wherever you touch on the staff – this helps students translate notation on the staff to sound or reinforce patterns.

6. Incredibox ($) img_0090

MY. STUDENTS. LOVE. THIS. APP. And what better way to teach ostinato? Incredibox is also a free website (incredibox.com) – students choose a clothing item to put on the character and it creates an ostinato pattern. Some are melodic in nature, some rhythmic, some beatboxing – layered on top of each other, they create a fascinating and fun set of songs! The combinations are endless, and my students could play this for days.

7. Monkey Drum (free)

My K-2 students use this one for rhythm practice and composition. Monkey Drum has an echo portion where you tap the drum and the monkey answers – your students can play this with flashcards or compose their own patterns for the monkey to play. There is also a song builder that uses pentatonic scales to set up simple repetitive patterns that the students control.

8. Camera & Video App (free)

It’s easy to forget about this included app, but the camera provides lots of ways to accentuate and help your teaching. I particularly love using the video app for recorder – I’ll go through and record how-to videos for different songs or different concepts (all done in the comfort of my own home!) and the students can go back and review the videos as needed.

I also use the video app for my students when they’re ready to test for Recorder Karate belts – I can only listen to so many at a time when I’m working one-on-one during a class, plus my more introverted students love being able to work on their own time with just an iPad watching them.

Need to increase your contact with your parents? Start a newsletter, and take pictures of your class doing different activities in class, and send out a few action shots! It’s free advocacy for you (How many parents really know what you do? How many administrators really know what you do?) and scores you credibility and visibility into your classroom. (Plus, your students love to pose for the camera!)

9. Noteworks (free)

There is a free and paid version of this app. This particular app does a helpful job of reinforcing naming notes on the staff. This is great for 3rd grade and up. Do be mindful that the first level is middle C to G on the second line of the treble clef, so this app does very well if you work on notes below the staff as well as just the lines and spaces. It’s a competitive, interactive game that challenges you to perform at varying speeds – you have to either name the letter or play the note on the piano before it gets incinerated at the end of the assembly line. My piano students loved this when I taught private piano lessons – plus, you can change the speed of the notes to challenge your students as they get more comfortable.

10. Sand Timer (free)img_0085

This last app might come as a disappointment to you – but don’t write this app off so quickly. Having some kind of visual timer for your students can clean up so many loose behaviors when it comes to collaborative or individual activities. I will put up this timer on our projector screen when we are doing worksheets, group work, playing an iPad game, taking turns using Kagan strategies, practicing recorder independently, working in stations – anything for when my students are engaged on their own and might be able to drag their feet or miss a transition. Having a visual timer let’s them check on how much time they have left to complete, gauge whether they have time for an extension activity (if I’ve provided one), pace themselves on their worksheet, or just keep a mental awareness that a transition is happening soon and they need to be prepared (I have so many students who require prep before a transition to a new activity). Also, if there’s a sound with your timer, it helps save your voice from trying to shout over the students or hope they pay attention to your quiet signal. With a timer, it’s an inanimate object giving the students the instruction to clean up and transition. You can’t argue with the timer or think the timer is being unfair – and thus, the timer becomes a teacher’s best friend.

What are your favorite iPad apps? I’d love to hear what works in your classroom!

Short & Sweet Valentine’s Day Idea for the Music Classroom

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I never know how much to do for Valentine’s Day at school – my husband and I don’t really celebrate it (working at a restaurant doesn’t make for a relaxing Valentine’s!) and I know some students feel kind of sensitive about it. Having crushes and getting caught ‘liking’ someone can be awkward, some schools don’t even celebrate the day, what happens if not all the students get cards or gifts, does Valentine’s promote only straight relationships or that the holiday is only for couples as adults…it goes on. I haven’t done much in the past, but I found a small way to incorporate a few hearts in a simple way in my stations this week.

My second graders are practicing do – we just presented the new concept last week and now I’m having my students work in stations to get their hands dirty. Around my room, I have them set up to work on the following four tasks over the next two classes:

  1. Practicing writing and identifying do in the context of do, mi, sol, and la with Lindsay Jervis’s “Ready, Set, Print!” worksheets
  2. Practicing identifying lines and spaces by their number (line 1, space 3, etc.) with a game from QuaverMusic on their iPads (prepping for note names and reinforcing knowledge of the staff as we add more note reading)
  3. Listening and identifying patterns with do using the interactive “Where’s Freddie’s Pad?” PowerPoint by Linda McPherson
  4. Composing and performing patterns with do on xylophones

Station number four is where we got to break out a hint of Valentine’s fun! Dollar Tree has foam sticker packs of white, red, and pink hearts and little heart-covered treat baggies – I took a few minutes and labeled the hearts with a variety of do’s, mi’s, sol’s, and la’s and put a handful in each baggie. Each student was instructed to compose their own Valentine message and then play it to a friend! They could lay the hearts out next to one another or arrange them on a laminated staff.

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To set them up for success, I utilized the power of washi tape and added some labels to a few xylophones. Eventually, I’d hope that we could comfortably read the notes we placed on the staff, but my students just aren’t there, and I’m okay with that. My focus on this station is to compose a song and immediately hear what they wrote – instant feedback. The labels help guide all of my students and provide some built in support for some of my learners who need greater assistance.

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We kept the labels on and used them to play “Snail, Snail” with my 1st graders afterwards! The students were so excited to learn how to play a familiar song so quickly and easily using sol, mi, and la right at their fingertips.

My students enjoyed the little bit of Valentine’s fun to kick off our week – it’s a small detail, but it was a fun one!

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Stations in the Music Classroom

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Here is a free download from my TPT site – my 1st graders love composing with this worksheet at stations during the winter!

Ah, stations… I hear mixtures of reactions when I bring this up or see it come up in Facebook groups online. I love using stations in my classroom! As so many of you know, music teachers do not get much downtime during our lessons – we often have our songs memorized, transitions perfected, dancing shoes on, mallets in one hand and a Kindergartener’s shoelaces in another… we are BUSY! Each class is like a presentation in and of itself, and as a young teacher there was certainly a lot of anxiety that came along with it, what with being in the spotlight for 7 hours straight.

Stations are a great way to take the focus off you and put the focus on them. You have to do the work picking your stations, your focus, preparing the materials, and prepping the students, but once you’ve done the work backstage the students can really shine. For my Kodaly-inspired classroom, I utilize stations as a way to practice their concepts. Once I have prepared my students with experiencing a concept without the formal label and symbol, we present the concept with its true musical name, and then we begin practicing – putting the new symbol into the music.

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Quaver Music has a wide variety of interactive resources – this one allows students to build rhythm patterns including sixteenth notes and add backing tracks with which to practice.

What grade levels do I use stations with? I use stations with every grade level, from practicing musical opposites in Kindergarten, form in 2nd grade, sol-mi in 1st grade, to advanced rhythm patterns in 5th grade. You know your kiddos – I know that one of my Kindergarten classes can work more independently while the other needs much more pre-teaching and modeling to be successful. I also know that my 3rd graders LOVE TALKING – and working as a whole group gets derailed easily with all of the chatter, we all tend to be more successful when I let them work with each other in small groups.

How do I set up my stations? Carefully! I don’t do this overnight – but once you’ve done the prep work a couple times, they snap together quickly.

  1. I prefer to pick one concept for all stations to practice – this lets them delve deep into one concept and set a firm foundation.
  2. It’s easiest for me to control and prep 4 stations, and I like to diversify their practice – with some shifting based on the concept, I like to choose 4 stations from that focus on composition, listening, reading, iPad, or instrument practice. Once I’ve chosen my concept, I spend some time looking through my resources, Teachers Pay Teachers, my flashcard sets, iPad apps, and such, and choose station assignments that break the concept into those different categories.
    • For example, if we’re practicing ‘re’, I’ll choose four stations of material to focus on different aspects of re:
      • Composition or writing practice with a worksheet (Lindsay Jervis has some wonderful “Ready, Set, Print!” activity pages that have composition and writing practice for many different melody concepts)
      • iPad/app practice – in a picture below, you’ll see an app called DoReMi Zoo that lets students play a keyboard labeled with the solfege pitches. I’ll often combine flashcards with this app so students can play pitches or notation printed on the flashcards to aurally connect to the visual printing
      • Listening station – students will practice aurally identifying re in musical passages
      • Hands-on – with a SmartBoard activity or just using play erasers to build melodies on a staff, students practice re kinesthetically
    • There are lots of different directions to take stations – I believe that giving my students a variety of ways to explore their visual, aural, and kinesthetic learning most solidifies the concept in their minds and bodies.
  3. I see my students for 45 minutes every three days – I spent 10-15 minutes explaining and modeling stations on the first day, then they have 10-15 minutes at each station for the remainder of the 1st class period and the duration of the 2nd. I put up a timer on my screen so the students can track how they are using their time and how long is left at each station.
  4. I also pick their groups and post their names on cards so they know who they are working with – this lets me control behavior issues and balance my students by their abilities. I tend to use the same groups throughout the year unless there are big issues – we don’t use stations every week by any means, so they don’t get tired of them. I make a single card for each group and list all of their names, and then I post these on my whiteboard underneath the station number, like so:

Station #2

John, Paul, George, & Ringo

My young ones often forget where they should go next, even with the stations numbered around the room and their friends to follow. I move the cards as they change stations, so they know to go check the board when they’ve forgotten where they should be. This saves me time herding my little ones around!

Here are some more photos of my students at work at their stations – I’ve captioned them with their concepts and details on the resources!

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Composing with sixteenth notes – “Pick a Pumpkin” from my own TPT store.
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Sol, la, and mi flashcards from an Ickle Ockle set from Music a la Abbott and a handy app called DoReMi Zoo – students practice playing the flashcards using the solfege on the keyboard in the app.
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Linda McPherson has a fantastic set of interactive powerpoints that are perfect for listening stations! Here, the students are practicing identifying sixteenth notes, but she has plenty of resources for pitches and more.

With a little thought, time, and creativity, stations are a perfect way for students to learn while they play and create. I love to let my students practice their craft while I get to step back and watch the magic unfold – they always surprise me with their thoughtfulness and kindness, especially towards each other. It also gives me the freedom to focus on the students who need the help and support them as they need. Take your time, explore your ideas, try something out – and have fun!