Friday, June 28, 2013

Block Rotation Tracker! FREE DOWNLOAD!

When you teach music it is rare to see everyone everyday.  Most of us are on some sort of rotation that accommodates the size of the grade level we are teaching and the instructional minutes we are given.  I have found that one of the challenges I face each year is keeping track of the accomplishments of each day.  If I don't keep track of what each class gets done each day then I have no hope of differentiating their lessons to meet where they actually are and I run the risk of missing important things.  For 10 years I taught in a 3 day rotation, then I moved to a 4 day rotation and now I'm teaching in a 6 day rotation.  I bet that these charts will meet everyone's needs.

Here is the chart that I plan on using this year!


Monday, June 24, 2013

3 things to record that will make your life easier

Sometimes a simple recording can make your life easier.  Sometimes a simple recording can make your lesson run smoother.  Sometimes a recording can help you keep your voice healthy so that you can teach another day.  I find that taking the time to record the following tracks throughout the year can help me tremendously. 

1.  Record practice tracks - These don't have to be fancy at all.  Typically I use practice tracks for my choir kiddos and for upcoming grade level rehearsals.  This is most helpful when you want to isolate a particular voice part or if you want to have students practice a certain pronunciation.  I literally set my recording device on the piano and start singing.  I only play enough accompaniment to keep my entrances correct and myself in key.  You can either create a play list and burn it to a CD or you can host the playlist on a website like podsnack and share the link with students.

2. Record voice commands on top of dance tracks - Nothing taxes my  voice like the "dancing days".....Obviously I want my students to internalize the form and timing of the music so that they know when to move independently using only the music as a cue.  However, I find it very useful to have a "guided practice" option that helps me move the class toward independence without trying to carry my voice over the mirth and merriment that is found when "peeling the banana" during the Virginia Reel.  I create these recordings by importing whichever dancing song I'm going to use into Audacity.  Then I record the voice cues as needed.  You may find it useful to create several versions so that they go from heavily cued to maybe only one or two cues.   When you teach the same lesson for 6 straight days this comes in REALLY handy. 

3. Record a collection of "sub" songs for when you have vocal fatigue or absent.  . During allergy season I really struggle to keep my voice throughout my  day  lesson cycle.   When I can't sing comfortably my lessons are greatly at risk of being derailed!!!!!  A few times last year I could tell that my voice wasn't going to make it through the week and so I quickly recorded the portions of the lesson that were dependent on my voice.....I recorded a couple of songs that I use acapella and a few melodic phrases that I knew I would want to highlight.  I was able to use the recordings easily and found them  very helpful in keeping my lesson on track so that all of my students received the same lesson.  It was useful enough that I hope to find the time to record at least a little bit for each lesson as a back up for when I'm not at my best. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

3 things to record with children in general music

As I've mentioned in previous posts, having an app that makes it easy to record on a device that is easy to use and easy to carry means that I am more mindful and therefore have found myself recording MUCH more often than I used to.  Here are my favorite
things to record. 

1. Solo singing - Although I still haven't found enough time to formalize this well...... I record soloists MUCH more often than I used to.  I record them during class, I record them as we line up when they want to share a song they know, I record them when they drop by during their recess and I record them when they audition for a special part.  I only have limited success in capturing recordings from everyone so at this point as long as I am required to give participation grades rather than content mastery grades, I mostly use these solo recordings as positive reinforcement for students who are VERY motivated to share what they know AND as a way to formalize any auditions that I have. 

2. ensemble work - No one is prouder than the class that has mastered an ordinary song on a ordinary day to the point that the work is beautiful and ready to share.  For years I have motivated students to work even to the end of class by gambling that their home room teacher would pick them up a little early with the time to hear our performance.  NOW I don't have to hinge our class motivation on a classroom teachers ability to telapathically read my mind and know that her class is axiously hoping her meeting will get done early.... As you can imagine..... we don't often have an audience..... BUT when I record something wonderful, I can share it in a variety of ways with the homeroom teacher who can then watch at her convienance. 

3. Student thinking - Sometimes the best evidence of learning is found not in the performance, but in the process.  I've found that some of my favorite moments of audio this year have come out of our composer centers where my students talked through what they were thinking.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Top 10 things to Remember When Recording Student Work in Music Class.

I've noticed that more and more teachers, both music and general education teachers are recording their students.  It's easy to do.  Both voice recording apps and hand held digital recorders have become so common place that it's almost as popular as it once was to record using a cassette tape and tape recorder.

 But it's been so long since we had the habit of recording that I think it's important to be reminded of some very important ideas in regards to recording in the classroom. 

1.  Always tell your students that you are going to record.  This may keep some studnets from participating, but it may also improve the effort of others. 

2. Alway allow students a way to decline the opportunity. If they don't want to be recorded, then any value that could be gained by the process is lost. 

3. Always provide an alternate way to get the assignment done.  My recorder students could earn belts in 3 ways, in person, by email using an online digital recorder, or by phone messaage.

4. Always keep parents informed.  Even if they have signed a release at the beginning of the year, they need to know that recording is one of your arsenal of tools that you use to teach and assess student learning.

5. Always have a plan for anything that is recorded.  Is this recording for a daily grade demonstrating a specific skill?  Is this simply a scratch recording for rehearsal that will be deleted?  Is this part of a private digital portfolio? Is this a formal performance assessment like a concert or recital?  Anything without a specific purpose should be discarded.  Keeping a strict eye on this will save time and space on your harddrive 

6. Always take care with sharing settings.  Only share with the people who need to hear.  My favorite place to share recordings is actually in a "garden-walled" website hosted through google apps that is actually run through my school district.  I set it up so that it is only by invitation only. 

7. Always use the latest available platform for saving recordings.  If you are creating a digital portfolio you want it to last.  My college senior recital is on a little cassette tape!  People have used CDs since I was in elementary school, but the portfolio of my entire college career of vocal study is on a cassette tape????  What a shame!

8. Always be ready to record.  You never know when your students will be ready to preserve a special musical moment.  Having multiple modalities of recording on the ready will enusre that you don't miss anything that you won't want to forget. 

9. Always keep track of those release forms. You don't want to accidentally share information that you don't have permission to share..... These days everyone is having to make daily choices about their own online presence.  It is not our job to make those decisions for parents so check!  then record!  then check!  then check again! THEN post with tightly controlled privacy settings.  

10.  Always let students enjoy their own recordings. When I was growing up, I spent hours with a tape recorder. Now days students really don't do that.  Since we sound different to our own ears, recording is a very powerful tool and well worth the extra mindfulness and effort it takes to use it as a tool while teaching.

Bonus:  Don't stop recording just because you and your students decide to start over.  Stopping the recording often breaks momentum.  If you get a take that you are satisfied with, you can always trim off the parts that are "practice" with a program like Audacity. 

Bonus + Don't forget to have a good look at your district policy that concerns sharing of student images, voices and work.  Do more than read it..... understand it! :) 

I bet that you might have some ideas of some other things are good to remember when recording student work.  Please feel free to share them in the comments. :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Voice plus for iphone - my new right hand

 OK, so i find this title little ironic since I'm left handed.  However, I want ya'll to know that I really love this app.  The best part is that I got it as sort of a joke because I thought it would be fun to make funny sounds with it..... But now I find that it is the app that I use almost daily. 

Last summer I got my very first iphone.  I have always had an "un"smart phone before, so to say that I took a technological leap in my personal phone capabilities is an understatement.  I really don't know how I functioned as an adult without an iphone. 

One reason why I got an iphone is that I knew that my school is always looking for new ways for students to use technology in the classroom and I was pretty much entirely unfamiliar with apps....
So I got an iphone and started exploring. 

I think that this might have been the first app I actually paid for.  Now I know that you can do all sorts of goofy things with the effects to change what you record.... BUT, here is what this program does that makes is useful to me virtually every day. 

1. It records with pretty good sound quality.  I'm certain that if I attached some real microphones to my iphone I could get a cleaner sound, but for on the fly, in the moment recording, it's amazing!

2.  The saving process is EASY!  The sharing process is EASY! No fuss

3. The files are easily retrievable and can be played back.

4. AND THE BEST part is that when you send the file to yourself on email..... The file is saved as .WAV which means that I can actually DO something with it without any problems. 

As a .WAV file, my scratch songs can go directly into audacity where I can edit further or do nothing. 

The difference between using this app and other digital recorders that I use in class is that I almost always have my phone somewhere on my person.  I can also send whatever I record to myself without having to plug my phone into my computer first, so it's quicker. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Listening Maps - keeping them close at hand

I don't know about you, but if I'm not careful, I could have a real mess in my room..... I find that this is especially true when I am trying to collect necessary items for lessons I am teaching.

Most of us recieved a collection of listening maps as part of our text book adoptions.  I find that keeping them in those little envelopes that were provided just gets in my way.... If there is any hope that I will use them at all, they have to be accessable and easy to put my fingers on.....

So I alphabetized them by the composer and then title and put each one in sleeves. 


If you put a white piece of paper behind then, they work GREAT with a document camera OR if I want to use one with my Activeboard, I scan it, and then I can write on it.....I also put a white piece of paper behind them and copy them for students to write on......

Easy Cheesy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer Vocal Health - An investment into next year.

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Now that it's summer

Don't forget to invest in your voice by allowing yourself the time you need for restorative vocal rest.  Enjoy some silence.  If you have to talk, try to save most of your talking in quiet places away from loud ambient noise. 

Don't forget to get healthy with lots of water and plenty of excercise.  Nothing helps singing more than a healthy body supported by lots of water. 

Don't forget that the food and drinks we consume greatly affect our voices and can be controlled by better choices.

Don't forget to get your allergies tested. It's amazing how much a little rag weed can affect how we do our job.

Don't forget to find a good ENT.  In the elementary music classroom our voices are our primary instrument and therefore an essential part of a job well done.  Keeping tabs on how your voice is holding up over time can help prevent injury and can provide an avenue for ongoing care throughout your career.  

Don't forget to think of ways to provide sound support for yourself in your classroom and other loud environments.  There are lots of great devices, microphones and amplifiers that can be used every day in our classrooms and while we are at bus duty that can keep our voices from over reaching and becoming strident.

This microphone is my favorite one to use in class.  I plug it into a little $50.00 amp that I found at RadioShack.  I like it because I don't have to wear the reciever on my clothes, because the entire piece is heavy duty and designed to be worn by areobics instructors.  I don't know about you, but it is ususally during the times when I am facilitating movement and dancing that I often need the most support from a microphone.  This one is awesome and well worth the investment! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Move!

This picture was taken earlier this week to convince me that I had made lots of progress on my move.  
Well progress I have made and now my pile is twice this the top box I have my clown costume from Jr. High and my point ballet slippers....
But really, you never know when you are going to need a clown costume ....
And who hasn't wanted a pair of "real" ballet shoes to show the students when teaching the Nutcracker? 

Of course it's time to get rid of a lot of things and to embrace new things.... 

But what  is your favorite "go to" item that you use so much you've had to replace it?