November 24, 2014

Tech Talk Tuesday - iPads in the Music Classroom: 5 Best Apps for Music Class

So this is my 3rd year using iPads in my music classroom.  When I moved to Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy to open the school in 2012, I piloted a 16-iPad lab as a part of a music technology pilot.  Since Clark Creek is a STEM Academy, this was a perfect pairing of the Arts and STEM.  It was a truly trial-by-fire kind of experience and I learned a lot as I made mistakes and explored this new realm in music technology.  Unfortunately, I was super busy those first 2 years (as my children we super young - when I started at Clark Creek in 2012 my son was 5 months old and my daughter was 2), and needless to say, I had very little time to blog about the entire experience.  I regret this and I wish I could go back in time and write along the way.
One post that I have been meaning to write for these 2 (almost 3…yikes!) years is a review of my favorite apps.  Shelley Tomich over at is doing a Tech Talk Tuesday and encourages other music teachers to also blog about something techy.  Here's my chance!  Thanks Shelley for getting me writing again!  She is also is a mom of little kids so we're in the same busy boat…however, I think she is able to find more hours in the day than me!!  Good going, Shelley!

So here goes my top 5 Favorite iPad Apps for Music Class

Meet the Orchestra $1.99
This super cute app is well-designed, accessible, fun, and authentic.  The orchestra sounds are super high quality and the graphics and images are accurate.  There are two components to this app: Learn and Quiz.  The Learn section allows you to browse through the families and instruments of the orchestra.  Each instrument has 3-5 iconic orchestral and/or solo excerpts for your listening enjoyment as well as a thorough description of the instrument's characteristics to read.  In the Quiz section, there are 4 different games that help students identify instruments by name, by sound, and by sight.  Love this app!  And its worth all 199 cents!

Monster Chorus   FREE!!
This funny app is appealing to the younger students I have.  I use this app when we start talking about pitch.  Its a great app for pitch exploration and to discover pitch relationships within the major scale.  Each monster-alien-thing sings a different pitch in the major scale using a neutral syllable.  What I like is that there are also a built-in songs that students following along like the game "Simon" to play familiar children's melodies like "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Three Blind Mice" with the option to buy more songs.  Cute, simple, and fun!

StoryBots  FREE!!
This app is a lot like Monster Chorus but better.  The robots can sing using the neutral syllables "la" or "bum" but also with the solfa syllables and pitch names.  You can toggle between the syllables easily and visually it doesn't change the robots.  I like the opportunity again for pitch exploration and making observations about pitch relationships (particularly size vs. pitch - the small robots make high sounds and the big robots make low sounds).  I also use this app when discussing pitch relationships with the younger kids.   I find that an iPad is a better beginning hands-on pitch experience over acoustic instruments because the technique challenge (mallets or bells or even boomwhackers have technique learning curves) isn't an issue!  

Tune Train   FREE!!
This adorable app allows students to be successful composers.  The train picks up people in apartments which correlate to pitches and chords.  Each level is set up so that pitch options are limited to the predetermined chord structure of the particular level.  The built in accompaniments in a variety of styles (like pop, latin, pop rock, rock, classical) makes students feel very successful very quickly.  I also use this app when discussing pitch but towards the end of pitch units.  Once my students have a firm understanding of pitch relationships, they can make educated decisions about what notes to use and how they want their melodies to sound.  This time of year Santa and his reindeer even show up in the last level!!

Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra   FREE!!
I am amazed that this app is free.  It is so high-quality that I can't believe you don't have to pay for it!  I love using YPG by Britten to teach about the orchestra.  The music is great listening and this app makes the piece fun and exciting.  There are many components to this app.  You can listen to the piece enhanced with video footage of the orchestra performing and/or the score notation.  There is a listening quiz and a game to organize and arrange your own fugue.  There is a very thorough and interactive  biography of Benjamin Britten that is truly enjoyable.  I used this app almost exclusively last year to teach the orchestra.  I have a lesson plan and complete review in the works.  Stay tuned for more here….

What is best about these 5 apps is that 80% of them are FREE!!!  And only 1 costs money at $1.99.  I highly recommend all 5 of these apps.  Please contact me with any questions you have about how I teach with iPads.  I plan to blog more about my approach and technique over the next few months!  Thanks for reading and thanks again to Shelley for the linky party!

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October 27, 2014

Halloween Music Class Activities

We are finally in the week of one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I do not know where my love of Halloween came from, but I do know I adore pumpkin spice, glowing jack-o-lantern faces, Reece's peanut butter cups, and fall leaves.  I think since we live in the sultry, humid, sticky South, us Southerns truly welcome everything the accompanies the crisp Fall temps.
In the music room, I find the month of October and specifically the week of Halloween to be the perfect  opportunity for super fun listening activities and spooky games!  Here is a sampling of the ideas and activities we do in October….enjoy!

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything
This beloved children's story is perfect setting for selecting and performing sound effects to enhance a story.  My littles love this book and they get soooo into adding the instrument sounds.  Click the image below to see the lesson…

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
This is the perfect listening activity for the week of Halloween.  I also like that this version reinforces the concepts of pitch and rhythm that my students and I have been working on since the beginning of the year.

Recorder Composition in Minor
Exploring minor keys is perfect in October.  Since my older students are playing recorders right now and their first two notes are E and G, playing in E minor is the perfect teaching opportunity!

Five Little Pumpkins on Boomwhackers
One of my favorite activities is my Five Little Pumpkins lessons exploring pitch using Boomwhackers. I have recently given this product an update.  Check it out at my store by clicking the image below. 

What are some of your favorite October and Halloween activities for the music classroom?  Please share below!  I love feedback and I promise, I'll even respond if you leave a comment!!!

Lastly, make sure you visit my TpT store through this Wednesday 10/29 - I'm having a major sale!!  20% off all Halloween and Fall-Themed Products!  

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September 9, 2014

Happy 200th Birthday, Star-Spangled Banner!

This September, our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" turns 200 years old!!  I've been looking forward to this year for a few years and I am so excited it is here to share with my students.  Every year, we learn about our National Anthem, but this year is particularly special!  
On Sepetember 14, 1814, 200 years ago, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to our national anthem, following a pivotal battle in the War of 1812 against the British.  The American forces had held off the attack of the British on the Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry.  As the sun rose that morning, Francis Scott Key saw the American flag flying over the Fort after hours of bombardment through the night.  He was so proud to see our flag flying proudly that he was inspired to pen the lyrics to a poem which is now our National Anthem, the "Star-Spangled Banner."
I love sharing this story with my students every year.  It instills such patriotism and pride for our country.  I hope that you will be able to share this rousing story with your students this year as well.  Below are a number of resources to use to teach the "Star-Spangled Banner" in fun, engaging, and dramatic ways for your students.

The story of the "Star-Spangled Banner" so poignantly told by Pastor Dudley Rutherford.  We always start with this video which sets the mood for talking about the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Video with Lyrics

Denise Gagne has an excellent version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" in sing-a-long format with the lyrics onscreen with beautiful images of America.  Perfect for students to learn the lyrics to the song in an accessible, simple way.  
You can also purchase the video in mp4 format with notation, mp3 versions, and another video from TeachersPayTeachers at the link below

Here's another TpT product that includes everything you would need to put up an awesome SSB bulletin board.  It includes directions for an activity you can do using the bulletin board.  

This is another excellent TpT resource that is worth every penny.  Sara put a lot of work into this presentation and these worksheets - so all the work is done for you.  It includes an excellent PowerPoint (or Keynote Presentation) with tons of wonderful information about the SSB as well as worksheets, word puzzles, and exit tickets.  The work is already done for you!  

Fifty Nifty United States

I know its not the "Star-Spangled Banner," but "Fifty Nifty United States" is a patriotic tune that all kids love and get super excited about.  This is one of my TpT products that is really useful! 

Listening - "Stars and Stripes Forever" 

Your students will love this video of the United States Army Field Band performing John Phillip Sousa's iconic patriotic march.  Perfect to end class!  

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April 24, 2014

Jazz Month and International Jazz Day: Part Three - Jazz Solos on Orff

In my final 2014 International Jazz Day post, I want to share a way to get your students participating in jazz instead of only consuming jazz.  Jazz is truly a participation sport and its only when people start allowing jazz to pulse through them that they start to appreciate and enjoy jazz music.

There is no better way to internalize jazz music than through improvisation.  At the heart beat of jazz, improvisation is the way individuals take ownership of the music and start making it "their own" (sorry for the overly used cliche).  Many people are intimidated by improvisation but with the right tools, improv can be fun and liberating.  Surprisingly, even very young students can be successful improvising!

Improvising on Orff with the Blues Scale

I got a new set of Orff instruments at the beginning of the school year and am absolutely in love!  For Jazz month, I have set up the instruments in the E Blues Scale, which is the key that works best on the Orff instruments.

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