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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Concurrent Music Teaching Tips

More and more music teachers are heading back to in-person teaching, while still teaching distance learners at the same time. It's a lot to juggle and it's not easy at all, but after doing it since last September I have a much better handle on it than I did when I started! There's so much more to say than I could ever cover in one blog post, but here are a few tips for managing concurrent elementary music teaching.

1. Establish Routines

I've said this in different ways more times than I can count now, but routines. Routines have been my saving grace this year more than ever before. Routines for me as a teacher, routines for the students, and routines for the flow of the lessons themselves. As mundane as it may seem, put routines in place anywhere you can! The mental load of concurrent teaching is the toughest part, so anything you can make automatic and not have to think about is a plus for everyone. I've written in much greater detail about specific routines I've put in place for concurrent teaching in these posts below:


2. Stop Asking, "Who Remembers..."

I know I'm not the only one who uses the prompt, "who remembers (fill in the blank vocabulary, word or concept)?" to review previous lesson material and segue into the next activity. If you're teaching concurrently? Stop doing it. If there's one teaching practice that will bring your concurrent lesson to a halt more quickly than anything, it's asking the whole class a question and inviting students to raise their hands to share a response. While there are times when doing so is definitely still worth it, for the most part I avoid asking the class a question and inviting individual answers now. Instead, I ask individual students directly (so I don't have to wait for students to raise their real or zoom hand and I can better keep track of individual student understanding), or I invite the whole class to respond simultaneously (like "Alright everyone, yesterday we learned that the violin is in the.....? *gestures out to the group* yes, string family!"- that way distance learners just answer with everyone without me having to unmute them). For a question like "who remembers___?", which is really just intended to be a quick reminder for the group in a typical class setting, it's not worth the hassle!

3. Build In Distance Attendance Opportunities

I don't necessarily plan my lessons around this, but I try to take advantage of opportunities in the middle of class to take attendance for my distance learners. Sometimes I do so by asking all students to respond to a question or perform something, and I mark down names as they do it, or sometimes I have students watching a video or working on an individual assignment and I can jot down who's there while I'm not directly teaching the class. With classes being as short as they are I don't like to waste time taking attendance while students just sit there, but with students coming in and out at different times, I don't always remember correctly if I'm taking attendance right before or after class either. 

I also don't normally take attendance in my class, but for distance learners in particular it has been critically important to take attendance this year so I can keep track of anyone who isn't showing up in my zooms and follow up with their families. 

4. Restate Student Comments

Get in the habit of restating anything in-person students say or do, and anything distance learners put in the chat (unless it's meant to be private of course). For music class it's not always practical to make it so distance and in-person students can see each other, but it's still very important for them to be able to interact with each other and also make sure noone misses parts of class discussions. Remember even the in-person students often can't hear each other because of distancing and masking, and online students certainly can't! Because of the sound lag I generally have online distance students muted during class, so for students in 3rd grade and up especially, I have them use the chat for the majority of their questions/ responses. I of course read those out loud for the class to hear before responding, but I have also been conscious of restating even those interruptions from in-person or distance learners, no matter how off-topic they are, before redirecting. Kids miss talking to each other. They usually find their peers funnier than their teachers, and those random comments- while sometimes disruptive- are what the distance learners especially miss from being in the room with their friends.

5. Make the Board a Second Monitor

My favorite way to set up technology is to have zoom on my laptop and connect the laptop to the projector with dual monitor settings so the board functions as the 2nd monitor. I have everything I want to show students in a google slides file on the "2nd monitor" so the in-person students see it projected on the board and I share my screen to show the same thing to the distance learners on zoom. I can have both groups of students see things/ not see things at the same time by stopping the screen share and blanking the projector if I want them to just look at me or have a class discussion, for example, I can control whether in-person students see the distance learners and the zoom chat window on the screen or not, and I can still see all of the zoom participants when I share my screen instead of being limited to the small window on the side.

This topic warrants a whole post of its own, but I want to point out that in my experience there are times when I want the 2 groups of students to be able to see each other and there are times when it is actually better for the distance learners to know they are not on the screen! Distance learners can be very uncomfortable about doing movement activities etc if they know they are projected on the big screen, for example. It's also worth noting that I taught in a cart in many spaces that did not have boards or projectors at all, and depending on the situation/ activity, my 2 (far less than ideal, but workable) solutions were to either 1) have in-person learners also join the zoom with the distance learners, or 2) use the relatively small monitor I mounted to my cart (yeah I did that) as the "board" for hybrid students to look at.

I could keep going for pages and pages- there is so much to think about with this mode of teaching- but those are some of the most important discoveries I've made this school year. If you've been teaching music concurrently and have your own tips, I'd love to hear them in the comments, and if you have questions please do leave those as well! You'll find more ideas and tips for various forms of pandemic teaching on my dedicated page below:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

March Highlights 2021

 As this milestone month comes to a close, it's time to look back on some of the highlights. It was a month of ups and downs to be sure!

1. Song Bracket

March is always so much fun because I celebrate Music In Our Schools Month in a big way. I didn't do all the different in-class activities or bulletin boards I would normally do because of our hybrid teaching situation, but I did get to do another song bracket, where students voted on their favorite songs each day in a March-madness-style bracket, and it has been so much fun! I highly recommend it if you've never done it before- here's my blog post where I explain how I set it up.

2. Philippines and Korea Units

The units I do with each grade on one culture and their music are always highlights of my year, and because we're on a rotational schedule I did those units with my 3rd and 4th graders early this year! I used to do China with my 4th graders each year but a couple of years ago I decided to start alternating between China, Korea, and Japan. The students loved the units and I had so much fun, even though we couldn't do everything I normally like to do! I videotaped each class too, to use in my international music festival at the end of the year- I can't wait!

3. Improving Weather

I cannot overstate how big of a difference it makes in my mood and motivation having warmer temperatures and sunshine these last couple of weeks! Even more than most years, being able to be outside makes such a difference for my daughters and I after being cooped up inside for so long, and I notice the difference in my students and colleagues too!

4. Music Ed Content

Here is some of my favorite music education content I found this month- click each picture to check them out. They are well-worth your time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Teacher Routines for Concurrent Music Teaching

I've been teaching concurrently- with some students socially distanced in the classroom and some students participating in the same class live on zoom at the same time- since the beginning of this school year. I'm also on a cart and, as of right now, still not allowed to sing or share any supplies in school. It's still exhausting and frustrating, but I have definitely figured out some strategies to make it work more smoothly over the last several months! Here are some routines I've established for myself to help me juggle all my responsibilities for teaching elementary music concurrently.

There are 2 categories of routines that I think are equally valuable in teaching in general: class routines and teacher routines. Class routines help make class predictable- I've leaned even more heavily on establishing routines for how I run my lessons this year to help give my students and I some predictability in these highly unpredictable and unusual times and make it easier on all of us to know what to do when we're dealing with these complicated restrictions. I do the same series of stretches at the beginning of class, and I end with a virtual "happy note" at the end of class, ever single lesson. You can read more details about how I have established class routines this year in this blog post.

Equally important, though, are the routines we establish for ourselves as teachers! The reason concurrent teaching is so exhausting is because you have to think about so many different things at once, so anything that can alleviate the mental load is a good thing. It has taken me a long time to find a routine that helps me manage everything, and of course as things continue to change I have to continue to adjust my own routines, but here is my current routine for managing everything for my teaching.

1. Before School

I make sure to set up a few things before my first class each day so that I have everything ready to go:
  • Put my class lists on my clipboard to have on my cart
  • Put my class schedule on my cart
  • Review my lesson plans for the day and write down the basic sequence of each on sticky notes- the first one goes on my computer next to my trackpad where I can see it, and the rest go on on my class lists next the classes they're for
  • Pull up the slides and any other tabs I need for each lesson- I put all the tabs for one lesson in one browser window and minimize the others so they're ready but not visible
  • Open the zoom app and find the first class in my list of recurring meetings
  • Get my voice amplifier on
  • Make sure my computer, walkie talkie, speaker, and voice amplifier are charged and turned on
  • Open class dojo on my phone and find the first class I'm teaching
  • Fill up my water bottle, eat a quick snack, and go to the bathroom
2. Before Each Lesson

I have 5 minutes between most of my classes. Before each class here is what I do to make sure everything is set up:
  • Start the zoom, and pause the automatic recording, 5 minutes before class (this often means I'm starting the zoom for the next class before I leave the class I just finished teaching)
  • Adjust any zoom settings- make sure students can't unmute, and can only chat with me
  • Make sure slides and other tabs for the lesson are open and ready for the beginning of the lesson
  • If it's different than the lesson before it, get the sticky note for that class and put it on my computer, and move the previous one to my clipboard
  • Look through the roster to remind myself of who to expect on zoom and in the room
  • Try to be walking into the room about 3 minutes before the start of class so I can
    • say hello to the in-person students
    • ask the homeroom teacher/ cohort supervisor who is absent today and/or any in-person students who are on zoom 
    • Plug in my power strip from my cart
    • Connect my computer to the projector and adjust my settings as needed, move windows so the visuals I'm sharing are on the board and the zoom window is on my computer
  • Admit all students from the zoom waiting room at the start of class time, say hello, and make sure everyone can see and hear me
3. After Class

Usually the routines I have for starting the next lesson are happening at the same time as the routines I have for the end of the previous one, unless I have more than 5 minutes between 2 classes. 
  • Write down attendance: I try to note my attendance for the distance learners sometime during the lesson- usually when they're all taking turns answering a question or when everyone is watching a video so I am free to look through the participants and mark them down. If I don't have a good time to do that during class I make sure to do it right after class before I forget, and I always wait until after class to mark down the in-person attendance.
  • Send a virtual happy note on class dojo to whoever got it that day (more on this in my previous post on class routines linked above)
  • If I'm not teaching that lesson again that day, close those tabs
4. After School

After my last class is over, here are the things I always do before the end of the school day:
  • Make sure I have sent all the happy notes on dojo (if I didn't have time between lessons)
  • Pick out one zoom recording for each grade and post the recording in each google classroom
  • Plug in my voice amplifier and speaker to charge
  • Throw away all the lesson sticky notes for that day
  • Contact the families of any distance learners who were missing more than 1 day without a known reason
  • Make sure tomorrow's google classroom's posts are ready
  • Make sure tomorrow's slides are ready
This is a lot when I write it all out but I hope it helps anyone who is finding themselves teaching concurrently for the first time and struggling to wrap their head around it all! If you want to see more ideas and tips for teaching in various pandemic teaching situations, be sure to visit this page where I've compiled all my relevant posts in various categories:

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Dance Playlist 2021

I love finding upbeat, school-appropriate, modern songs to use in my music classes for dance parties, slideshows, field day, and general merriment, and this year this feels especially important to share. I've been using my playlist of upbeat dance songs a lot this year to throw in a dance break at the end of class or use to play along with on found sound instruments! Here are my new picks for this year- be sure to check out my posts from previous years to find more awesome music my students and I love linked at the end of this post.

To make it easier to find all my dance party playlist songs in one place, I've put together a YouTube playlist with all of the songs from all of my previous year's lists including this one! Here's the link to the playlist.

If you've missed my playlists from previous years you can see those posts below! Happy dancing :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Favorite Tech Tools for Composition in Elementary Music

One of the best things to come out of this pandemic is the technology infrastructure that we've been forced to put in place. And one of the most powerful ways I've been able to incorporate the new one-to-one devices my students have into my lessons is composition. Today I want to share my 3 favorite tools to use for composition in elementary music: all available free online with no accounts to set up and with the ability to save and share creations.

1. Mario Paint Composer

In terms of an online music composition platform that allows students to actually notate on a staff, Mario Paint is my absolute favorite. I use this with my older students in particular- it's too much for lower elementary (though they do enjoy fiddling with it)- and I love all the options they have without being too overwhelming and still very intuitive for them to use. 

Besides just having students notate their own melodies in treble clef and/or bass clef, it's also a great way to practice specific elements. With my 6th graders I added chords to the bass clef staff and shared that with them so they could add their own melody using chord tones to the treble clef staff, save, and send it back to me. With 5th grade I pointed out a couple of timbres that would make staccato notes and a couple that would make it sound legato and had them notate a melody using whichever articulation they chose (and identify which one they used). 

Having the ability to share a song with a link, edit it, and save it to a new link is huge. Not only can I give students a starting point that I set up, like in the chord example, but I can look at their compositions, make edits, and send it back to them for them to continue working on it and then send in again. To do this you just click "save/ load", then "publish to shareable url". 

It's so easy to incorporate expressive elements too: not only are there a ton of different options for timbre, which the students love, but you can also adjust the tempo and add effects. For more advanced composition assignments, there are flats and sharps, different time signatures, and the ability to subdivide beats different ways.

2. Chrome Song Maker

For younger students, and for older students learning to use a new musical element for the first time, Songmaker is definitely my favorite. It doesn't have a staff, but it does have color-coded notes that match boomwhackers, so it's perfect for helping students understand melodic and harmonic concepts without worrying about staff notation. I've used it with students as young as 1st grade to have them create their own melodies using mi and sol, and it's so easy when they can clearly see which colors to use! 

Just like Mario Paint, Songmaker lets you save and share songs with a link, so I've done similar projects where I pre-load parts of a song for students to add to or change and send back. When my 6th graders were practicing adding a bass line for the first time, I notated a familiar melody in the top octave and had them add their bass line in the lower octave.

There are also plenty of options for changing the timbre and tempo, and if you click on "settings", you can also adjust the range, time signature, and subdivision of the beat. The best part is you can also adjust the scale- it is normally set to have the diatonic major scale, but you can adjust it to have all the chromatic notes or make it pentatonic. This is perfect for younger students so they don't have to click around so much to find the notes they need!

3. Google Slides

This may not be a tool designed for music composition but I have found myself using it just as much as the other 2 tools because I can create drag and drop composition worksheets using the same templates I used in previous years in hard copy! I save the PDF as an image, match the slide size to the same dimensions as the paper, then insert the worksheet image as the background. Then I add several copies of whatever notes they're using on top of each other in the note bank at the bottom of the page, so students can take one and drag it up to where they want it in their composition.


I've found that between these 3 tools, I have been able to translate all of my usual composition assignments to a digital platform- and I plan on keeping them in the future! While I do still think there is benefit to learning both paper/ pencil and digital formats, I have seen this year that for many students these tools have significantly improved their understanding and for some it has removed the barriers that come with handwriting. Being able to use both in the future will give more students the opportunity to succeed and give more pathways to understanding!

I'd love to hear about your favorite online composition tools you've used this year- let me know in the comments if you have one you love! If you're looking for more ideas, whether it's technology, lesson ideas, managing the various pandemic teaching scenarios we've faced, or anything in between, head to this page:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

February Highlights 2021

Every month I stop and look back at the highlights from the past month. This month's highlights include teaching chorus for the first time in almost a year, a little inspiration from my daughter, and some amazing content from some wonderful music educators!

1. Teaching chorus

I usually try to include photos for my highlights- I don't have one but I have to mention this anyway. We decided to put together a virtual choir video with 4th-6th graders from across the district instead of our usual all-district chorus (which got cut short before the performance last March), and I've had the opportunity to lead those rehearsals the last few weeks. I knew I missed teaching choir but I didn't know how much until I got to do it again- even with everyone muted it was SUCH an amazing feeling! And the students involved have been so motivated and hard-working. Definitely one of the highlights of the entire school year!

2. A little inspiration

Last month I gushed about how much I love making these family calendars together with my daughters every year. Each month the girls decorate half of the top page and add in all the important dates that affect their lives. When we put together the February calendar one of my daughters turned her page into a valentine's card, and when I read later what she had so easily come up with I was blown away! (If you can't read her handwriting clearly: "Dear Valentine, I just want to say that there is always someone who loves you. And to not give up.", and "Dear valentine, I just want to say that whatever you are doing is changing the world.")

3. Music education content

I love highlighting my favorite music ed content from other teachers and creators each month- check out this month's picks by clicking the images below!

March is, as usual, shaping up to be a very busy month indeed- but a fulfilling and exciting one too. March 2021 has GOT to be better than March 2020, right?!? Let's hope so.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

International Music Festival in a Hybrid World

The last few years I have been doing a school-wide informance I've called the International Music Festival every May. Each grade presents two songs or dances from a culture they've been studying for over a month in music class and shares them with the rest of the school. It is by far the best part of the school year for me- everyone huddled in the gym, students excitedly watching the other grades, nervously waiting their turns. There's dancing, singing, and instruments galore. This year so much of that is impossible: no gathering, no singing, no instruments, no dancing- at least not the way we've done it before! But I think I've found a way to still give my students, and the school community, a meaningful experience that makes the most of the hybrid model we're in. 

My basic plan is this: each grade will make a recording of one performance from the culture they're studying. We're very limited in what we can do, but I've found something for each grade, whether it's a cup game or a dance we can do in place or an instrumental performance with found sound. The in-person learners I can record live in class. The distance learners I'll either record on zoom in class or have them make individual videos on flipgrid, depending on what they're doing, and then I'll put them all together to make one video per grade. On the day of the festival, we'll have the entire school together on zoom and I'll share those videos on my screen so we can all watch together.

It was important to me to maintain some element of performance, because one of the elements of the festival I think is important is the sharing of their learning, and the opportunity to see everyone else's performances. But the real value of the whole experience is in the learning itself: the weeks we spend in class going in-depth to experience one particular culture and become more familiar with their music. The opportunity to develop the skill of cross-cultural understanding is the most important reason I do this every year. I'm shifting gears in that regard and leaning into the advantages we have in our current hybrid model to foster cultural understanding when we can't have the same shared experiences we normally would.

Last spring, when we were only posting asynchronous assignments with no live instruction, I put together YouTube playlists with videos showing a wide range of musical styles, dances, and other non-musical aspects of each cultures- food, geography, history, etc- and assigned students to watch a certain number of videos they selected from the playlist and report back on what they learned in a flipgrid video. I'm going to incorporate that same assignment again this year on their asynchronous day, but take some time to discuss what they learned together as a class the next day. 

The most exciting change I'm making this year is to take advantage of the opportunity to finally bring in the broader school community! I've been trying ever since I started the International Music Festival to find a way to allow families and community members to come, and even participate, but I've never been able to work out the logistics because our space is so limited. This year, I'm inviting families to submit short flipgrid videos sharing something from their cultural background: a dance, a song, a recipe, or even a tutorial on how to speak their native language. Families will have a few weeks to submit their videos, and then on the day of the festival I'll publish the videos for everyone to see. At the end of the zoom where we watch each grade level's performance, I'll share the link to the flipgrid so everyone can go and watch all of the videos on their own and learn about each other's cultures!

There is a lot we can't do this year, but there are also a lot of new opportunities this situation presents, and I'm hopeful that, while it will be different and there are definitely things I'll miss, it will still be an impactful learning experience for everyone involved. If you're looking for other ideas for pandemic teaching, you can see all of my posts on this page:

If you want to see some examples of the units I teach in each grade level, you can see those lesson plans and resources, as well as some general thoughts on how to do this appropriately, in this post:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Music In Our Schools Month® 2021: "Sound of My Heart" Song Bracket

This year the Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) theme is "Music: The Sound of My Heart". Although I've been celebrating MIOSM in some form or fashion since my first year of teaching, this year is going to be different because of the pandemic as well- our district is in a hybrid model, with some students in person and some participating live online, so not everything I've done in the past will work. One of the things I'll definitely be doing is another song bracket! Here are my plans to make it work (and also tie in this year's theme).

I've done a "march madness" style song bracket before (see the full list of songs, as well as how I ran it in a "normal" year pre-pandemic, in this post) and I knew it would be one of the easiest things to do in our current hybrid model. Last time I tried to choose a wide range of songs without any set theme, but this time I decided to go along with the theme a little bit and only use songs that have the word "love" in the title. Here are the songs I'll be using (in no particular order), or you can see them all in this YouTube playlist:

This Is Love -Walk Off The Earth

Bigger Love -John Legend

All You Need Is Love -Beatles

White Love -SPEED

Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet movie

I’m In the Mood for Love -Charlie Parker

I Will Always Love You -Whitney Houston

Seasons of Love -Rent

Love Song -Sara Bareilles

We Found Love -Rihanna

I Just Called To Say I Love You -Stevie Wonder

Find Your Love -Drake

I Love Rock and Roll -Joan Jett

Love On Top -Beyonce

Love You Zindagi from Dear Zindagi

I Love You -Lacrae

Te Quiero Mucho Mucho -Rio Roma

Can You Feel the Love Tonight -Lion King

I Love to Laugh -Mary Poppins

Young Love -The Judds

Song For Love -Lyn

L'amour est un oiseau rebelle from Carmen -Bizet

Fallen in Love -Chidinma

Piano Concerto No. 20 Mov.2 -Romance -Mozart

Since we have 22 school days in March this year, having 24 songs works out so that most days students are choosing between 2 songs, with one round towards the end where they choose between 3:

Last time I was able to play the songs over the announcements, but I don't want to do it that way this time because only the in-person learners hear the morning announcements in my building. Instead, I'm putting together a Google Slides file with the songs for each day listed on one slide (with just the audio), and asking each homeroom teacher to play the songs for their class when they have both the in-person and distance learners together, and report their class' vote to me by marking it right in their slides (I'll make one copy of the file for each homeroom). I'll tally the class' votes to see which song advances to the next round and add slides as we go after round 1. I can't share the audio files because I don't own the rights to the songs, but if you'd like a blank copy of the slides where you can insert your own audio (or you could add a youtube link instead), clicking below will give you the option to save a copy to your own drive:

I think this will be a fun way to include everyone in the process, expose students to a variety of genres, and fill the school day with more music without overwhelming myself or anyone else with too much extra work (something we definitely don't need right now)! 

What are your plans for Music In Our Schools Month® this year? What "love" songs did I miss? There are so many out there, I know there are more good ones! Share your ideas in the comments below. If you're looking for more ideas to use for MIOSM, here are all my posts on the topic, and you can see all of my posts relating to pandemic teaching on this page below:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

FlipGrid for Elementary Music

One of my favorite teacher discoveries during this pandemic has definitely been FlipGrid! This was one technology I had never even heard of before March 2020, and has now become one of my favorite tools that I plan to continue using long after this is over. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it, along with some of my tips for making the most of it.

If you aren't familiar with the site, essentially it is a way to collect videos from students on a particular topic in one place. You set up "groups", which are like your "classes", and then within each group you create "topics", which are like the specific assignments for which you want students in that group to create videos. Recording and editing their videos is built right into the site, so students can just go to your link and record right there with intuitive, easy to follow steps. Here's a quick overview of what it's about/ basic steps for getting set up:

Top Tips for Use

1. Grade Level Groups

For elementary music, I think it makes the most sense to set up a "group" for every grade level. I set mine up this way last spring and it is still working well for me almost a year later! It makes it easy to find the assignment I want, see one students' work on different assignments in one place, and duplicate an assignment year-to-year (which I am now discovering in my second school year using it). I kept all of the same groups I set up last year because I still teach the same grade levels, and I just give students the link to their current grade's topics!

Bonus: as I'll explain in some examples below, I have also found FlipGrid very useful for organizing school-wide and district-wide events. So in addition to the grade level groups I also have one group for the district music department, and one for my school building, and then I keep all my "topics" for different events in those groups.

2. Duplicate Groups/ Topics

For music teachers one of our biggest struggles is having so many different classes! So I love how easy it is to create copies of groups and topics once I make one. I highly recommend setting up one grade level "group" with all the settings the way you want it, then just duplicating the group and changing the grade level. I do the same thing with assignments- I often reuse an assignment from year to year, or have a similar assignment for multiple grades, so I just duplicate a topic I already created and edit as needed.

3. Moderate Topics

I set all my topics to be "moderated", and I recommend this for almost every situation in teaching. Having a topic moderated means when students submit their videos, only the teacher can see it unless the teacher shares it publicly on the topic page. This is obviously helpful for making sure no off-topic or inappropriate content gets shared with the class, but more than that it makes it less intimidating for camera-shy students if they know I'm the only one who will see it. If it's a normal class assignment I usually tell students they can let me know if they want their response to remain private. Most students are happy to have their classmates see their videos, but for students who are more hesitant they can still participate in the learning experience without the performance anxiety. 

The moderating feature is also really helpful for collecting submissions in advance and publishing all submissions at once later, especially for school-wide events (more on that below) or even for something like an assessment where you need students to submit their response without seeing others' answers beforehand.

Examples for Music Teachers

1. Performance Task Class Assignments

Although it's marketed as a way for students to basically talk to the camera to share their thoughts like you would in a discussion, for music FlipGrid is the perfect way to have students perform! I've done simple assignments like creating a found sound composition, or even demonstrating a quick performance task like singing a pattern on solfege, playing a rhythm, etc like I would in class. I envision using this long after the pandemic is over for absent students to do an activity I used as a quick assessment in class, or as an alternative for students who get "stage fright".

2. Self-Paced Work

FlipGrid is also perfect for things like recorders where students work at their own pace to "earn belts" etc, or instrumental lesson situations where students are working on different skills. I have a topic set up for recorder "belt tests", which I have linked in the google slides I made that have all of the songs and instructional videos for each level. Any time they are ready to play a song for me they go to that topic and make a video, and then I can give them feedback or tell them to go to the next song. This is definitely something I'll be continuing post-pandemic, because it gives students a way to play for me without having to play in front of the class or wait their turn if I'm listening to 20 other students. It solves so much of the frustration of allowing students to work at their own pace!

3. Virtual Ensembles

One of the obvious uses of FlipGrid, especially in our current situation, is for students to submit individual videos to put together for a "virtual ensemble" video. I include tracks for students to listen to, and a PDF of the sheet music etc, right there in the topic, and tell students to record their video while listening to the track on headphones from another device. It's the perfect way to collect all the videos in one place, and they're easy to download from there to edit in any video editing software. 

4. Talent Shows

I've done a few school-wide events on FlipGrid where, essentially, students, staff, and/or community members are invited to share/ perform on a particular topic. What's great about this is I can have a time period for people to turn in their video, when the topic is moderated so the videos stay private, and then a "show date" when I publish all the submitted videos for everyone to view, and everyone can watch the performances on their own time or watch together with their class while the grade level teacher shares their screen on zoom and/ or projects it on their screen in the classroom. 

I hope this gives you some inspiration for using FlipGrid- I have loved using it and found, once I set it up the first time, that it's so easy to navigate! If you have other tips for using FlipGrid, or other examples of how you've used it in your teaching, please leave a comment below. If you're looking for more of my posts for all different aspects of pandemic teaching, including other technology-specific posts, you can find them organized by topic on this page:

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

January Highlights 2021

This month was one of those that both flew and crawled for me. As I find myself saying more and more lately: what is time anymore? Despite ongoing challenges I do feel like I'm in a good place right now, and for that I am very grateful! Today I'm looking back on the highlights from January, including my favorite content from other music educators which I'm sharing at the end of this post!

1. New Year's

I've gushed about this enough that I assume most people know about my love for our NYE family traditions: we spend new year's eve day in our pajamas, watch the fireworks at midnight in different time zones every hour, and eat chocolate and cheese fondue for dinner. One of my favorite things we do, though, is looking back on the family calendars from past years, which my daughters decorate each month. It is so fun to look back and be reminded of events we had forgotten about, and see how much they've grown through the changes in their drawing and handwriting! It is the perfect way to get ready for the new year, especially when we're looking forward to change as much as we were this year.

2. Virtual to Hybrid and Back to Virtual

In our most topsy-turvy month yet, our district started the month fully virtual (we closed the buildings from Thanksgiving to MLK day to reduce community spread during holiday traveling/ gathering season), went back to hybrid, and ended the month back in fully virtual mode due to freezing temperatures (with the circulation they have to do for covid they can't adequately heat the buildings when it gets too cold). It was definitely a lot to juggle, but there was some benefit to going back and forth, actually. I was on a rotation with Kindergarten and self-contained special education for most of the month, so having the benefit of being able to sing online, combined with the obvious benefit of having them in the room for that group of students specifically, worked out pretty great. I'm especially grateful I got to sing with my Kindergartners for the first time ever, even if it was only a few days (the first time I saw them in the fall we were in hybrid the whole time)!

3. SEL Lesson

I'm typically more inclined to build in fostering social-emotional wellbeing into my regular teaching practice rather than overtly talk about it, but with Kindergarten in particular I was so excited to bring back one of my favorite lessons on emotions and music using the book "Allie All Along". With everyone starting to lose patience and feeling anxious, it seemed to be just what we all needed. Here's my post on the lesson if you want to see the full plan.

4. Music Education Content

I love learning from other music educators all over the internet and this month I found some gems. If you missed these be sure to check them out by clicking the images below!

What were your highlights from the month? What challenges are you facing in February? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or through email!