March is MIOSMMusic In Our Schools Month– sponsored by MENC, Music Educators National Conference. As a music educator, obviously I support music education in school. However, it is interesting to hear what other people think about music education. Check out these Public Service Announcements from MENC’s MIOSM website.

Clay Aiken’s PSA

Sara Evans’ PSA

Edgar Meyer’s PSA

Cool Web Elements

Check out A cool web elements generator for free. I am sure all you Facebookers and MySpacers know all about this service, but I am slow……there are really cool animated lettering graphics, postcards, photo slideshows, and tons of other stuff! Lots of fun! Check it out! (the only catch is they make you install a toolbar in your browser….I don’t mind….)

Korg nanoKey

So I am working on a Capstone Project proposal for a technology endorsement called Teach21. While selecting the hardware and software I will need for my project, I stumbled across this cool little piece of hardware called a nanoKey. I am so excited about this little guy for a number of reasons….

  • It is small so it does not take up whole lot of desk space for my classroom computers (I will have 8 desktop student computers when the hardware for my project is installed)
  • It is USB powered so I do not have to worry about MIDI interfaces
  • It still uses MIDI information, so we can use these little keyboards to input music or record songs with any instrument of our heart’s desire
  • You can daisy-chain them together to get consecutive octaves
  • They are portable, so I can set them up when we need them and remove them when we don’t (so the little 5 and 6 year olds to destroy them!!)
  • It is extremely affordable, retailing at $62, on sale right now at $50!!

So needless to say, I am extremely excited about the potential of this little gadget in my classroom. I am looking forward doing composition units with my students next year, once I get all of my new equipment. Obviously I love music technology and I can’t wait to share new experiences with my students.

March 2009 Music Education Carnival

Please check out this month’s “MUSIC EDUCATION BLOG CARNIVAL” at Tanbur Music Education Blogspot. My post “Using Audacity to Have Fun with Folk Dances” is one of the featured articles this month.

From the Carnival, I also like Joseph Pisano’s article “Should we Utilize Technology in the Music Classrooms? Questions to Ask First.” This is especially pertinent to me right now as I am working on my Capstone Project Proposal for a technology endorsement called Teach21 with my county. I am considering what technologies to use to implement a composition unit for next school year.

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Last week 2nd grade was studying the instrument families in the orchestra. My student teacher did a great job of introducing the four families and the instruments that belong to each family. He chose some really cool listening examples from Play Music. Then we worked together to create a listening map for Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra.” We made the listening guide interactive by making it a flipchart page for ActivStudio on the interactive white board (Promethean Board). Each student was given a copy of the listening map and a bingo chip (click on the image below for copy of this listening map….you are welcome to use as you choose!). As each family or instrument was featured in “Young Person’s Guide,” the students would move their chips to the instrument/family they heard. The teacher would show the correct answer on the board after all students responded. It ended up being a fun, challenging, and rewarding listening activity for the students. And it proved to be an effective learning activity as well as an authentic assessment!!

Also, see David French’s post on Tanbur Music Education Blogspot called “Orchestra and Opera.” He has posted some cool links and resources for Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide.”

ActiVotes are Great!!

First of all, it has been FOREVER since I have posted. I apologize….March is a busy month, and things get crazy.

Second, I used my ActiVotes for the first time this week. My classroom is equipped with an ActivBoard by Promethean. Included with the ActivBoard are these little voters called ActiVotes. They are wireless, battery-operated student response devices. Until now, these little things have intimidated me and I have been scared to use them. However, my student teacher and I finally got them out and started to figure them out. For his teaching unit, my student teacher has to administer a pre-assessment and a post-assessment to evaluate student learning. This was the perfect opportunity to try the ActiVotes out. And boy was it cool!
I helped my student teacher create an assessment using content from his unit. We passed out the ActiVotes and gave a VERY simple explanation at how they work. I was amazed at how engaged and quiet the students were as they took the quiz. I shouldn’t be amazed as these kids have grown up with buttons and tech devices since they were babies. This was instinctual for them. But it was cool to have them excited about showing what they know and responding accurately to the quiz.
What I find most exciting is that once the assessment has been administered, results are automatically saved with that assessment. You can go back and analyze results, see who answered how, and which questions were easy/difficult, etc. You can even show the results to the students as opportunity to reteach and review. Even better, I can print out results, record them in my grade book, and actually assess student learning!!! Who said a music teacher of 900 students can’t assess and evaluate ALL students for learning and comprehension?!?!? 🙂

Importance of American Folk Songs in Today’s Education

My student teacher has given me much fodder for thought in the past weeks. Its amazing how mentoring someone can generate so much reflection on one’s own teaching methods and philosophies.

Today my student teacher introduced “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” to our Kindergarten through Fourth Grade classes. He created an animated, illustated Powerpoint presentation of the song with the lyrics and the embedded sound file. He timed it so the slides advanced automatically with the song. It was a fun, entertaining, and efficient way to teach an important American folk song. All the classes really enjoyed the experience!!

What I found amazing was after the first preview of the song, we took a survey of who knew this song already. Our school’s school population is very diverse with a lot of children of hispanic heritage. Understandably, theses students are often unfamiliar with traditional American folk tunes. It was a great opportunity for a cross-curricular musical activity and tidbit of American railroad history.

On a second listening, we encouraged the students to sing along with the presentation. We can revisit this song again to reinforce musical understanding of this song.

This reminds me to be diligent in including more American folk music and songs in my curriculum. It is my responsibility to musically educate my students to be well-rounded musicians….who understand, know, and appreciate a WIDE variety of musical styles!

Using Audacity to Have Fun With Folk Dances

I absolutely love folk dancing. And naturally my students do too!!
A husband/wife team named
Peter and Mary Alice Amidon are folk dancing
“masters” literally – known as the “
New England Dancing Masters,” along with their friends Mary Cay Brass and Andy Davis. They are collectors of traditional folk dances and singing games from North America and the British Isles. Their website features their products, workshops, and the best of all, two FREE dances with directions and sound files!! Sasha is a Russian folk dance that is simple enough for little Kindergarteners but magical enough for even adults to enjoy!

We used “Sasha” this week with Kindergarten and First grade with their exploration of tempo. I imported the mp3 of “Sasha” into Audacity, a program I talked about in my recent post, Blogging With Students. In this program, you can manipulate the tempo, pitch, volume, etc. So I produced copies of “Sasha” at a variety of tempi…..slow, medium, fast, really slow, really fast. Then once we learned the dance, we were able to experience tempo by movement (appealing to those kinesthetic learners!). Great fun and a great use of digital media for teaching musical concepts!! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Blogging With Students

I have been using a WordPress blog, Boston ES Music Room, with my music classes.  We use it to share recordings and have students comment on activities in class.  I started it back in October and it has been a hit with my fourth graders (my oldest group) in particular.  It is difficult to do it often because I only see my students once every six school days for 50 minutes. However, they love getting to visit the blog, make comments, and read their friends comments. So I am going to strive to make it a more important aspect of class every week.

Today we were working with the concept of harmony and we played a simple 4-part harmony arrangement of “Hot Cross Buns”…..everyone’s favorite recorder song!!! But the kids got a kick out of it and it was actually their idea to record it. I use Audacity, a free audio recorder available from download from It is a great program that can convert audio files you create into mp3’s and a variety of other formats.  We recorded our short arrangement and then I uploaded it to my school’s website.  I linked over to it on our blog.  I also posted an assignment for the students to comment on…..”Why do you think learning to play recorder is an important step in becoming a good musician?”  I cannot wait to hear my students’ answers on this one!!  It will make for some very good discussion with next week’s classes.  

Please check out today’s post at Boston ES Music Room!
Photo courtesy of flickr.comDaveybot

Places To Find Free Music Graphics, Photos, And Clip Art – From MusTech.Net

Check out this great compilation of great places to find Music Graphics, Photos, and ClipArt!! What a great resource! Thanks, Joseph Pisano of MusTech.Net!