Monday, September 23, 2013

App in Focus: Educreations

Apps in Focus is a series of blog posts that will focus on iPad applications I'm using right now in the classroom. 

First up is Educreations, an app that turns your iPad into a whiteboard.  I decided to try this one because it is FREE and had good reviews.

What it Does
Turns your iPad into a whiteboard. You can draw on it in different colors just like you can on a classroom whiteboard. However, you can also import pictures from just about anywhere. Tired of drawing staff lines? Just import one and then draw whatever you need to on top! 

The app also allows you to record while you teach. I tried it out, and it is very user friendly. You can record review material and post it online for students. You could also record while you are teaching a class so you could reflect later on how the lesson went. Videos can be saved privately or publicly. 

Using this app with the AppleTV in my classroom allows me to teach the whole class while walking around the room. I can check student work while teaching! It also makes whatever is on my iPad screen enormous. Very helpful for teaching bow hold!

If you don't have an AppleTV you could use this app using a document projector. This would have been wonderful in my previous classroom where I had a document projector but no white board!

What It Doesn't
Allow you to edit a lesson after you have saved it. You also can't edit the timeline of a recording. If you mess up while recording, you have to start over. This app is not for recording long lectures that need to be edited. 

The Lowdown
Free user-friendly application that turns your iPad into recordable whiteboard that can upload pictures from just about anywhere. Try it! 

That 4th Grade Class - A Day When Classroom Management Won

Classroom management. It's what principals want to know that you have. It's what makes new teachers quit because there is no worse feeling than a class who is not listening to a word you say and doesn't respect you. Trust me, I know that feeling. However, the best aspect about classroom management is the least discussed, that you can get better at it!

I have two 4th grade classes that I teach. At this age in the district all students learn violin. My first lesson with these two classes was like a study in contrasts. One class accepted me as their teacher and cooperated without any special classroom management needed on my part. The second class was quit different. They talked a lot. They were not respectful to the music stands. No one did anything way out there, but I knew I did not want to spend my year playing tug-o-war with the kids. And I did not want to feel that special feeling of a class out of the range of my influence.

The first thing I decided was that I wasn't going to try to figure out why the two classes were different. It doesn't really matter why. I decided I needed to teach that second group of 4th graders that the music room is a place where certain expectations need to be met. With that I was off and planning. What could I do to raise the expectations for behavior and reinforce that I was serious?

I started our next class meeting outside of the classroom. Two things happened there. I told them that today they would have the opportunity to earn the right to play the violin.  The class could earn a star for doing various things in the classroom. If the class earned 10 stars by the end of the day, then we would play violins at our next class. I also started my expectations outside of the classroom. They were in two lines. They had to enter the room silently. The first line started walked up the ramp. I had them stop at the door. They started talking, so back off the ramp they went. I repeated my expectations and had the second line try. Success!

I kept repeating that to earn this first star they needed to be silent entering the classroom and what that meant. It included not making noise with their mouth, feet, or hands in any way. That meant silent. If I had said no talking, then some of the kids would have made other noises and that's not what I wanted. 

The room was ready for the students when they arrived with chairs and stands. The name tags were out on the stands so I could address students by name. It also meant that I sat them where I wanted them, alternating boy-girl-boy-girl. Each stand also had a pencil. It is really important to have the classroom ready. It showed that I was ready for them, even if they weren't ready for me.

From there I proceeded with a basic staff lesson about the names of the lines and spaces. The first thing I needed to do was get a handout to each student. I explained that I could have had these out on the stands before they came in, but that I wanted to give them an opportunity to earn a star. They could earn this star by not talking while I passed out the handouts. This included not talking even when I was no longer at the front of the room. 

For the entire rest of the class every direction was given as an opportunity to earn a star. I praised them to the skies when we earned one and I told them specifically why they did not earn one as that happened. Any amount of talking would negate earning a star. I focused on specific students who were doing specific things that were helping us earn stars.

It was amazing! They learned I meant it. I was not going to put violins into their hands until they showed me they could be respectful to one another so we could learn. They learned that they could be quiet as a class and get to work. They learned that music class is different. They learned that I have high expectations and that I will teach them how to meet those expectations. They learned what success feels like. 

Because at the end of the 45 minutes they had nine stars. They could earn the last one by exiting the room silently. After they were lined up outside they so wanted to know if they had earned the last one. And they had! For the first time that day my face broke out into a huge smile. They had done it! So many of them smiled too. I raised the expectation for their behavior and they met that expectation. 

I tried something different and it worked. This time. It doesn't always work because every group of kids is different. That's how group dynamics work. But you don't have to accept a class that is not meeting your behavioral expectations. Try some new things. And praise yourself for trying. You've earned it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1st Movement Lesson Plan for 1st Grade!

Today I taught my first movement lesson plan. Not hand gestures to go with a song or dance movements to go with a song, but kids listening to music and responding with their body. 

Objectives were for students to hear and respond appropriately to the differences of high/low and fast/slow. In addition, I wanted to set up expectations for behavior during movement activities for the rest of the year. 

I began with the students sitting in a row facing me like we have done for several weeks. The specific parameters I gave them were where they could go in the room, where they couldn't go, and how they would look when they were in scatter spots. I showed them how to appropriately make sure they had enough room. I modeled everything while walking around the room. I also made it clear that once in their spot, they were going to stay there. No locomotor for our first movement lesson. 

The most important instruction was that they should move when they hear the music and they should freeze when the music stops. This helped them focus on the music and on the lesson instead of getting distracted.

I then sang "Find your own space" (d-m-s-d) to release them from the carpet squares. They ran. I had them all walk back to their carpet squares. We reviewed our classroom rule to walk and not run. Then I sang the cue again, we tried again, and were successful. 

I played the piano alternating between low and high. After the first two examples, I gave them the specific direction to make it look different if the sound was high or if it was low. Some wonderful responses came as a result. Then we did fast and slow. I reinforced to stay in one spot, but explore different movements with the body. I periodically commented on any expressive movements that I saw that were really nice or that showed risk-taking.

This simple lesson plan on exploring movement with basic building blocks of music was really successful as a first lesson in listening to and responding to music as well as a first lesson learning about finding our own space in music class. I was blown away by the expressive quality of their movements and can't wait to plan more movement lessons. Yay!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Supporting the Emerging New Teacher

Last February to June was my first teaching position. I had just finished my credential and was hired as a long term substitute. It was my dream position, middle school band, orchestra, and choir. I taught two levels of each subject, a beginning 6th grade and an advanced 7th/8th grade of each.

It was the toughest job I have ever had. Looking back now, I know this was because I had no support. There was no one on campus to talk to, the principal was much too overwhelmed to help me, and I had no mentor who had been through this kind of situation. I eventually found some very kind mentors who were willing to listen to me and offer new suggestions. They are the reasons I didn't quit. I found the support, new ideas, and willpower to keep going through them.

Three weeks ago I started my first full time position as a K-6 music teacher. Many of the other music teachers in the new-to-me district have offered assistance. They ask if I am okay or if I need anything. The teachers at my site have offered the same help. I feel that, if I needed something, anything at all, I have a myriad of people around me who are more than willing to assist.

My school has a simple system of positive feedback that teachers can write to one another. I received two from this last week and both commented on my enthusiasm. It is such a bolster to my self-esteem that others can see how teaching music brings me such joy and that this is valued by the other teachers.

Both an easily created support network and positive feedback are necessary to support a new teacher.  My support network created itself out of the kind teachers who have offered their support without me having to ask. Sometimes it is hard to ask for help, especially in a job that expects you to be amazing at classroom management immediately. Having people who offered their help will make it much easier to ask for help when I need it.

The positive feedback I have received is encouraging and uplifting. I feel like I am on the right track, that others see the hard work I am putting in, and that I am a valued member of the education team at my school.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

If you have iPads but no Orff Xylophones... - 2 great apps for the music room

This is my first year teaching, and consequently my first year at my school. I found one lonely soprano xylophone, but nothing else in the way of Orff instruments in the music room. However, my school does have class sets of iPads available to check out from the tech lab. With these two FREE applications, I plan to introduce my students to playing Orff compositions!

First up is MusicSparkles, an instrument sounds app. The FREE version comes with a one octave glockenspiel graphic and four octaves of sound. Above the glock graphic are four buttons which add the additional octaves. That means there are four available instrument sounds in the one image!

There are two mallet graphics that mimic playing with two mallets. It will sound as many bars as you hit, even all eight bars at the same time. Each bar is a different color. They are not labeled with letters and the bars are not removable.

There are a few things I wish I could change about the app. First, every time you tap a note an eighth note graphic floats out. I think this would be distracting for some children. Second, the sounds are a bit synthetic. However, at the price of nothing, I'll take it!

Second is Marimba byBuzlyLabs. With an octave and a fifth from A to E it has superb sound quality. In contrast with MusicSparkles, the bars are all the same color and are labeled with letter names. No mallet graphics and no kid colors. You also cannot play chords, it only plays one bar at a time. With the low A this would be a great one to use for la pentatonic on C.

With these two apps I will have contrasting metal and wood sounds, the option for dynamics with the volume controls, and the ability to create layers of different sounds. I am very excited to hear what it will sound like with 28 iPads playing!

Monday, September 2, 2013

All subjects are taught in MUSIC!

Saw this on Pinterest and was inspired to make my own!

I first cut out the letters. They came out a bit small so I glued them down to a contrasting color and cut out again, which added a border to the letters and made them bigger. I bought 3" precut black letters and got to work!

I put it on my door and have already received a lot of positive comments from the other teachers!