I will now officially declare it the most wonderful time of the year. I do love Christmas music, but I don’t like it playing until I’ve eaten my turkey and my pie. Now with 18in of snow on the ground and Thanksgiving officially passed. I’m dreaming of those magical sing-a-longs where the Night Before Christmas was always read, music filled your ears, and hot cocoa and cookies were a plentiful. I’ll always miss those, performances were always a rewarding time. I got to see my students show off their hard work to all their family and friends. Music is so much performance anyway, each show was like the end of a chapter and beginning of another.
You might see the same show a hundred times, but its always different based on the music teacher that puts it on. We all have our different strengths, one might be good at props, one might be a master at stage movement, me? I was a pro at the digital portion. I could whip together movies, cut tracks, project in the coolest ways. It sort of upped the level of performance. I focused on the singing first and foremost but it was all up in the air after that. I had extensive experience as the Tech Director for my Mom’s Sign Language chorus she did for several years, so I took my knowledge from what I did there and experimented with my own shows.
There are 3 main categories I had of digital extras in a show: Projection, Lighting, and Audio.
Projection Ideas: It’s so easy to get creative with just a projector. Some of these ideas can translate so well into your classroom too.
- Back projection: Did you know you can flip your screen around and project backwards? No need to have that clunky projector out front and have to weave your way through the crowd to operate it in the middle of the show. Keep the projector behind stage and out of sight,put up a thin white sheet as your screen, and it will give you a cleaner image and not get into your performers eyes.
- Split screen: I did this once with a little help for a performance. Two projectors, two screens, projecting from one computer. It was fantastic, and let the audience on both sides of the room see the picture clearly without straining their necks.
- Backdrops: Instead of taking all of those hours painstakingly painting sets that may never be used again or feeling the pang of guilt asking a friend or colleague to do it for you, why not project your backdrop on to your curtains instead? Saves those long nights and you can change up the background for each song if you like!
design by Lundberg Graphics
- Black lights: You can do some pretty cools stuff with black lights and white clothes or glow in the dark paint. One year we had all white gloves and blacked out the gym, with the blacklights on, the students did a killer sign language routine just showing their gloves dancing by themselves. You can have masks, clothes, even puppets grooving along.
- Shadows: Creating an eye catching focal point by putting a screen up and having students dancing behind it. Change the colors, make it flicker, it will create a one of a kind experience.
- Cutting up tracks: A perfect way to alleviate the stress of playing piano during the actual show or trying to find an accompanist who can play at the same caliber as you can. If a song I was having the kids perform didn’t come with a backing track, throwing it into audacity and inverting one of the channels to take out or quiet down the lead vocals was always the way to go. You can find instructions here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq_i18n?s=editing&i=remove-vocals
- Remixing: Putting together medley’s, showcase student work, be able to create your own back tracks for your show. More than once did I put together student compositions to play as people were walking in and redid some classic songs to give our show a new twist!
As you go through your own holiday performances, think, can I use technology to make my life a little easier before the holiday break? Think simply, think creatively, and be festive!
I remember the days in elementary school, when the whole school would work on project together. We came together with an idea in mind and did a plethora of activities with different teachers all corresponding with that theme. In the end, we learned, we laughed, and we worked together to build one big final product that was over the top and awesome. Even when I taught, I had some spectacular specialist team mates who were a blessing to collaborate with. We did a few fantastic projects that incorporated all over our areas and what came out of it was wonderful. We completed products that were recognized as quality work within our district. It helped show everyone that the arts had an important place inside the school that could not only stand alone, but be able to work together flawlessly with any subject.
So what are some things that could be done? If you wanted to work together with your colleagues what could you do?
First it’s always about the overall theme and final product. What do you want the students to accomplish? What do you want them to learn and get out of it?
We always started by looking at test scores. NEWAs to be exact, and figured out where the students were struggling. We based the project over that theme. That is what all of our parts built around. One year it was reading graphs, another year it was stats and probability. Each of us built what we were going to do around that relation. You could link it to anything, maybe you want to work with your science teacher about sound or maybe you and your history teacher want to teach the Revolutionary war together.
I’m sure you’re thinking..how did I relate math to music.. It really is simple. Do you remember all those Facebook and Twitter post pictures where it relates music to every subject? Those really are true, it is so easy to relate music to math, science, history, english, and everything else when you think out of the box. Its all about thinking about the final product before the actual project. What do you want the students to get out of this experience? For us it could be 95% of students would improve between a pre and post test, or maybe 80% of students would score 90% or higher in a predetermined rubric.
So what COULD you do? What are some simple ways to relate music to other subjects? You’ve figured out what you want them to know. Now its about what you want them to create using that knowledge.
- Learning about the Science of sound? What about a science fair? Work with your science teachers at the same time relating sound waves, how your ear works and all that. You students could create science fair projects around the same topic and you could hold a fair together and judge for the top prize.
- What about creating an experience with your history teacher? I use to American Civil War reenact so I did a whole unit on Patriotic tunes and talked about fife and drum corps and how they were an important part to the military unit.
- What about studying different areas of english literature and relating to the music of the period? Students could reenact the music of that time or maybe do a report on how the arts influenced the time period relating to the culture and how music fit in.
- You could even have them studying poetry and take one of the famous poems they are reading and remix it into a killer song. Whilst learning about the poet, pentameter, rhyming, all of the building blocks to a great piece.
There are many ways you can create a cross curricular project showing the relationship between music and many other subjects in school. It is a great way to show that music is an integral part in the school community and we aren’t going anywhere.
What activities would you do that could relate music to other subjects?
Wow, the past couple of weeks have flown by. I remember complaining that the weeks weren’t fast enough, now they seem to go by too quickly. Probably what happens when you’re having too much fun right? I am so happy to get my few minutes at home today to snuggle with my dog and get work done and off my todo list before flying out again tomorrow morning .
The buzz word for this week has been “interoperability” you’d be surprised how many times I have heard that word just this week. Relating mostly to technology systems talking to each other like how an app on your phone allows you to share to social media. Those two systems can all speak to each other. You can use them both instead of using one and then using the other to complete one overall activity. Bringing everything into one place making the use of both programs much easier and you get the best of both apps.
It made me think, teachers sort of have to do this everyday even if the resources they use do not talk to each other nicely. They have to pull together so many different things into one place for the overall goal of teaching their students. How can teachers make all the resources they have been given work together to create ultimate opportunities in their classroom? Probably one of the toughest jobs for a teacher is just to put all the information they have into one lesson to make learning awesome and fun.
So where do you go and what do you do to make all those new tools you get neat and organized? Here are my top 3 things
1.) Get a Wikispaces page and drop links to all of your resources onto those pages. You can make the page private to just you or share it with colleagues. You could even make it public so students could go home and access what you used in class.
2.) Dropbox which is an app, a website, and a program you can download that just acts as a storage device and you can access it from anywhere. I had a folder in one that had all my songs for the week, another that held my lessons for the marking period, and another with just resources I acquired to use in class. All in one place and easily accessible!
3.) There is also a handful of cool apps out there that can help organize your resources:
- Planbook $5.99 on the App store is a full planning book on your iPad just at the touch of your fingertips. Great way to put in links to resources you want to share during class and then you can show the webpage links right off your iPad.
- Goodreader $4.99 is a markup app that is perfect for taking PDFs and TXT files marking them up. You can take all your lesson plans and mark them up with notes for the next time you use them. Also a great app to download PDFs of conference session handout and mark them up right there.
- Evernote Free, is the best notes and organizational program I can find. Available on devices and on the computer, you can save articles, write notes, take important pictures, keep your favorite links and search for them all with their simple and powerful search engine, and it syncs to every device you have!. Evernote is the perfect place to put all your resources into one place.
- Scanner Pro $2.99 – Make all the paper you have magically disappear into your iPad by just taking a quick picture. Stores all of your paper resources into one place.
- iBooks Free- Did you know you can store PDFs in iBooks? How about did you know you can even make your own book filled with resources in iBooks Author? Keep it looking sleek and all in one place with this fantastic app!
How do you keep your teaching resources organized?