Transitioning Back Using Virtual Tools

For some, going back to school is an exciting time, one full of hope for a little bit of normal that had not been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. For others, it is an anxious time knowing about the battles that are ahead and the uncertainty about how long the little piece of normal we have will last before chaos will strike once again..or did chaos ever actually leave? Let’s face it, the world has turned upside down since 2020 and now we are sitting in the dark ages again looking at small glimpses of a new period of renaissance with hope that out of all the darkness, there will be a brighter future.

Education itself has gone through huge changes to deal with the current events going on in the world. Everything shut down and teachers and staff were forced to find creative ways to reach students. Districts who had never had a huge amount of technology resources were forced to start curating a library of subscriptions and hastily pulling together a 1:1 device loaner program. Teachers who were use to teaching in person were forced to learn online methods of instruction and recreate years of analog resources into a digital format while trying to figure out how to connect with their students who were not physically with them.

Now schools are heading back in some way shape or form, what happens to all the hard work everyone put in? Will we continue to need it going forward? With everything going on. The honest answer should be yes. Education has changed and the models we have learned and the resources we have created should help push forward standard traditional practices that have needed evolution in order to meet the current digital native audience of students. It is always good to have a plan too just incase you need a substitute, still have hybrid students, or if digital becomes a necessity again.

So how can you move forward with what you have created?

Content and Course Delivery Platforms – Spaces like Google Classroom and SeeSaw are great ways to continue to deliver content to your students. You can still use these platforms to deliver assignments you have already created, or create new assignments to send to students so they can work on projects and smaller activities from their individual devices. You can also use platforms like this as a way to differentiate learning for your students who might be a little ahead or a little behind so they can continue to get high quality instruction from you anywhere. Take what you already have created, do some editing, and continue to use it as a new resource.

Interactive Presentations – If you’re in person, you have a projection system…what are you waiting for? Just because you used them during distance teaching doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them and go back. Integrate them as fun visuals during your instruction to help those visual learners. Have students take turns interacting with the resources, or assign them the presentation and have them on their individual devices as you have yours on the board so you can all do it together. They will have just as much fun together as they would doing it apart.

Videos – SOOOO many teachers started to create videos and post them online for students. Even my Mom did it! From full lessons, short and fun activities, how-tos, and more. Videos were a great way for any educator ok with being in front of the camera to connect with students and provide instruction. What’s stopping you from continuing to share them? Try a flipped classroom model with your students assigning them the videos to watch for homework and then come in to discuss and practice with you, provide some extra content to students who might need some extra attention, or just continue to share your creative videos with students by projecting them on the board for all to see as a way to break up your instruction into smaller chunks. There are so many possibilities.

External sites – You’ve already built up a library of all kinds of tools and resources. Continue to integrate the ones that really stuck with your students. Find ones that they are engaged with and are learning and demonstrating learned skills and knowledge with. Find that balance to reach all the students in your classroom.

If you are in need of some more virtual resources to assist with virtual or distance teaching, here are some articles with great suggestions!

Common Sense Learning Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Teaching

We are Teachers 350+ Online Learning Resources for Teachers and Parents

Digital Promise Online Resources

Edutopia Online Learning

How are you using your resources as you head back into school?

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Preparing for a Video Chat

It is always crucial when you book a video chat with another class to prepare for it. I would compare it to that of getting ready for a performance. The students are preparing to perform in front of an audience. I normally would try to sneak in a few video chats while students were already preparing for a performance so they got a little extra practice in before the big day. Of course, a digital performance is a little bit different than performing in person, but they are still able to work on those basic skills and practice their music for others.


So let’s go through this step by step;

Follow through and prepare

If you schedule a video session with another class, you no have to hold yourself accountable to make sure your students are prepared for it. Put it in your calendar, figure out which classes you can do with it, and put a plan into your lessons for them to make sure they are prepared. If you are not sharing songs for your performance, what will you have students practice?

It’s different on screen than on stage.

There are small differences to being on screen rather than on stage. Audio is a big one. The mic is a big one that does pick up a lot of small audio so a trick is to make sure students know that even a whisper can be picked up so they will need to be as quiet as possible while the other class is speaking or performing. Coming in and out of the room is another big distractor that could lead to issues with the video so making sure bathroom time or drinks are taken care of is another big must. Another big difference is that they have a camera on them the whole time. Every little move will be seen so they need to understand every move will be caught “on candid camera.” There are many little differences so making sure you spell them out from the beginning and then practice them all is going to help a lot.

Script it out

Make sure you spell out to students what is going to happen so they have the schedule and there are no surprises. Most of my students that I did this with were super nervous to do this so this helped calm some stage jitters. I wrote the schedule of what was going to happen on the call on the board so they could follow the order, and put the start time of the call up top, and when we would end the call at the bottom. This schedule was usually planned between myself and the other teacher so we both knew how the list of events would go.

Test the connection

This is probably the biggest must do before any video chat, make sure that everything works correctly. Schedule a quick 15 minutes or less with the other teacher to just check the setup and make sure camera, audio, and the network are all in agreement and everything looks good. I would suggest doing this a day or two before so you are not testing too far out but also have enough time to alert your IT team and they can jump in like the superhero they are and get it fixed for you.


Take time to get ready for this, it does not have to be a ton of work, but pulling a few things together and preparing the students for an experience like this could set up for an epic opportunity!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Getting Started with Video Chatting

I did this so much in the classroom that I thought long and hard about making a multi-part series talking about how to do it from start to finish so others could partake in the fun when school gets started back up! Getting started with a project like this does take a little planning so get started now if you want to try it this coming year! With this coming school year brings new and exciting changes and opportunities to education. Two big trends that are coming are project based learning and real world application, this activity covers both!

My old video chat set up

When I speak about video chatting, I’m talking about how teachers would connect with each other to connect their classrooms together for students to chat from some like them from halfway across the world. I used to use a website from Skype from Education (which no longer is available as far as I know because it became easier to connect over social media. If you know if the mystery Skype for Education site is still up somewhere please let me know!) Through this site though, I was able to connect with other educators from all over the world to schedule video chat sessions between my students and theirs to explore different learning opportunities together. Being a music educator at the time so there were a few opportunities to explore, the tree that made the most sense were,

  • Song Share – Each group of students learns a few folk songs from their part of the world to sing to their new friends.
  • Question and Answer- Each group creates several questions for their new friends in preparation for the big day before taking turns sharing questions and getting answers.
  • Performance Practice- There were times especially during busy seasons that I was unable to find other music educators available to chat with, but willing educators from all over who were very willing to listen to my classes practice for their grade level shows.

All really good and meaningful opportunities that students remembered for years after. There was one time, I had my entire 4th grade class from one school join me in my room early morning with their teachers to listen to some new friends in England sing some folk songs from their part of the world while my 4th graders sung some patriotic tunes they had been learning and then had time to ask a few questions. Several months later they were still talking about the experience!

So how do you get started,

  • Reach out over social media to connect with other teachers looking for video chat opportunities. The best places to schedule something would be either over Twitter using hashtags like #musedchat, #edchat, #mysteryskype, or through Facebook using one of the Facebook groups like Music Teachers or Mystery Skype/Skype in the Classroom group.
  • Meet up with the teacher either over video chat or email to plan together. Figure out what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how you want to do it.
  • Make sure to prep your students before. Being in front of camera is like a performance, lay down the expectations and rules including noise levels and how to sit or stand while on camera.

Plan ahead and get a few scheduled before the school year starts! These are fun little informances and ways to connect with other teachers and schools from around the world that really create awesome and memorable experiences for your students!

Skype Session with MO

Another Day, Another Quest

Man, it has been one heck of a school year hasn’t it? Between illness, tension, and everything else the world has thrown our way. If you have survived the school year, you are a true warrior. It has not been easy for so many and I hope that there is a brighter future in the fall. Some of my dear readers have only a few days left until the end of the school year, some have almost a month. I know so many are trying to find ways to get some meaningful learning in while they still have the chance, making it fun and memorable so students can walk into the summer with happy memories and be ready to start the next school year off on the right foot. SO here is something a little fun. It’s web quest time, but instead of just another Quaver quest, I’m going to give it to you two ways. One will be one including all free websites, the other will include screen names for Quaver that you can build in an assignment for students to follow. Hopefully this will be a fun activity to get your students to discover a little more about famous composers will having fun with their friends!

Directions:

Hello friends! Today we will travel a little back in time to discover more about the famous composers Beethoven. Through each step of our journey we will pick up facts about him along the way, pay close attention because we will need these for later!

Websites (I would level this for 3rd-6th grade):

  • Beethoven Für Elise, Listen to one of Beethoven’s famous pieces. How does it make you feel? What do you think about the musician playing the piano?
  • More about Beethoven, Find 3 facts about Beethoven that are interesting to you!
  • Help Beethoven! (Google Doodle), This is a fun game where you have to put Beethoven’s music back in order. Listen carefully to each piece first to help you get the papers in the right order!
  • Beethoven Kahoot, You think you know all about Beethoven? Let’s test your skills.
  • Beethoven Facts Activity (Create an account and create your own Padlet for kids to add to!), Write one interesting fact about Beethoven anywhere on the Padlet board, and read one of your classmate’s facts.

Quaver Screens (This could be leveled 2nd-5th grade):

  • Joyful, Joyful (Lyrics), Listen to one of Beethoven’s famous pieces. How does it make you feel? Does this piece sound familiar?
  • Quaver Book – Beethoven, Find 3 facts about Beethoven that are interesting to you!
  • Talk to Beethoven, Talk to Beethoven yourself and learn a little bit more about his life!
  • QLibs The Classical Period – Level 2, You think you know all about Beethoven’s time period? Let’s test your skills.
  • Student Recording Screen, Record yourself and tell me 1 interesting fact about Beethoven you learned and why you found that fact interesting.

Legos on the Brain

Legos, we all know them, we all love them. To be honest, I still play with them even in my 30s. There is no better mindfulness activity for me then sitting on the couch on a Sunday morning building random things with Legos. I have built many a spaceship, musical instrument, and moving masterpiece with a morning cup of coffee by my side. There are thousands of possibilities with Legos which makes them a great creative tool, especially for education.

Through creative building with Legos students,

  • Work on creative thinking processes.
  • Build fine motor skills.
  • Work on critical thinking processes.
  • Build problem solving mindsets that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
  • Are introduced to STEAM skills and thought processes.
Photo by Polesie Toys on Pexels.com

Legos are such an easy toy to come by and are found in thousands of houses across the country which makes them a great resource to use for learning that can cross between the classroom and home. Some activities that could be useful and crossover from classroom to home are,

  • Provide parameters with a purpose. Maybe you need them to build something that holds at least 5 pounds or something that is over 3 feet. Let them figure out how to build it. This activity works on problem solving as well as unlocking their creative process.
  • Let them design. I had this activity that I loved to do with my students. I’d pour out the full recycling bin and say “I need you to design me a___” and let them get creative.
  • Give them a problem to solve and let students work through it. It might be building something to protect or creating a contraption to get an object from one part of the room to another. It might take several tries but that is what problem solving is all about trial and error. Give them space to figure it out and encourage to get back up again if they fail.

What are some ways that you encourage problem solving and critical thinking skills with your students?

TI:ME/TMEA Prestissimo Author Panel

Even though we were apart for TMEA this year, I was so thankful that we were still able to connect digitally. Every year for close to a decade, I look forward to traveling to San Antonio to connect with friends and colleagues and talk shop while we have a great time catching up. Even though this year was different, I was still able to connect with all of my friends and fill my happy heart again thanks to the power of technology. I will keep my fingers crossed that we will see each other again in person in 2022!

One standout moment was being able to be a part of the TI:ME Prestissimo Round Table with my fellow authors of the Oxford University Press Prestissimo series. This panel was about an hour long and we all were able to talk a little about our respective works and learn from each other.

You can watch the full replay here: https://youtu.be/a0qkEKjAISY

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in the series head to https://bit.ly/3p5HndG and use the code TIMEORG20 to get 20 percent off!

Quaver Web quests – The Remix

If you remember back several years ago on this blog, a series of web quests were launched revolving around QuaverMusic.com. To this day those web quests are actually some of the most viewed posts on this blog, and I have been so happy to be able to inspire teachers to write their own over the years!

There is one problem that has come up recently though which brings the reason for this new post, with the exit of Flash, the Quaver site has gone through many new updates and changes and a lot of that which was once there has been updated and rearranged. In an effort to keep with the changes, I’m going to make some updates!

So here is what will happen, for right now, I’m going to give you three new quests, more will come but we are going to start with three. I actually really like doing web quests, they are fun to write so I plan to do more.

These quests can be made into assignments or you can get the links to each screen and using your own format or this template below to insert each link to give to your students.

Webquest Template

Web quest One

Topic – Writing Rhythms

Screens-

  • Rhythm is a Beautiful Thing
  • Half, Quarter, Eighth
  • QComposer
  • QBackbeat

Welcome Adventurers! This morning Quaver was cleaning the lab and found a mysterious door behind the organ! The trouble is, there is a code he needs to find to open the door. Follow the steps below to help him!

  1. Listen to the song Rhythm is a Beautiful Thing to learn more about the code Quaver needs to open the door.
  2. Get some practice in creating your code with the screen Half, Quarter, Eighth.
  3. Let’s start learning how to crack the code using QBackbeat! Make a pattern and listen to how it sounds.
  4. Time to crack the code using QComposer! Fill in the Blanks Below and then put it all into QComposer to hear how it sounds.

Web quest Two

Topic- Ostinatos

Screens-

  • Ostinato Definition
  • Rhythm Selectah
  • Beat Boxing Warmup
  • Half, Quarter, Eighth
  • Quiz Builder Screen.

Greetings Treasure Hunters! Quaver’s Shop received a mysterious wooden chest this morning but Quaver and Gwenda need help getting it opened! Follow the steps to figure out the combination needed to open the chest!

  • Take a good look at the definition on this screen, you will need to remember this!
  • Remember what an ostinato is? Let’s try to build our own with the Rhythm Selectah! How silly can you make your ostinato?
  • Did you know that Beatboxers make ostinatos with their voices? Head to Beatboxing warmup and try it for yourself!
  • Time to build your own Ostinato, use the screen Half,Quarter, Eighth and give it a whirl.
  • Now, answer this question, what is an Ostinato? (You will need to make this Quiz Builder Screen yourself)

Web quest Three

Topic- Melody

Screens-

  • Bell Pitch Game
  • Melody Maker (You will need to make a Melody Maker Screen for this)
  • Hot Cross Buns Lyrics Screen
  • Video Submission Screen OR a screen with a way to get a video to you

Hello Crew! Quaver woke up this morning and found that the Phonebox was missing! We need to sing the correct tune to bring it back. Follow the directions below to find get the right melody to bring it back!

  • Let’s learn a little more about Pitch first and play the Bell Pitch game first!
  • Quaver created a rhythm for you in Melody Maker, take that rhythm and add some solfege in to make your own melody!
  • Listen to Hot Cross Buns and pay attention to the recorder part, you will need that for the last step!
  • Video yourself singing Hot Cross Buns and send it to your teacher, they will send it to Quaver to help bring back the Phonebox!

Happy Adventuring!

Will We Go Remote Again?

Truth of the matter is, if you are in person right now, there is a huge chance you most likely will be going remote before the end of the year, even if it is just for a few weeks. With the holidays coming, families missing each other will get together and cases will spike leaving schools to make tough decisions. If this doesn’t happened to you AMAZING, but isn’t it better to have your backup plan ready just incase?

I know right now there are many districts and independent schools around the country who are remote, and many in person but with strict guidelines. It truly depends on where you are and what is happening in your community.

Living with this uncertainty is never good and for all of those teachers out there who are going through it, you are so strong, you are doing so amazing, and this too shall pass. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but things will get better.

What helps to ease my mind is to make a plan. I might never use it, but knowing it’s there would make me breath easier.

  1. Get a list together of resources you can use if you go back remote. What resources will you use?
  2. If you do not have it yet, get a few days worth of remote days ready. Your school could close at the drop of a hat!
  3. Lastly, I highly suggest putting together just a 2 month outline incase you go out for an extended period of time or if you are already out and want to plan ahead a little.

What do you have on your list? What resources do you plan on using with your students if you go remote? Think beyond the video chat format or the platform you are using to push out content to students. You already know what those are. My top 5 resources to use while distance teaching are,

  • Quaver (https://www.quavered.com/preview/) I say this for obvious reasons but also because it is a huge library of digital resources for music educators and the new mobile link option is a GAME CHANGER for remote learning.
  • Chrome Music Lab (https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com) A perfect platform for teachers to have students creating music. One of the most important things you can have them continue to do.
  • Noteflight (https://www.noteflight.com) Students can compose so easily through Noteflight. It is also perfect for the older student audience.
  • Staff Wars (http://www.themusicinteractive.com/classroom-apps.html) The link goes to the desktop version, but they also have an app that students can download to their devices to play.
  • Incredibox (https://www.incredibox.com) This was a fan favorite for my kiddos back in the day and they continue to evolve. A great tool to get students creating and composing.

What happens if your school closes for just a couple of days? What do you have in your back pocket you could pull out to fulfill remote learning for those students? Even if it is just a couple of activities that they can go do.

  • Make a rhythm and perform it on items you find around your house. Take a video and send it to me!
  • Go for a walk with your family and listen for 3 things that have a steady beat. List them in this assignment and submit to me!
  • Give them a creation website like Chrome’s Music Lab and have them create a sweet tune!

Then you have the situation where you might be out for a long while. How are you going to plan? What about planning a whole unit that might take up some time?

I made a planner template here you are more than welcome to use, Remote Leaning Plan here

Here is a filled out example of that planner here Remote Learning Plan Example here.

This example would take about 8 weeks and has room for you to input links to video chat rooms and digital lessons and activities for each week. Feel free to use! If you have suggestions on how to make this better, let me know. I’ll make adjustments!

Take just a little bit to plan out, life has been to stressful this year for so many. This can be one of the many things you can do for a little self care. Need help planning? I’ll help you, reach out on Twitter! @Musiccargirl14

I usually ask a question at the end of these, but right now all I want to ask is,

How are you doing?

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Bitmoji Field Trips

I will admit, I have fallen down a deep rabbit hole with these Bitmoji Classrooms. I have made general classrooms, ones for centers, etc. It is just way to much fun! One recent mini project has been little virtual field trips built as a Bitmoji classroom. Taking a few activities, videos, and virtual tours that best represent that area of the globe and allow students to explore. Something fun for students to explore and learn about a place outside of their community. You could include songs, movement games, videos, all kinds of resources. I’ve made two examples in Google Slides below!

Interested in more? Let me know what part of the world you want your students to visit next!

In times like these..we need to make a list.

As I sit watching the morning news over coffee, listening to the unsettling stories about administrators, teachers, parents and students fighting with the best way to reopen education. My heart breaks just a little with every new case, with every new fight, with every panicked teacher and staff who have to go through this. Education is not some place where people should be worried about life or death situations. It is a place for community, friendship, positivity, growth, and most important, learning. While I cannot sit here and tell you which way to start the school year is best. I can tell you, this is the time for hope, for creativity, and for preparedness. This is the year for teachers and administrators to make sure they are prepared for any situation that is going to be thrown their way. 

  • Administrators and school officials should be pretty much creating a new handbook just for this year, all the what if’s should be answered just in case.
  •  Parents should be ready for more lockdowns or online learning. What is your backup plan if you need to go to work?
  • Teachers, take a breath and remember you have a huge support community ready to help you. Right now, it’s time to make a list of everything you need to do and start checking it off. I got one started for you.

Checklist for the beginning of the school year.

  1. What are your district guidelines?
  • Sanitizing standards? What will you need to do and what cleaning supplies will you be provided?
  • School learning environment, will it be in person full time? Hybrid learning? Fully online? Find out the plan.
  • In person environment standards, if you are going back in person what will the district except? How far apart will the desks be? Will there be mask requirements?(will you be provided a mask or shield?) Can students share certain materials?
  • Technology standards, this is especially if you are hybrid or distance teaching. What lesson delivery platform will your district be using? How will students log in? What are requirements for lessons?

   2. Lesson Preperation

  • What lessons or units are a no go completely in your curriculum? What do you need to set aside and not do this year in order to follow safety guidelines?
  • What lessons need a creative solution? Can you adjust some lessons to fit guidelines and still make it a safe and fun experience?
  • What lessons are all good and you can still use?
  • What new lessons can you replace the ones who are a no go with for this year?
  • Do you have at least a 6 week plan for remote learning if a lockdown happens again?
  • With times like these, how are you going to implement more social and emotional learning into your lessons to help students (and yourself)cope with these times?

   3. Materials

  • How are you going to sanitize your materials?
  • What instruments can you use? Which ones can you not use due to cleaning restrictions?
  • What materials do you need to get more of in order to follow district guidelines?
  • What do you need to make? Do you need to make kits for each student?

   4. Communications 

  • If you have families opting out of in person instruction, how will you communicate with them? What work will you be providing home?
  • For communication to parents and families who are opting for inoerson instruction. How will you communicate quickly if there is an issue at school?
  • Do you have prepared communications for transitioning again to remote learning if needed?
  • How about how you will communicate with families who are not in person but have little technology at home to communicate with?

This is just a start to help, we always know there is more to think about. Just remember, this is never a time to give up. It’s a time to take a breath, realize this is just another obstacle in your way that you will learn how to jump over, and remember that you are a strong and creative person who is ready for anything. Always know, that we are here to help.