Hi! I’m Aleah. I’m a passionate multi-instrumentalist and teacher with a knack for learning about the world of digital music. Today, I’m going to be talking about how to include music technology in your classroom.
Administration always seems to be asking us to incorporate more technology into the classroom, be it in English, Math, or even, Specials. But with evaluations and grade books, standards, and after-school meetings, the question quickly becomes:
How do I find an easy way to add music technology into my lesson plans?
It’s actually not as hard as you might think! Here are a few simple lesson ideas that you can use to introduce your 2nd-5th grade students to the world of music tech.
Music Tech Lesson Ideas
These easy-to-teach lessons make excellent fun-yet-educational breaks for your students. Whether you are a core teacher or a specials instructor, I encourage you to try one!
End-Of-The-Day Ear Training Lesson
An Ear Training lesson can be as simple as introducing an ear training app and allowing the students to practice on it for ten minutes at the end of the day.
Free ear training games like YY Teaches Intervals are good listening tools for beginners. YY helps younger elementary students work on high and low identification. It plays like a platformer, where a squirrel glides through the air and narrowly avoids trees and other obstacles when the student answers correctly.
Music Teacher Fact: Music and ear training actually strengthen the language centers of the brain. Rhythm training, on the other hand, helps strengthen overall cognition, such as processing speed and memory.
Combine Art and Music Tech
For an even more playful lesson, try combining an art project with music technology. This lesson is great if there aren’t enough laptops or tablets to go around. Partner up your students. Have one student make a song or piece on a site like OceanWaves, while the other students respond to their music with crayon or pastel art. Then, after 30 minutes, have the students switch roles.
This project can be themed as well. You can provide a prompt such as “Write a song about Halloween” and then the artist interprets the Halloween song visually onto the page. Giving a theme especially helps younger students stay on track. As the students get into 4th and 5th grade, allow more creative control within the teams.
Try Collective Songwriting
Collective Songwriting is one of the most enjoyable ways to incorporate music tech into the classroom. OceanWaves also allows students to share their jam with others. This is great for middle to upper elementary. For lower elementary, try using Chrome Music Lab’s song maker, and putting it up on the classroom smartboard so that every student can add a note or rhythm.
Make it a Core Lesson
That’s right, a music tech lesson can also be a core lesson. Next time you’re teaching about a famous figure in your core subject, try this:
Team up your students, and have them write a poem about the figure (say, Amelia Earhart). Then find a free beat-making app. One great free one for this project is MPC Beats. I’ve seen history classrooms have a ton of fun with this one.
Music Teacher Fact: Singing about something helps the brain’s synapses connect better, which students understand the material more thoroughly than if they just write it or say it.
Other Great Music Tech Resources for the Classroom:
- Tune Train
- Music Teacher Games
The Trickey Parts of Music Tech
The most obvious challenge of music technology is that many programs cost money that might not be in your budget. If you don’t have any money to spend, try to stick to the free apps like YY Teaches Intervals, Chrome Music Lab, and GarageBand. It might take a little extra research, but there is something out there for every budget.
Another difficult aspect of music technology is management. ‘Fun’ music technology lessons can easily go off the rails, because of the element of creative freedom. Make sure you have a good handle on your classroom management the day you try a music tech lesson. If something goes awry in the group projects, go back to a more structured lesson, such as ear training, or individual compositions.
More Tips for Teachers
Music technology can save elementary music teachers a lot of time, too. Programs like DAW’s and OMR’s can help lesson planning go more quickly in the long run.
If you are a music teacher who has stacks and stacks of music that need to be in an audio format, try an OMR (optical music recognition program). One example of a program that outputs pictures of sheet music into an audio format is Scanscore. While it’s not free, this trial will allow you to transform physical sheet music to notation with audio in a pinch:
DAW’s, or Digital Audio Workstations, are tools that can help you edit or even create music tracks. Free DAW’s like GarageBand and Audacity can help you make backing tracks instead of buying them, which will help your classroom out in the long run.
Lastly, I have found that the website Music Tech Teacher is an invaluable resource for those who are looking to add music tech into their repertoire. This site has tools such as music quizzes, instrument identification materials, and information about composers.
While music technology can seem intimidating at first, there are a lot of tools out there for a wide range of ages. The beautiful thing about music is that it is an art and that anyone of any age can find something that works for them!
About the Author
Aleah Fitzwater is a flutist, music educator, and Etsy shop owner from the greater Toledo area. In her spare time, you can find her hiking, fishing, or making French cuisine in the kitchen.