Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts.

I was one of the first teachers in my district to receive an iPad to use in my classroom. I was elated. I immediately found all kinds of apps for doing administrative tasks, but I really struggled with how to use the iPad with 25 or more students and only one iPad. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but I’ve found some free apps that work for me in a whole group situation. Here are a few of the apps I have used successfully.

Singing Fingers - This app allows the student to “paint” with sound. This is a great app to get your singers to do some vocal exploration. Project your iPad so that all students can see what is happening. Choose one student to come to the iPad and create a vocalise then have the class echo while the student either points to the projection or retraces the line on the iPad. I’ve used this app to assess K/1 students on their understanding of high and low sounds. The YouTube video makes me laugh. It has some really creative ideas for other uses of this app.

Rhythm Cat Lite HD - I just recently discovered this app, so I haven’t actually used it with a class yet, but I am excited to introduce it next fall. This game allows students to practice reading rhythms and playing them to music tracks. This will be a great way to assess rhythmic accuracy since the app will not accept rhythms that are not held for the full duration. If I can get my hands on another one or two iPads, this would be a fun one to include in a music center.

FingerStomp Lite - FingerStomp Lite gives you two scenes (a garage and a basketball court) which allow you to create rhythms à la the music group Stomp. I’ve been using this app to assess students on rhythms. Students take turns playing rhythms I’ve displayed by playing them on the app. This activity is fun because it moves quickly and gets many students to the iPad in the same lesson.

Monster Chorus - If you teach your students melodies using solfege or numbers, this app gives a fun little twist rather than using a glockespiel or xylophone. Help the students figure out how to play some of the melodies they know. I have also shown students which “monsters” are sol and mi (or mi, re, do, or whatever syllables I’m focusing on for that lesson) and have them play back the melody I sing for them.

Many elementary music teachers are aware of Mallet Madness, the fabulous resource by Artie Almeida. I often use the rotational instrument system described in Mallet Madness and I’ve recently had the brainstorm that the iPad can be put into the rotation as one of the instruments. You can download any number of free instrument apps such as Percussive Free, Conga Drums Free, or any other free app you’d like to use. You will need to connect the iPad to a set of computer speakers or an amplifier or the sound will be completely drowned out by the other instruments. I also suggest that you put the iPad on a short table or get it off the floor in some other manner so you avoid having it accidentally stepped upon during the transitional times.

Mozart Interactive - This is a great follow-up to a lesson on Mozart or Rondo Alla Turka. The students get to choose which instruments they hear in the story. Even the students who are not using the iPad will enjoy watching this. I draw names to allow students to come to the iPad and make the instrument choices. This app reminds me a little bit of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books I used to read as a child.

My Musical Friends HD - This app is from the same developers of Mozart Interactive. I use this app much like I would a picture book, but it is better because it can be projected so the students can see well. Students are introduced to the instrument families and the individual instruments. There is a fun fact about each instrument and students can “play” each one.  I invite students to the iPad to choose the instruments and play the different instrument sounds.

VidRhythm - This app includes Flight of the Bumblebee, Maple Leaf Rag, Beethoven’s Fifth, and a couple of holiday pieces, so you can use the app as a follow-up to a listening lesson on one of those pieces. Okay, I had to stretch a bit to think of a good educational purpose for this app, but it’s so much fun I can’t leave it out. The app has you record different percussive sounds and then remixes the sounds into a video using your chosen themes. You will be surprised how hard students will work at meeting a lesson’s objectives if the carrot is spending three minutes using VidRhythm at the end of class. Invite students to the iPad one at a time to create the sounds the app requests and let the class watch the finished result. They’ll be begging for more, so you can use this as your super-duper bargaining chip to get quality work out of them.

Please be aware that some free apps have in-app purchases available. Be sure to disable the in-app purchases for apps you plan to use with students.

I know there are a lot of other free apps out there and I’d love to hear about them. Please post in the comments of this post if you have other ideas for using one ipad in a music classroom.

Beth Jahn is an elementary music teacher in the Yellow Medicine East school district in Granite Falls, Minnesota. She is also a technology coach for teachers in the district. She is in the beginning stages of creating the Music Mish Mash blog where she writes about using technology in the elementary music classroom. When she is not teaching, Beth enjoys spending time with her husband and their four-year-old twin girls. You can reach her at 

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