20 April, 2015
How to use QR codes in the classroom

How to use QR codes in the classroom

A while ago, I heard about teachers using QR codes. I had just received 8 iPad minis for my music classroom as part of a district grant, and while I was intrigued, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how to use them in my classroom. Since then, I've experimented a bit on my own, have purchased QR products from other teachers, and have had lots of fun thinking of different ways to use them! In this blog post, I'm detailing a list of ways to use them. Keep in mind that even if you don't have iPads in your classroom, you could bring in your own iPad, iPhone, or Android, and have students use just one device during centers (working in small groups.) Here are my favorite ways to use QR codes; I'm including ways to use them both in music and grade-level classrooms.

How to use QR codes in any classroom: Suggestions for creating and using QR codes to have students listen, visit websites, and more! Blog post includes freebie for music teachers!

#1: To listen
One of my favorite ways (so far) to use QR codes is to record audio, and have students scan the code to hear that audio. As a music teacher, I recently did this with my first graders who were practicing ta and ti-ti, and my fourth graders who were practicing ti-tika. They read the pattern, then scanned the code, then listened to the pattern played on recorder. Here is a picture of one of my first graders working with QR codes; you can find the QR codes in my Rhythm Intervention Binder for Ta and Ti-Ti:

How to use QR codes in any classroom: Suggestions for creating and using QR codes to have students listen, visit websites, and more! Blog post includes freebie for music teachers!

Keep reading to find out how to download my ti-tika rhythm QR code sheets for free!

The great thing about using it in this way is they can independently read, then listen to how it should sound. I can see this working very well in a grade-level classroom, or as students learn a new language, as you could record audio pronouncing the word correctly, or reading a sentence correctly, and students could read, and then listen.

I recorded as a mp3 on my iPad in GarageBand, then saved it into Dropbox, and then linked to that file with www.qrstuff.com. The tricky part about using Dropbox is that your students will have to know to hit the blue "download" button to listen, and then they hit the "X" button or the back arrow button to get back to the app, depending on which QR app they are using.

#2: To listen and watch
My friend Donna Gallo recently presented a session at the OAKE conference in Minneapolis about "covering" music on iPads. I've known her for a few years, and knew it would be a great session, but left feeling really excited about how to bridge the gap between the music they sing in music class and the music they sing at home (i.e. typically pop music.) She had students choose school-appropriate music and figure out how to cover them in small groups; if you'd like to read more of her ideas, check out www.donnajgallo.com, and then click on "presentations." (She is a wonderful presenter if you're looking for workshop clinicians!)
So as I was trying to figure out how to have students cover in small groups, I realized that I could use QR codes for students to scan so they could directly go to the YouTube video for the song of their choice, listen and watch, and work in GarageBand to cover the song. This would be much quicker than trying to have students search on YouTube, because let's face it...there are MANY things on YouTube you do not want them to watch! I plan on creating a sheet with several different school-appropriate song titles, then they scan the one of their choice and listen.
This could work with any YouTube video. You'd just have to make sure to sign each iPad into your filter, if you have one blocking YouTube.

#3: To check an answer
I recently bought this Instruments of the Orchestra set by Noteworthy by Jen, and love this idea...you can have students try to name the instrument and the family, and then they scan to check their answers. Of course, this way of using QR codes can be extended to so many different activities and subjects, from checking math answers to having students identify the title of a piece during listening centers to having students name US states!

#4: To visit a website
If you want students to visit a website, such as the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, you could have them scan a QR code instead of trying to write out an entire web page address. This would work even better if you had a few different websites to choose from.

#5: For a bulletin board
Last week, at my oldest daughter's daycare, I saw an awesome bulletin board--students had created their own silhouettes but didn't label the child's name--and then parents could scan the QR code to figure out whose silhouette it was! How fun! I could see using QR codes as a way of parent communication--to have parents guess whose composition or work they are looking at, to link to a video of students singing, dancing, or performing, to have parents and students listen to a piece of music by a famous composer, etc. The possibilities are endless!

And now for some practice!

To download the ti-tika QR sheets for free, scan this code:
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How do you like to use QR codes? Feel free to comment below, and happy scanning!
08 April, 2015
Tips for saving your voice

Tips for saving your voice

My first year of teaching, there were a few surprises: how drained I felt at the end of each day, how much impact a supportive (or unsupportive) administrator and staff can have, how difficult it would be to leave a school when assigned to a new building.

The biggest surprise, though, was how tired my voice felt.

As an instrumental major, we used to lovingly tease the vocalists in college for walking around with their water bottles, humming to themselves, and being so careful of how they used their voices. And then I started repeatedly losing my voice...and began drinking lots of water...and found myself walking around with water bottles, humming to myself, and being much more aware to not shout unnecessarily at any concerts, no matter how excited I was about a band.

I had that "OH! I GET IT!" moment. :)

As music teachers, we have to be careful of our voices, because on top of giving directions, having discussions, and talking with students ALL DAY, we are also singing...ALL DAY. My first year, I lost my voice at the end of every week. Every weekend, I struggled to talk to my friends and family and tired to recuperate as much as possible before diving into another week of teaching.

In retrospect, I wasn't using my voice correctly. I was an instrumentalist who all of a sudden was singing all the time. I'd only been in choir one semester in my entire career. I just didn't get how to use my voice properly--singing OR speaking. Scared I might get vocal nodes, and tired of losing my voice so often, I began taking voice lessons, and this helped SO much!

At this point in my career, I thankfully only lose my voice maybe once or twice a year. This happened recently--and even after a full week of spring break, I still was struggling to sing on Monday! Thankfully by yesterday, my voice had fully returned.

Today, I thought I'd share some tips for saving your voice. Of course I'm not a vocal expert, but as a music teacher for sixteen years, I've picked up a few tricks along the way. Please keep in mind that along with these tips, if you are having problems with your voice, you should see a speech therapist, doctor, and/or voice teacher. Sometimes we are speaking too low and/or are not supporting our singing (among other issues), and this can lead to many problems.
Here's my list:

Tips for saving your voice: great read for any music teacher!

#1: Drink LOTS of water!
This is probably the most obvious solution, but even though I know I should drink lots of water, I sometimes have to remind myself. Having a bottle of water at my desk all the time really does help. Drinking water when I'm not working is also very helpful!  Let the kids sing without you as you take a drink of water, if necessary!

#2: Train your students to watch for signals
Instead of telling your students to stand and get into a circle, motion for them to stand, then make a circle with your fingers. This takes a little bit of training, but eventually your kids will know exactly what to do without you using your words. Instead of saying, "Okay, boys and girls, let's sing that song one more time," sing on the starting pitch, "One more time," and away you go!

#3: Limit your talking
Of course, it's great to tell your kids the background of a song, or to have a thoughtful discussion about steady beat, or to hear what they did over spring break, but sometimes we just talk too much.  I have participated in a few novel writing groups (I've written three novels...which is yet another blog post!) and every group I've been in has talked about minimizing unnecessary words. The same is true for teaching--if you don't need to say it, then don't! It'll save your voice and give you more time to make music.

#4: Try miming
I've seen a couple workshop sessions about miming while you are teaching. This was an interesting idea to me--using no words whatsoever to get your point across! One of my former graduate students at DePaul did his peer teaching like this, and it was completely magical. I tried it for the first time before spring break, and overall I really liked it, as did the kids! I motioned for the kids to keep the beat, or clap the rhythm, or get into a circle, or read rhythm cards, and they did it without me using any words. I realized as I was doing it, though, that there were some things I just had to say aloud, mostly because this was the first time I tried it, and you kind of have to ease the kids into it. I loved that at one point during the class, a second grader turned to another student, and incredulously whispered, "She's not talking!!"
I couldn't teach every lesson like this, but it was magical for the kids, and it helped me save my voice!

#5: Use student leaders
We all have students in our class who are natural leaders with their singing. If you are struggling to sing, have one of those students give the starting pitch, or ask all the students to follow that student when singing since you can't sing.
I try not to sing when my students know a song well, but the week before spring break, I really got a good idea of how well each class could sing without my help (and in most cases, I was very pleased!) And by using student leaders, you let those kids shine.

#6: Invest in a microphone
If you have a microphone system for the classroom, use it...especially on those days when you are struggling! And if you don't, think about investing in one. I used it recently and found it very helpful for giving directions, since I could barely talk at a quiet level! (As an aside, one of my first grade teachers was on the same channel and I could hear her loud and clear in my room! My kids thought that was a HOOT as did I! Hopefully that won't happen every time, though!)

If you are looking for a set of lessons for when your voice is tired, try this set:

What are your tricks for saving your voice? Please comment below!

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