“Children will be drawn to their recorder in a way that will give the word ‘practicing’ a new meaning.”
Archive for August, 2011
In the post “JoyTunes in the Classroom” I shared my dilemma regarding the use of the game in the actual process of teaching in the classroom. If you haven’t read that post yet, I encourage you to do so before continuing with this one.
In the next few paragraphs I want to suggest a way to use JoyTunes in class to help the process of learning to read music. Please note that I’m not getting into the never ending debate of when to introduce staff lines to the kids; there are different opinions and this is not the place to dig into that. But, once you decided to teach the students to read the notes (beginning of year or later), the JoyTunes recorder game can be a great teaching tool. Enjoy, and I would really love to hear your comments and more ideas regarding this topic.
Basic music reading using JoyTunes resources
(see more activities in the “JoyTunes in the Classroom“)
Purpose: To introduce staff lines to the students.
- Lesson 1: JoyTunes’ playback audio CD (available for free download).
- Lesson 2: A printout of one of the songs from the game – a copy for each student.
Lesson 1: Choose one song from the game you wish to work on with your class, and using its audio playback go over it until everybody knows it. Usually this shouldn’t pose any problem since the kids are playing with these songs at home. Now, draw a staff on the board, and place the notes B, A and G on it. Ask your students to imagine that the spots are actually like the birds in the game – each in a different height and representing a note. Show them where B, A and G are. You can play with it a little, make little funny quizzes etc.
Teach them the difference between a quarter and a half note and send them home with their assignment.
Homework Assignments: Ask your student to play the song from the lesson (and perhaps some other ones) at home with the game, using the “Song Book”. The song book is designed in a “staff mode”, which means that there are staff lines and actual notes instead of birds. This will be a great music-reading workout – using songs they know and playing familiar games to minimize the psychological block of learning to read notes… Please note: in order for a song to appear in the song book, the kids must practice and finish all previous levels that lead to the song. This way, they get extra practicing time before ‘earning the privilege’ of playing from the song book.
Homework Assignments: Repeat the homework assignment of lesson 1, but this time ask the students to play a different song from the song book (remember that they need to practice and finish all previous levels before the song will appear in the song book) . When the class advances, you can ask the kids to repeat the songs but this time play from the sheet-music.
- Make sure that the song you pick matches the class level and progress.
- Try to avoid having the kids write the name of the note next to it on the staff. Many of them will read what they wrote and not look at the staff.
- Remember: you have all the songs and playbacks available in your teachers’ version !
Good luck, and share your experience with all of us!
As teachers, we are constantly hunting for new tools and tricks to make our classroom more interesting and dynamic. We want to get the students’ full attention, to make them practice, to create a positive buzz about the recorder and encourage our students to love music. I believe that JoyTunes can help further these goals, specifically when it is used in the classroom.
In the next few posts I will share my thoughts regarding how to use JoyTunes in class, starting from detailing my favorite JoyTunes class activity (see next two paragraphs). However, before delving into ideas, I want to remind you about the resources available for JoyTunes’ teachers: our special JoyTunes’ sheet music and playbacks. JoyTunes is offering free downloads of sheet music of songs from the game – many of which are original (just click the link, download the teachers version and register). These sheets are designed specifically for kids and include a second voice and chords for full accompaniment options. The special high-quality playbacks of these songs are also available for free and they include various practice speeds for each song. I will discuss this topic further in my next post.
You can download the music and playbacks and use them in class, as well as encourage your students to use them at home. Don’t forget to write me about your experience and students’ feedback, as I’m always interested in hearing how things are going.
And now as promised, my favorite JoyTunes class activity. Forgive the formality of the writing, but I thought it would be best to present the lesson planning as orderly as possible…
Activity 1: Game in Class
- Overcome psychological barriers regarding music and recorders- get the students excited about studying music in school.
- Get the students used to practicing- make practicing part of their daily routine.
- Improve the quality of the students’ practice sessions.
- Introduce a new song/melody.
- Improve teacher-student relations- create commitment to class activities.
Process: The students sit in front of the screen. The teacher asks each student in his/her turn to complete one level while the rest of the class watches. The kids can repeat the levels, or they can advance to new levels – according to teacher’s instruction. While playing, the teacher can comment on tonguing, hand and finger positioning, posture, sound-production, breathing, and of course musicality and expression (the higher level of our essence…). This way, the rest of the students can also see and learn from mistakes, and implement the teachers comments even before they actually play. Shy or reserved students can be signed up as couples or groups and take turns together.
Home Assignments: The teacher gives home assignments from the game (e.g., “by next week finish the first 2 worlds, and collect at least XXX points”). For easy use, the teachers version of the game details the various levels, including the notes and songs you learn in each ‘world’ making it simple to assign homework, The teachers’ version is also completely free.
- This method is best used at the beginning of the school year, to get the kids excited about playing and set their practicing routines. It is also a great way to change stereotypes about music teachers…
- I recommend using JoyTunes in class several times but not in all the lessons. It is a great way to break the routine, conclude a project, or just have fun playing with the class.
- Using the game in class, teachers can concentrate on improving the quality of the playing and teach the students how to practice at home. Modeling in class is highly recommended.
- Improvisation is welcomed: you can accompany the students, conduct ‘mini-competitions’ in class (or as home assignments), etc.
Expected added Value:
- Determines good practicing habits.
- The teacher can help teach the student how to practice, and concentrate on the quality of playing.
- Music and practicing are perceived as a fun activity, overcoming psychological barriers.
- Teachers are on the same page as the kids (computer games and music? wow…), thus improving teacher-student relations and perceptions. This alone may influence the students’ commitment to study.
That’s it for now. It’s important to remember that the game has it’s limits. It can not and is not supposed to replace a teacher or teach ALL the necessary musical elements. However, it does strengthen technical skills allowing us to focus on the important things like musicality and expression – things that only a teacher can teach…
I encourage you to try it out and post your thoughts on our facebook page so all of us can benefit. More activities will follow, so stay tuned…
We are way into summer. It is hot-hot-hot, but I have to admit – there is something nice about resting a little after a hectic year of teaching and breaking the routine by giving a few concerts. I just came back from playing in a music festival in Menorca, which is a beautiful little island between Spain and Italy, but that’s a different story…
I wanted to share a nice story I heard from a teacher. But first, let’s start with this:
I received some warm feedback on JoyTunes’ concept and I thank everyone that found the time to share their thoughts . I am always very happy to hear what you all think. We always strive to improve and it warms my heart to see that our motivational tool is starting to catch on. Especially nowadays, when worthless interactive attractions (that usually translate to war-games, TV and general ‘do-nothing, learn-nothing’ routines) dominate, this is my way to fight back.
The following story was shared with me by a teacher that used the game in class. The teacher told me that she gave the game to her students (20 third-graders, a tough class) as a bonus. Most of the kids were really excited about the game. According to her, several started to play on the first day, and others took several days to try it out. One girl, who was one of the “don’t-bother-don’t-notice-me” quiet types in class, played the game but had a really hard time finishing the very first world. Now, having 20 (rambunctious) kids in this class, there was absolutely no way the teacher could have really noticed her specific needs. She told me that the girl had seemed like an average student who didn’t really need special attention. But then, when the girl couldn’t pass the first world in the game, even though she was trying – that got the teacher’s attention. “It’s funny” she mused, “In class it seemed like she didn’t have any problems, but the game got me to notice her playing more closely and realize she needed help. The game was a trigger that led me to understand her needs better. And of course, my reaching out eventually made a change in the girl’s skills and motivation…”
That was the story that was shared with me (thank you Ms. H.!). Now, we all know that every child has special needs, and this teacher should have noticed this girl with or without the game (though the quiet ones most often fall between the cracks). However, I was happy to realize that the game helped in that specific situation. A unique feedback tool that was used by the teacher allowed her to view where her students were in the game, how many hours they played and what level they finished. Thus, the teacher could better understand who was struggling and who was not.
Keep sharing your thoughts with me! I am truly amazed at how much creativity is out there, and how much we can learn from one another.