JoyTunes in the classroom

With the creation of JoyTunes I encountered a real dilemma: should the game be used for at-home practice only, or can it also be used as a real-time teaching tool in class?  I decided not to decide.  However, questions started to pop out from the field, as teachers pondered the same issue: could JoyTunes be used in class?

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
Purposes:

  • 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.
Accessories: A computer, internet connection and projector, access to the game.
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.

Tips:

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…

Yigal.

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