Archive for the ‘Composition’ Category

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GarageBand in the classroom

June 13, 2013

Wow. Concert season, moving up ceremonies, and all the end of year details really monopolized my attention this past month. I apologize for the lack of posts. Hopefully I can make up for it in the coming weeks.

Yesterday was the last day of school for my students. It is a bit liberating to have reached the end of the school year, but also a bit sad. This has been the best year I have had in quite a while. I am not sad to have time to relax, but I still have so many ideas I want to implement! Therein lies the beauty of teaching elementary school music, I can do it next year with the same kids! We can pick up where we left off.

One of the activities that I love to squeeze in at the end of the school year is a final composition. This can give the students the opportunity to synthesize key learning. Perhaps you want them to demonstrate their understanding of the staff place of the pitches in F-do pentatonic. Maybe you want to assess if the students understand how to use dotted half notes in a 2-meter song. You might want to make sure they get that final chance to reinforce how to combine their known rhythms and pitches on the staff. There are an infinite number of permutations for such an objective.

I assigned two composition projects this year, one in 2nd grade and another in 5th grade. For both projects I decided to try something new-to-me. I put on my Tech cap, crossed my fingers, and introduced the GarageBand iPad app. I am incredibly lucky in that my school has an abundance of technology. I know from first hand, recent experience that is not the case in many schools. If you do have iPads at your school, this app is worth bribing your Teach department to purchase. The interface is user-friendly, and very intuitive. I talked the students through how to change the Tempo and length of their piece, and showed them how to add and move around the sound loops. From there they were able to drag and drop and figure the rest out themselves. Remember, we are technology immigrants, they are technology natives.

For 2nd grade I focused on how Tempo, Dynamics, and instrument choices work to create a mood. We had conducted Music Experiments earlier in the year (I will post about that soon!) where the students polled listeners to see which mood a given piece of music elicited. We listened to songs and discussed what mood was being expressed, and (most importantly) what they heard in the music that created that mood. We brainstormed a list of moods, pulled them at random from a hat, and the iPads were distributed. The kids worked in pairs choosing sound loops, layering them together and creating their mood. You can check out the finished projects here if you are interested. If you are low tech, no problem! I have done this same activity with classroom instruments. The kids love performing their “mood masterpiece” for their class.

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For the 5th graders, I wanted to have a project that synthesized a few major elements since this would be the last project they would ever do for my class. Off thy go t Middle School! We focused on Form, Texture, and Tempo. The students worked in pairs, first choosing the form of their piece. It had to have four sections, but could be any configuration of their choice (i.e. ABAC, AABC, ABCD, etc.) The pairs chose the Tempo for their composition: Largo, Moderato, or Allegro. Finally, to help make the different section of the form truly sound different, they were encouraged to change up the texture. Perhaps have a solo section or a duet. The finished projects turned out even better than I had anticipated, and they were 100% engaged up until the last minute of their last class. When does that happen??!!?! You can check out their songs, and silly titles, here.

photo-6I will admit that I was not terribly scientific in my assessment of the compositions. That is something I will remedy when I do this project again next year. I will likely create a rubric with clear objectives. For this year, though, I mostly want the students to show me what they had learned in a way that was meaningful to them. I would say that the enthusiasm and willingness to miss recess to hear al the songs is a good indication that my goal was met.

Query: Have you use GarageBand (iPad app or computer program) with your students? If so, in what way have you utilized it?

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