Three Ring I Just Found You

Has your school started using the new teacher evaluation tool? I believe my school will begin using it next year. Part of this new tool requires me to show growth for each of my students. Many of the teachers in my district will be doing this via a multiple choice test. Rarely do I give heavily weighted multiple choice tests in my classroom. This is due in large part to the fact that I care more about if the student can actually CREATE something with the knowledge learned in my class than if they can merely spew it back to me. So I’ve started to think more seriously about the idea of have a musical portfolio for my music students. So far my biggest hang up has been the huge amount of TIME it will take to maintain one for each student. I could really spend hours after school organizing audio files, pictures and movies into folders for each student. Any for what? Those files can’t easily be seen by the outside world and most students probably won’t give this folder a passing glance as they progress through my classes.

So I need something that will:
1. Store many types of files (audio, video, pictures, composition files, pdfs)
2. Let individual students access and maintain their own files
3. Let students share files with me
4. Let me share files with students
5. Let students share with me privately
6. Let students create a online public portfolio of their best work for the world to see and comment on.
7. Let students and me have control over what comments get posted on their work.
7.5 Has some sort of filter on comments before they get to the students so they don’t have to see links to inappropriate sites or comments filled with bad language.
8. Will NOT require students to have an email to have an account.
9. Will let parents have some kind of access beyond the general public access.

I’d LIKE something that will:
1. Let multiple teachers contribute to one student’s portfolio
2. Let students have control of their portfolio AFTER they leave my class
3. Let me “pass” students up to the next grade level for next school year.
4. Let me leave private comments about the student work via audio.
5. Let me write privately on top of student’s work for improvement.

Recently I was introduced to a service called Three Ring via a the Music Teachers group on Facebook. It sounds like it will cover many areas that I’m interested in. I can put in recordings and then tag individual students. I’m looking into using for the remainder of the semester. I think I’ll arrange students into groups by year of graduation since at this time there doesn’t appear to be a way to move students up the the next grade level.

Here’s to trying something new!

Utilizing a Past Hook

After break we began our unit about the instruments of the orchestra. I start the unit by using the game at the fabulous Carnigie Hall website. I have been using this game for many years now. It’s starting to show it’s age a bit (the main character using a flip phone) but the information is stellar and the challenges are good. The game starts out by showing the four instrument families. We pause and talk about the visual similarities in each families (brass – have tubes, have bell at end of tube, look like gold, etc.) then they have to face the challenge of working together as a class on the Smartboard to open the lock on the garage door in the game. After we have completed this I need to find out how much of the discussions and the game ideas have stuck with the kids. Last year I used a short multiple choice test on our class set of 12 iPods to see what everyone knew but this year I have new materials to use……….The 2nd grade is now 1 to 1 with an Andriod tablet called a Unobook. So many more possibilities!

This year each student is going to label a screen shot of one of the My Singing Monsters Islands. I decided to give them screen shots of my islands via Dropbox since their islands didn’t have a great variety of monsters yet. We will use Skitch to pull the pictures up and label them and then send them to the teacher via email. I will have the students put their name on their picture and they will also include their class and name in the subject line of the email (this makes for less clicking when I grade). We have already done a sample via the projector and my AppleTV using my Shugabush Island! The kids are thinking about the instrument families in new ways and they get to revisit our beloved My Singing Monsters game. It’s a winner!


Composing Using My Singing Monsters – Part 3

It’s a snow day due to crazy windchill temperatures today. I’ve been procrastinating on this long enough… I am knocking it out!Next step: plan pattern
I used a storyboarding form I found for free on the web for this. The form had 8 empty squares and the kids were to draw a picture of the monster that they were going to press in the MadPad app. Before we started making our plans we listened to a few songs off the radio for form. We discovered that songs that we enjoyed usually had some kind of pattern. We heard ABABAB, AABBAABB and even one ABCAB. I did not require their map to have a certain type of pattern but I did stipulate that it should have some sort of detectable pattern. Completing the map with a pattern was one of the grades I recorded in my gradebook for this unit. There are lines under each empty square so that the students could write optional notes to themselves about how they were going to play the monsters on the MadPad app.


Once I had recorded the grade for their map in my gradebook the students were tasked with making a recording in MadPad that reflected their map. We discussed that it was okay to press the monster pictured multiple times as long as the order of the map was adhered to. About a quarter of my students did not listen to this direction and sent me recordings from MadPad that didn’t even use the same monsters that were on their maps. Very frustrating! I’ll have to do more extensive modeling of following and not following your map next year.

After they had completed their recording and saved it to Pictures on the iPad, I showed the students how to email me their movie. Since emailing to me on the iPads was a new skill I did record points in my gradebook for simply emailing me a file. Yes, I know emailing is not a music skill but it is something we will be doing many times so I need to know if they have mastered it.

Confession time: I extended this unit for an extra 2 music classes because I simply had a lot of students that hadn’t emailed me any files at all. On the first day of the extension I demonstrated the process of emailing me their video again and then let them work. By the end of that day I had only garnered 8 more movies. Again I was frustrated. So I showed the skill again on the 2nd extension day and when I had kid coming up to my desk asking me how to email 5 minutes later I LOST IT! I started saying things like: “Ask a friend to help you, I’m not going over this again.” OK that’s not so bad but 5 minutes before the end of class I started stating the reality of the situation, “If I don’t have a file from you in my email by the end of music class in five minutes you leave me no choice but to give you a zero on the completed video!” This sadly prompted some of my students to send me a video that wasn’t their video. So the next day in music we had BIG discussions on digital cheating and I had to make calls to some parents. Not fun. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I will avoid this problem next year.

After I got the videos in my email box, I watched each one while comparing it to the student’s map. I recorded a grade merely for whether the student’s video followed the map they created. Videos that had followed a map were then uploaded to our channel. You may notice that I didn’t give the students a lot a stipulations for their song. It had to fill at least 8 boxes on the map (they could add more boxes if they wanted) and it had to have some sort of pattern. In my years of teaching I have discovered that if I get too specific (8 boxes of AB pattern) then I get really uninspired work from my students. I don’t want to listen to 90 2nd grade projects that all sound the same. By giving them fewer rules and more open space I get more exciting work from my students because they can insert some of their own unique ideas into the work.

Whew! That was the whole process. Since I see my students about 18 times each quarter, this unit took the whole entire quarter to complete from introducing them to the game to posting movies on SchoolTube. It was a long unit but I enjoyed that the students could have walked away with their own original monster song that was viewable on the web by anyone.

Composing Using My Singing Monsters – Part 2

Making the Monsters

Next I brought in some scrapbooking paper, googly eyes, foam stickers and markers. I tried to choose things that would create bold colors because I knew we would be photographing them later, so no colored pencils were allowed. The music class prior to this told the kids to start thinking about what kind monster they would make. What sound would it make? How would it look? I gave the kids a blank paper, a pencil, scissors and a shared glue stick and told them to get busy.  We used 2 1/2 music classes to make our monsters and photograph them. I took one picture with my personal iPad so that I could post them to our school’s Artsonia site(which I still haven’t gotten done yet).

By the way if your school is not using Artsonia you should check it out. It’s a great way to let parents and extended family view the artwork students make. In addition, it can also be a easy way to raise some funds for your school.

Then I gave the kids some homework. I asked them to begin thinking about what kind of sound their monster would make. High or low, fast or slow, vocal or instrumental were just some of the questions I asked them to think about. The next week we started making our recordings. I used the MadPad app to bring the monsters together with their sounds. We found we got the best recordings if the vocalist or instrumentalist was close to the iPad. This meant that sometimes another member of the group had to hold the monster picture during the recording process. I believe it took us 2 music classes to make our recordings.  In all of our recordings classroom noise can be heard in the background. This is annoying but I can not think of a way to get the recordings made in a timely manner without having multiple students recording at the same time in my open room. I seriously considered bringing in large cardboard boxes to serve as mini “studios” to record in but recording the images was problematic in a dark box. If any of my readers have an idea how to address this I would be most interested to hear it. Please leave me a comment below.

Coming Soon: Composing Using My Singing Monsters – Part 3




Composing Using My Singing Monsters – Part 1

This summer I came across a wonderful new-to-me app called My Singing Monsters.20131016-190432.jpg

I showed it to my music techie friends Carol Broos and Jennifer Kolze and now they too are addicted. We were so amused we even recorded a podcast about it for the aRTs Roundtable.

As I played the game it struck me that monsters are basically singing various ostinato patterns. It was a more advanced version of what we already do for some of my 2nd and 3rd grade music classes. Once I had this thought, I realized this game would be a great addition to my music curriculum. I decided I wanted to use it to get the kids composing. Creating something is very important in my room. I wanted the kids to create their own monster sound and record a song using their classmates’ sounds as a sound bank. If My Singing Monsters had included in the app the ability to record I probably would have just had the students create a song using the monster sounds included in that game but that is not an option at this time. So decided to go all out and have the kids create all of it. After looking around I found an app called Mad Pad that would let me make short recordings attached to a video. So Mad Pad and My Singing Monsters were the 2 main apps that the students used to complete this project. Enough back story! On with the process!

First we played the game in music class. Plain and simple. Sometimes I would ask questions about the sounds the monsters were making. Was the sound high or low? Was it vocal or instrumental? Did it sound fast or slow? But for the most part we just had a good time playing the game. I did manage to pull in some math connections. Very quickly the coins begin to add up in the game. So we have been getting some great practice at reading numbers in the hundreds of thousands and even in the millions. This was my contribution to Common Core Math. I could have really gone crazy and asked them to subtract and add up our various coins but time is limited in my class room so we kept it basic.

After we had at least four monsters in class’s game, I started throwing in questions like:

Do all the monsters sing at the same time for the whole song? (The monsters take turns. Sometimes their parts overlap but only when it sounds nice together.)

Is there a pattern to the monster song? Can you predict when a monster will start singing again? (Yes but the more monsters you have the harder this becomes for elementary students)

What types of sounds do the monsters make? (They sing high and low. The Entbrat even yell sings, which can lead to great discussions about proper singing technique. Some make percussive sounds like a beat box. Some play instruments.)

Part 2 – Making Our Own Monsters



What I Learned from Teaching 2 Summer iPad Classes

I taught my first summer iPad classes. The two classes I taught this year were Make a Face (portrait drawing) and Claymation. The classes came from a desire to use the iPads in a summer enrichment class and from a lack of an art program in grades k-8. So I sent home some forms with the 2nd and 3rd grade kids to see if there was interest in classes that ran for a week in the summer for 1 hour each day.

About that same time my friend Tricia Fuglestad introduced me to a company called Edbacker. I did some investigating and found them to be a perfect fit for this project. Edbacker helps teachers get the word out about projects that they are trying to fund. They also provide a way for donors to give electronically to your project. The the work that they did for me on the the backside was so valuable. They contacted various groups that might have been interested in funding my project and made them aware of it. This resulted in some sizable donations from people I never would have thought to contact. One of those people was John Balestrieri (@tinrocket on Twittter) an app developer who created the app Percolator, which I was wanting to purchase for the portrait class. The kids had great time running all their different creations through Percolator and adjusting the “grind” until it was just right. By the end of my Edbacker campaign we had raised all but $100 of the funds I needed. So with a few minor adjustments the classes were on!

I hope to run classes like this again next year but there are a few changes I would make:

1. Claymation takes longer than I think. Allow more than just an hour for each Claymation class.
2. Making clay figures is a great lesson in physics. Even though you show the kids that tall skinny figures will not stand up and be moveable, they will not listen. Allow time for them to test movement and remake their character.
3. 13 2nd and 3rd grade kids in a Claymation class is too many. I don’t want to feel rushed. Limit class sizes. Also Middle School kids can be pretty much self run in this class so don’t count them toward the limit.
4. Advertise this as a way for kids to complete their summer time 4H Fair entry. Parents will love me for taking one project off their hands.
5. Add a iPad photography class.
6. Put the word out that adult classes could be offered in the evening if there is enough interest.
7. Get those forms out earlier. April might be a good time.

Make sure to do these things again next year:
1. Take one work from the Portrait class and get it printed as a 8×10 photo. The kids love seeing their work made big and important.
2. Post videos to Youtube. I heard about movie nights where parents invited the extended family for a movie viewing party!
3. Use most if not all of the class time for DOING not listening. It’s summer. No one wants to hear a lecture.

Changing the Rules

Catching Up

I was looking at my Audio Boo feed today and realized that somehow I had missed a few posts over the summer. Here’s to catching up!