Teaching Tools for the Busy Music Educator
A special guest blog post by Aleah Fitzwater of https://aleahfitzwater.com/
If you’re a music educator like me, then you have a whole new definition for the word ‘busy’. Since the pandemic, we educators have found ourselves with even less time on our hands, with some of us being moved to ‘art on a cart’ (er, music on a cart). Some of us also find ourselves juggling both Zoom and in-person classes, often at the same time. The word overwhelming is a gross understatement. So, in this article, I’ll introduce some of the tools that I have found indispensable when it comes to saving time, in my experience as an educator.
Optical Music Recognition Software
Whether we are in a pandemic or not, digitizing our music and lesson planning takes up quite a chunk of time in a music educator’s schedule. One tool that I have really appreciated using is OMR or Optical Music Recognition Software. This helps me to digitize my music, without having to punch everything in, note by note, into Sibelius. As an elementary music educator, I use ScanScore Melody, which helps you to digitize one-line pieces of music. It’s under $50, which I really like (given that most of us have no budget! But that is a rant for another time…)There are a lot of other pieces of OMR software out there, but this one is my favorite, because of its speediness and editing tools.
Interactive Musicals and Operas
While there are hundreds of thousands of online resources for educators, Go Classics for Kids is a great last-minute lesson plan for the swamped music educator. While a lot of online music lessons value fun over standard-based content, I find that online operas are an indispensable tool when it comes to introducing little ones to classical music.
Of the two, Scheherezade is my favorite. It is great for 2nd or 3rd great especially.
These operas provide so much material, that students can do the lesson with you, and then later in the year with a substitute.
Here’s an overview of what happens in them:
Scheherezade tells the story (from the Arabian Nights) with the music of Scheherezade, which was composed by Korsakov. Throughout the interactive musical, students are quizzed about instruments and themes to check for understanding. The program comes with premade, downloadable lesson plans to boot! This one is geared for mid-to-older elementary.
The Hansel and Gretel Opera is a great lesson for Halloween. It is the perfect level of spooky. First grade and Kindergarten really loved this one in my classroom. Students get the chance to choose how the characters dress, as well as get to change the backdrop. This lesson is great for introducing the concept of preparing for a musical or opera. Aside from this, the spooky and engaging graphics keep students engaged in listening the entire time.
If you have a smart board, both lessons are even more interactive, because students can come up to the front of the room and take turns finding items, answering questions, or making a creative decisions.
Google’s Chrome Music Lab
Chrome Music Lab is another great free resource that provides hours of musical education. The lab itself is separated out into these options:
Chrome Music Lab helps us tie music into science and STEM learning. And while I wouldn’t recommend using this in a substitute plan (the kids have WAY too much fun with this one), it makes a great resource for the busy music educator who needs to add “Just one more little thing” into their lesson plans for the week.
Speaking of Google…
Enough about lesson plans, let’s get some organization up in here! Google Keep is a little-known organizational tool. The notes that you take a synced up to your Google Drive. This can be anything from pictures, and lists, to audio snips. One of the most convenient things about this program is that you can dictate your notes instead of typing them. You can also pin your most important notes to the top, as well as set reminders for yourself.
Notes can also be tagged, or shared with others (hello, collaboration!)
This feature is free for the first 15gb. After that, it is about $2-3 a month. As a music teacher, you might find yourself need more space in the Drive. This Google feature is definitely worth asking your administration about. Your district might even be already paying for Google Keep, and you just don’t know it yet!
The last thing I’d like to share are the links to two free sheet music websites. Let’s dive in!
Beth’s notes was a lifesaver when it came to me finding games and folk songs in my first year of teaching. She also sends out free lesson plans and other content when you subscribe to her mailing list (and nope, I’m not being paid to say this, I just personally use her resources all the time!). Folk songs are in alphabetical order, but they are also organizing by solfege.
If you’re an instrumental music teacher, or even a beginning instrumentalist yourself, you’ll find 8notes.com to be really helpful. Free sheet music can be searched up, played, and printed by genre, instrument, and level. For example, everything from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, to The Flight of the Bumblebee, and orchestral excerpts from Beethoven’s 9th, can be found on this website.
I hope you’ve found these tips and resources beneficial for your classroom. Here’s a shout out to Ariana here at Staznicky Violin Studio for allowing me to be a guest on her blog. She makes great content, so be sure to stop back here for more.