Thursday, July 21, 2016

Flipping My Music Classroom

Flipped classrooms have gotten a lot of publicity, lately, and for good reason - the ability for students to work at their own pace and have the ability to rewatch videos if they need a refresher is a huge plus!  Being the techie girl that I am, I started wondering about how I could use this in my orchestra class.  I mean, it's orchestra, right?  We rehearse - and that can't be done individually, at home.  Students practice (we hope!), but they all have different abilities and parts, so it's challenging to make videos relevant to all of them.

The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was constantly hearing from parents, "I'm completely un-musical, how can I help my kids?"  I realized that I could do something about this, and help parents engage more in music with their kids - and what music educator doesn't want that?

My biggest fear was wanting to create the perfect videos.  What if I played slightly out of tune?  What if I sounded silly or said something not quite in the way I wanted to?  I can be a perfectionist - and I didn't want to get stuck spending hours and hours creating a single video!  Two things really helped me get over this hump - one, another orchestra teacher in my district began making videos, and watching her, I was encouraged that I could just be myself (if she had a blog to link to, I would give her a shout out here)!  Secondly, I realized that I make mistakes all of the time in my teaching through out the day.  The kids are used to seeing the real me.  I just had to treat it like teaching a class!

I started off with videos for beginners, and ended up with a series of six videos covering the very basic skills, such as how to hold the instrument & bow and play the first few notes.  I experimented a bit in the beginning with recording formats, but found that I got the best sound and video using a video camera and then uploading the videos to my computer.  Some of these first ones have terrible sound!  But you live and you learn!

As time went on, I continued building my library to include all of the major songs we focus on in the first year, as well as some songs from the second year.  I could track video views on my home YouTube page (great for assessing how it was working and data for evaluations), and I also have students fill out a Google Form, telling me what the learned from the video.  I knew I was being successful when my second and third year students started asking for videos of their music!  For my ensemble pieces, I started posting videos of individual parts.

And the best part?  I now have a library of videos that can be used in so many ways!  

Different learning styles and accessibility?  These videos offer both a visual and auditory way of learning that students can come back to over and over again - especially helpful for those who have low vision or who really struggle with reading.  

Parents?  Now, when I get an email about not knowing how to help their students, I can direct parents straight to the videos, and encourage them to watch them with their children.  It inspires conversations about learning and helps them realize how much their children are learning through playing an instrument!

New students?  We always have students who join halfway through the year, or in middle school, or sometime else that is not the "traditional" time when everyone else starts.  While I still try to help these students get started, it is incredibly helpful to be able to ask them to watch these first six videos, either in class (on a Chromebook) or at home, so they have some foundational knowledge and don't feel so lost in class.

Teachers?  This one has surprised me the most, but these videos have been really helpful for collaborating with my colleagues as well!  Last year, I was working with the occupational therapist at my school to figure out how to accommodate a student with a physical disability.  Since we both travel, it was challenging to find time to meet - but I could just send her the video of what the end result needed to be, and she was able to watch it and work with this student to come up with a solution before the first day of class!  I also co-teach some orchestra classes with teachers who are primarily band specialists, and so I have passed on these videos to help them learn what I am looking for and the language I use in my classroom, so they can feel confident helping out in the orchestra room!

Overall, I am so glad I have made these videos and I have seen the benefits in my classroom!  We still spend the majority of our time rehearsing, but students are more likely to go home and figure out where they are having problems on their own, because they have resources to help them.  It was quite a time investment in the beginning, but now, I have almost 100 videos to use, reuse, and share.  If you are thinking about making music videos for your students, I would highly encourage you to do it!  Go for it!  Start small, with just one or two videos, and don't worry about perfection.

What skills might you want to target in making videos/flipping your classroom?  What are some of the barriers, and how could you overcome them?

For a full library of my posted videos, check out my Orchestra Website!

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