Saturday, October 15, 2016

#sunchatbloggers: Top 5 Non-Rehearsal Activities in an Instrumental Music Classroom

Earlier this year, as I was just starting to blog, I connected with an amazing group of educators in the #sunchatbloggers group.  As we have been inspired by each other's blogs, we decided to try a group topic of the "Top 5".  So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Non-Rehearsal Activities in an Instrumental Music Classroom!

Check out this padlet to view other #sunchatbloggers Top 5 Posts!

1. Have students blog (or write) reflectively

How often do we ask students to reflect on their learning?  Blogging can be a great way to help them go deeper with class projects or practice logs.  Another favorite of mine is having students reflect on a performance or recording of themselves.  In writing about it, they are able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of their learning.  This can also open up opportunities for class discussions to take place through the comment section online - which evens the playing field for some quieter students who would not speak up as often!

Relates to: literacy, critical thinking, technology, communication skills, student collaboration, assessments

2. Get out and share!

String Caroling
One of the best things you can do for your program is to share the joy of music with others!  My students participate in the Birthday Brigade to wish staff members a happy birthday.  We also do String Caroling around the holiday season, where students stop into different classroom to play holiday tunes (this also doubles as a chamber ensemble experience for them).  We also connect with younger students, playing mini-concerts to prepare for our evening concerts and putting on "instrument petting zoos" to give preschoolers and kindergartners some hands-on experience with the instruments.

Relates to: community, relevance, learning environment, students' strengths

3. Find & watch relevant YouTube videos!

YouTube, and various other video platforms, have changed the way people share media and provided a track to instant fame.  Many modern musicians have built their fan bases largely from viral YouTube videos!  Tap into that excitement, and show students videos that include their instrument in less traditional settings.  I also have a tradition called "YouTube Fridays", where we watch a relevant YouTube video and students complete a brief listening assignment about it.  This connects them to the world and lets them see the cool things they can do with their instruments,while also honing their listening skills!

Relates to: relevance, connectedness, differentiation, technology, critical thinking

4. Explore Online Music Tools

There are so many cloud-based programs that allow students to play around with different aspects of music.  I have shown students these tools in class, and had them go home and send me a video later that night of something they made using these websites.  There is also so much authentic learning that occurs as they try to recreate what they hear in their head on the screen!  Some of my favorites are:
Noteflight for composition
Pencil Code Jam for coding
Chrome Music Lab for musical fun and creation at all ages

Relates to: technology, connectedness, relevance, differentiation, students' strengths, critical thinking, student collaboration, coding

5. Make an instrument!

Orchestra Construction
As crazy as this sounds, allowing my students the chance to make an instrument has made a bit difference in how they take care of their instruments as well as their tone quality.  When they understand the underlying mechanics, they are able to integrate this knowledge into their playing to create a better sound.  We start by talking about the essential parts of their instrument (this TEDx Talk provides a great introduction), and then students design and build.  I have made instruments with all sorts of materials, and it is always fascinating to see the different ways students construct things to achieve the same result!

Relates to: technology, content, connectedness, student collaboration, critical thinking, makerspaces, community, students' strengths

What non-rehearsal strategies do you employ in your classroom to engage students and connect music to other disciplines?


  1. I LOVE the idea that they are making their own instruments! And, thanks, for the links to online music tools--I need to check these out. "Noteflight" sounds amazing... Wondering--how/do you assess the blogs?

    1. Great question - depends on exactly what the intention of the blog is. Usually, they have a prompt or questions that they need to address, and I assess how fully they answer the questions. If students need a little extra push to go deeper with their thinking, I will ask more explicit questions to them individually to get them going in the right direction.

  2. #5 leads me to re-imagine the notion of making music. Nifty idea, Aubrey! I also appreciate your blog format, with the relates-to tags that might help someone coming from any background find connections to what you and your students are doing.

  3. Love your post Aubrey! These are great ideas. For the most part they are really applicable to other disciplines as well. The thing that changes is what concept you plug into the blog, or the video etc etc! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I really wish I could be in your music classes! It always seems like you have so much fun, and so many great ideas. Would be interesting to dive into the meaning and and why behind music, both current and past.

    1. Oh my...that's like a whole graduate-level music philosophy class :-)! Maybe a smaller version...