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Music Classroom Shift

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As I was preparing to go on sabbatical at Northwestern for a quarter, I sat down with my long-term substitute to discuss the curriculum and show her around the music room, well actually the music technology room. I then realized that my teaching style really hasn’t changed, only the delivery of the curriculum. I still do composer projects, classroom shows, rock videos, and I still have students sing and perform on instruments.

But, technology has really moved the music classroom from a singing only, recorder-based curriculum into hands on, project-based curriculum. Students used to be taught to sing and play in a group. I still do that, but so much more.

Project-based, using a variety of mixed media. It all revolves around the project, using cameras, pictures, hand recorders, and programs such as Voice-thread, GarageBand, Sound Studio, iMovie, Flash, iTunes, and many more I cannot name.  It is open-ended and the student is encouraged to develop his or her own skills using music as the glue.

Collaboration versus Cooperative Groups

  • With cooperative groups, students are assigned a role. With collaboration, the group all has the same roles; they must create a project as a group, not as individual parts of a group.


  • Students constantly ask fellow classmates in other groups to look over their project before the present the final presentation. This allows students to change the project a lot before they are finished.


  • Since all work is posted on the web, it is easy for students to view in class or at home their projects as well as other classmate’s projects. They comment and ask questions about the project and develop an arts vocabulary and reflect their knowledge. They also can go back and look at past projects they created.


  • I used to teach recorder, now I teach piano with headsets. Students have the freedom to experiment without others listening to their mistakes. This is incredible, since playing an instrument can be difficult for others, and a snap for the true musician. It alls all levels to succeed and students can be on different levels, due to the headsets. Recorders can give some headaches (I used to have to take aspirin on those days of recorder practice) and students have to always play together.  That has now changed. The piano students can practice different songs; the beginners can perform at a slower pace.

Individual and Creative

  • I have always had this in my classroom, so it hasn’t changed much. If the student has a new idea and wants to explore that idea, they are allowed to move away from the original project idea and create their own. But today the ideas are BIGGER. It used to be a movie or compose a simple song. I have had students create websites that have won national awards, composed music for movies, create flash games, and compose songs for the band. I even have a student composing a musical for the fall. He is writing the book (script) as well as the music.

Skype and Google Doc Forms

  • I will be Skyping in to individual students that are working on projects that they need my help. I also posted a google form for students that need to ask me a question and I will post the answer on my website. How cool is that?

Technology has allowed students to learn faster, easier, and more creatively. Music is all around us, that hasn’t changed, only the way we use music in the classroom has extended and enlarged.

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4 Comments  comments 

4 Responses

  1. Hi Carol!

    Do you find any differences in what students learn from working on piano as opposed to recorders? Just curious. Thanks!


  2. I am looking into running a more project-based middle school music classroom and would like to know more about what structures you have in place surrounding your project-based music classroom.

  3. Yes, I find my students are more motivated to learn the piano than the recorder. It makes more sense to them and they seem to practice. Plus, with the headset option, students feel free to experiment and create at a faster pace. The middle school students can be “embarrassed” that they can’t play or blow correctly. With the piano, they get results immediately.

  4. I just posted my entire curriculum online, with project ideas, classroom rules, and links to projects I teach in the music technology classroom http://beatechie.pbworks.com

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