Alternative Concert Assignment

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At our school, music is required for students in 6th and 7th grade (8th grade was made optional this year).  Students have to take band, orchestra, and choir.  We have opened a new school with slightly different boundaries, so I have been teaching “traditional” choral music this year versus the ukulele-based instruction of the last couple of years.

[Side note: we hold two concerts a year, so the ukulele unit moves to the next three months…so we’re still doing ukulele, just not as a part of choir.  It also doesn’t help that our ukulele hanging system still isn’t installed.]

I have been treating students this year as if they chose choir, rather than trying to make the experience not stink for them.  It’s a different mindset, and not all the students are bought into it–particularly those that were in choir last year under the other mindset, and of course, students that don’t want to be in any music class (note: a prior prinicipal insisted that choir was to be an “experience” versus traditional choir).  Last year, my current principal, fully aware of the challenges, suggested that I made the concert optional.  I decided to try it, continuing to call the concert “required” but mentioning it wouldn’t be graded.  About 25% of my 6th grade students did not attend (about normal); about 35% of my 7th grade students missed the concert; and about 50% of my 8th grade students missed the concert.  Even so, the concert was one of my best at this school.

I realize that students missing concerts is often out of their hands.  Parents plan other activities, cannot get a student to a concert, or openly value other activities (even practices for sports) above a concert.  At the same time, choir is a performance based class, and while it may be “an experience,” hopefully the concert can be a positive experience.   A student who has to miss a concert should feel like they are missing something, and it is not crazy to think that they should have to make it up.  Frustratingly, that same principal (no longer our principal) expected band to be band, and orchestra to be orchestra…but choir had to be an experience.  If that seems a little crazy to you, it is.  Thankfully, that mindset is no longer true.

I have tried to do concert make-ups for years, including having students come in to sing with a recording of the concert.  Ultimately, these are simply punitive measures, and the student neither experiences the actual conditions of the concert (with hopes that they would experience the joy of performing) nor does the student help the group with their voice.

So, I looked online for what other teachers have been doing.  Based on that work, I have created an “Alternative Concert Assignment” for students this year.  I still count absences as “excused” or “unexcused,” but either can make up the concert, with a “point” penalty for unexcused absences.  We also grade for formative (20%) and summative (80%) categories; and while the concert is summative, I cannot grade a student individually on their performance in a concert (technology may allow for this someday), so I will be making the concert a huge part of their formative grade.  Ultimately, a student will have to complete the make-up assignment to earn more than a C…and in this day and age, B’s and A’s are usually expected by parents (if they concern themselves with grades at all).  So it doesn’t become a punitive assignment, and makes sure that the student is investing in a make-up activity of similar length to the concert they are missing.

I do expect the requirement of watching a concert and completing a packet to cause quite a few students to decide to attend the concert.

A couple of other notes:

First, we have to give every student a minimum of 50% regardless of whether or not they do any assignment.   Second, the assignment says that a student cannot attend another concert at our school, or at the elementary level, to make up the assignment.  I had students attend a band or orchestra concert of a sibling last year, and then skip our concert.  While I want our students to support each other, I needed to close that loophole.  Finally, I split my concert night into three mini-concerts, which eliminates the need for supervision during the concert with students that are not currently singing.

You’ll find the Alternative Concert Assignment below.  The original is a Pages document (send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to send it).  I may tweak this assignment over time, but as for now, I’m pretty happy with it.  If you are struggling with students missing concerts and having appropriate make-up assignment, feel free to use and adapt the assignment as you see fit.  As always, support via Patreon is always welcome (and please note that I am not placing this behind a “paywall.”).

For those of you working towards a performance in the next weeks, good luck!

Alternative Concert Assignment (PDF)


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NotateMe Now Lesson #2

The second lesson in this series continues to teach music notation by manuscript as well as topics in music theory by students writing their own music to specific parameters.  This second lesson builds on the first, which introduces NotateMe and the concepts of quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.  This lesson introduces the related topics of quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.

The materials used in this lesson are created using Notability, and the videos are created with Quicktime and iMovie.

The PDF includes the guide for the theory that is being taught in the lesson, the assignments, and the checklist for the assignment.

NotateMe Now Lesson #2 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)

Here is a link to the first lesson in the series.

Lesson #1 using NotateMe Now

I am going to be using NotateMe Now, a free app, to teach my students how to write music notation, as well as to teach them about the elements of music, and to get them composing.  This is the first in a series of planned lessons that I will teach.  I am providing video lessons for students who miss class, or who need to review what I have taught (a.k.a. “flipping”) at home when they are working on assignments.  My concept is to have most students do this work in class, but some classes move more slowly than others.

I am also providing detailed notes for each lesson.  These are all provided to students via a shared Google Folder, and they are also available on my Google website for students.

I talk about submitting the two assignments for this lesson via a Google Form–this is a way for me to have students share their work with me, and for me to stay on top of their submissions.  If they simply drop their work into a folder, I can’t possibly remember what I have corrected or what needs to be corrected.  The Google Form allows me to see who has turned in work, when they have turned in work, to be able to see the work, and to be able to hide the rows of assignments I have already graded.

These lessons are intended for middle school students in grade 6-8, in a 1:1 iPad school where all students are moving at about the same level when it comes to basic concepts in music.  In future years, I will have to add additional content and build on existing skills.  But since we are a first year 1:1 iPad school, all of the students move at about the same pace for technology.

I am working through Boxwave to buy 50 Evertouch capacitive styluses for my students to use; I hope they arrive next week.

As always, feel free to use what works for you, and leave behind what doesn’t.

Addendum: A large number of students “didn’t get” the lesson…but in truth, most “didn’t even try,” even having the lesson and notes in video format.  I used the second day of this material to ask for student volunteers and to work through the Assignment Checklist, which appears in the PDF document below.

The notes/handout was created using Notability.

NotateMe Now Lesson #1 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)

Lesson on using Hokusai Audio Editor and Google Drive to make a recording

As I have written about in the past, I have been trying to find a way to have my students record themselves over an existing audio track for assessment and portfolio purposes (we will use them for Student Led Conferences as evidence of what they do in choir).

We held our mid-year concert last week Monday (the middle school concert season is much relaxed versus my old high school concert season), and it is time for my students to do some assessments regarding their performance of their music–and to prove their mastery over the content.

We are going to take a few weeks away from choral singing to take advantage of the iPads at our school, learning a lot about music and technology in the process.  In late February (we meet every other day) we will get back into the choral music again, but for now we are going to be doing some sessions on audio recording, writing music, and GarageBand.  In the process we will be utilizing free apps, including Hokusai Audio Editor, Google Drive (We are a Google Apps for Education District), PiaScore, NotateMe Now, and GarageBand (new free edition).

The following handout and video represent the days I spent teaching how to use Hokusai Audio Editor.  I made the video because some students are absent, and others just tune out in class, so they can “flip” the experience and learn from home.  I also provide written guidance–but I think students will be more likely to watch than to read.

If any of these concepts are useful, please feel free to use them.  You could do this process with a small handful of iPads if you have recording space in your school.  My school does not have practice rooms for the choir program, so students have to do their recordings at home.

I also have students submit work via a Google Form when they are finished–this works great for me and I will blog about this in the future (it wasn’t my idea).

So…without further adieu…here is how I taught my students to use Hokusai Audio Editor to make a recording over an existing audio file in conjunction with Google Drive and PiaScore.

Post-Concert Recording Project (PDF – Step-by-Step instructions and assessment)

The next lessons I will post are on music notation and NotateMe.