Self-Grading Listening Activities with Google Forms

Self-Grading Listening Activities with Google Forms
Free Digital Listening Journal Image

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ― Victor Hugo

Listening Selections for Listening Journals

I like to have my 6-12 general music, band, and choir students do an online listening journal activity about every other week. We use a standard format to keep it straight forward and use a wide variety of music to have the students listen to. We complete these via Google Forms which is an amazing resource for just about any classroom. The 2nd best part of these listening journals? They are SELF-GRADING! (keep reading for the #1 best part of these listening journals – hint: THEY ARE FREE!) I insert a YouTube video into the beginning of the form – HOW TO video! Then, each activity has 11 questions.

Questions Asked:

  • What instruments do you hear?
  • Are there voices in the music?
  • What other sounds are in the music (if any)?
  • What type of group is performing?
  • What dynamics are used in this song?
  • Are the dynamics consistent from the beginning to the end of the song or do they change throughout the song?
  • What tempos are used in this song?
  • Is the tempo consistent from the beginning to the end of the song or does it change throughout the song?
  • When do you think this music was composed?
  • In your opinion, what emotion does this piece of music evoke?
  • Write one paragraph about this piece of music. Examples of what to write about: Did you like it? Why or why not? What did it remind you of? If it was telling a story, what would it be? Would you listen to it again? ETC.

Now, obviously some of these questions are opinion and/or subjective – therefore they are not “self-grading”. But, I just made the questions that have clear right and wrong answers worth points. The other questions were required, but were there more to get the students thinking about the music rather than worrying about the right answer. I would go back through and briefly read their responses to the other questions, just to ensure they weren’t simply going through the motions – overall I saw a lot of engagement from students while doing these! These even led to some really interesting class discussions!

The #1 best part? We’re giving our listening journals away for FREE!

The best part of this blog post? I’m sharing 16 of my listening journals I created FOR FREE! All you have to do is sign-up for my newsletter and you’ll automatically receive a document that will allow you to make a copy of all of these into your Google Drive and you can immediately assign them to your students (via Google Classroom, emailing, or sending them the link). PLUS I’m including a blank one for you to create your own! These questions work with ANY piece of music so you can really use whatever you want the students to listen to! You’ll have to add the correct answers and adjust the answer key to make sure it grades it for you – HOW TO video, but it’s actually very simple! For a more in depth description and general overview of how to use Google Forms (and integrate with Google Classroom) check out this YouTube video.

Music Selected

When I said variety, I MEANT it! Jazz, hip-hop, concert band, choral, pop, acoustic, orchestral, video game soundtracks, country, and more… The list really just spawned from things I heard that I liked, things we were maybe looking into for band or choir. There is zero rhyme or reason to this list!

How do I get all this great free stuff again?

Sign-Up for our newsletter below and you’ll automatically receive an email containing a PDF that will link you to make a copy of all of the listening journals for the songs listed above. This is a great FREE product that we do not make available in any other way! We will also send updates on new products, future freebies, and info about upcoming sales. You won’t get a crazy amount of emails from us (maybe 2 a month) and we won’t give your email to anyone. PROMISE!

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Chrome Music Lab Boomwhacker Activity

Chrome Music Lab Boomwhacker Activity

Okay – first of all, if you’ve never heard of Chrome Music Lab – you need to check it out!  It has tons of FREE tools that are great to use for various things in your classroom, even if it’s just for a “fun” day.

Here is one SUPER fun activity that you can do with just about any grade.

Song Maker in Chrome Music Lab

Possibly my favorite tool in Chrome Music Lab is the Song Maker.  My class and I were exploring the tools of the lab and we discovered that the colors used in Song Maker match the colors of the Boomwhackers!  So we decided – let’s make a song and PLAY it!  We started out with something simple (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

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As it plays back it gives you a bar to follow along, just pass out Boomwhackers and push play – so easy!  All you need is a projector and Boomwhackers!  Then I had students start calling out “requests”.  I told them it had to be simple – but through doing this I ended up discovering you can change the time signature, length of the song, and a bunch more! 

Adjust Song Maker Settings

If you click on settings in the bottom right corner: 

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It brings up this window which lets you adjust the length of the song, beats per bar, beat division, scale, starting pitch, and range displayed.

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Download Premade Song Cards with Direct Links to Pre-Made Songs

I went ahead and created some song cards with links that will load Song Maker with the following songs ready to play:

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • BINGO
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • Frere Jacques
  • Old MacDonald
  • Jingle Bells
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Clementine
  • Mulberry Bush

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Next Step

After I made some of their requests, I had students come up and create songs at the screen.  They had TOO much fun doing this – of course some tried to recreate their favorite song we’d just played, some just filled in ALL the boxes so it was PURE chaos, and some tried to write a fun melody.  It was truly great to see them enjoying writing and discovering music as a class!

What Grade Levels?

I found that this activity works well for a VAST age range.  I was genuinely surprised by how much fun my middle school students had doing this activity.  We don’t do a ton of instrument playing at that age so they found it to be fun to work together as a class and play the song.  I had my 2nd graders give it a go – and they did well also!  My kindergartners enjoyed figuring out the songs, and we played songs VERY slowly.   I still think they had fun and it was a valuable teaching experience but it was definitely harder for them.  Keep that in mind for your classroom!

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading and I hope you have fun with this activity!

Incorporating Writing into the Middle School & High School Music Classroom

Incorporating Writing into the Middle School & High School Music Classroom

6For those of you who JUST want the link to the growing free Writing Prompt document: click here!

For those of you who are here to read about the entire process – continue!

We’ve all sat through the in-services.  We’ve all had our administrators declare that we must include this as part of our classroom.  Our school improvement team did a study over the summer and discovered that our students were severely low on test scores in the categories of Communicating Reasoning and writing in general.  It is our goal as a staff to improve these scores.  If you’re looking for something simple (but hopefully effective) to do just that, look no further!

Two quick things before we dive in: I teach at a very small school, and we have one-to-one computers for grades K-12.

Writing in the music classroom using Google Classroom

First of all, this entire process is being done via an online learning management system (hooray for not wasting paper).  This is also an easy way to incorporate technology into the classroom if you struggle with that as well!  I’m using Google Classroom, but almost all learning management systems are capable of accomplishing this.  If you don’t have access to any of those, or don’t know what they are – you can still do this, but you’ll have to adjust!

For a quick “how-to” start on Google Classroom, check this out! Google Classroom Quick-Start Guide (this is NOT my guide – just a resource for you to use!)  All you need is a Gmail account!

I am doing basically the equivalent of online discussion posts that you’ll commonly see in online classes.  At the beginning of each week I post a question on Google Classroom for students to answer.  They have to respond to the question, and then throughout the week respond to at least three other students posts.  This encourages healthy discussion techniques while students work on their writing skills.  I have them due at the end of each week.

For example: Our first week of doing this activity, I asked the question, “What does it mean to have musical talent? Do you think a person is born with musical talent or is it learned?”

Writing in the Music Classroom – Student Discussion

For our first discussion, I saw some interesting comments!  The students really provided some thoughtful posts and responses to students.  For a growing list of my weekly discussion questions, check out the link to this Google Doc!  I will try my best to keep it updated.  I’m borrowing some from other sites, and coming up with some of my own!

I grade the students using a rubric our team came up with.  Since I didn’t develop it, no I won’t be sharing it (sorry!).  It’s nothing revolutionary, just a basic writing rubric!  Essentially each week this is an assignment worth ten points in the grade book.  Easy points they can earn in a few minutes.

My middle schoolers have struggled a bit more with some of the questions.  They also have just struggled with committing to writing well in the posts.  I am seeing improvement, but at first, it was a little painful!

I will say, if you’re like me and don’t appreciate an excessive amount of grading – you can forego the required student responses and just have them write the initial post.  I ended up doing this with my middle school just to lighten my grading load.  You can also pick and choose which weeks to grade – don’t tell them otherwise they won’t do it.  But if you take a week off, then grade the next week’s they’ll never know what to expect!

Make this system work for you!

I started this process this year.  I feel it’s extremely useful and beneficial for students, and I have plans to continue doing it for awhile.  It’s also amazing because it doesn’t take up ANY of your class time!  Students know how to complete the assignment, and understand it’s due every single week.  Hooray for not cutting into rehearsal times!

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Interactive Piano Display

Interactive Piano Display

Sometimes when you’re learning about music theory it is easiest to just show students on a piano.  I say sometimes, but the more complicated music theory ALWAYS requires understanding of a piano.  This year my husband and I created hook & loop interactive piano displays for both our band room and our choir room.  Here’s our “how to” blog post for creating this great simple classroom tool.

Interactive Piano Display Step 1

Step One: Print out or make a piano. 

You can buy my printable piano HERE, this gives you two options for printing (regular black and white or colors matching boom whackers pitches) AND it comes with appropriately sized notes for labeling. Print out however many octaves you want (I usually use two), and put it together.  I would recommend laminating to make it more durable.

UPDATE! – This product now includes a matching Treble Clef display with colored note heads that also match Boomwhackers. (shown below)

OR you can absolutely make a piano and labels out of construction paper or whatever else! I’ve made a large one out of the large rolls of paper school’s always have and it worked well also!

pianoplain

Interactive Piano Display Step 2

Step Two: Apply hook & loop dots to the keys you want to be able to label.  You can purchase these at almost any department store OR – I have had great luck with this budget off brand (Amazon Affiliate Link) – You get a TON of dots for SUPER cheap, and they work exactly like the brand name ones! I use the clear dots ON the piano itself so they are less visible when not labeled, and the white/softer dots on the back of the note labels (so you won’t see the white).

Interactive Piano Display Step 3

Step Three: Create the labels and apply the opposite hook & loop dot to the labels.  If you purchased my piano it includes a page of appropriately sized letters and some sharps/flats/naturals signs.  I would also recommend laminating these to keep them more durable.  From this point you’ll be able to attach and detach labels as you see fit!

sharps flats

Interactive Piano Final Product

The finished project will look something like this (apologies for the glare!):

final

How can I use this in my music classroom?

This can be used for SO MANY things in the music classroom.  One of my favorite activities is to do a bell ringer as students are entering the room. I randomly pass out letters to students and before they sit down they have to place their label on the correct note. Super simple! When we’re learning something new with theory we always end up at the piano physically moving around on the notes showing the relationships the notes have. In band rehearsals it’s used to talk about key signature, enharmonics, fingers, and SO much more. We’ve just truly used it ALL the time since we put them up!

Hopefully you can find some uses for this in your classroom! Thanks for reading!

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The 5 Minute Challenge A Music Classroom Activity

The 5 Minute Challenge A Music Classroom Activity
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The 5 Minute Challenge a Music Classroom Activity

The 5 Minute Challenge is something I do with my students K-12, though mostly with K-8.  We use MusicTheory.com’s Note Identification Exercises.

You can customize them however you would like in the top right corner.

 I give the students 5 minutes to get as many correct answers as possible. We make a loop around the classroom and students go up to the screen, select the answer, then move along the loop. This can also be a great break when students need to move a little bit. BUT it is still reinforcing concepts!

If management becomes an issue, I simply bring a halt to the loop movement but the timer continues!

I have each grade do an exercise that is appropriate for their level.  For these scores, my Kindergartners, 1st graders, and 2nd graders did ONLY the treble clef notes.  3rd and up did the entire grand staff!  As you can see, third grade is a little slow – but they are accurate!  7th grade is currently leading the challenge. You can really use any sort of quick paced review activity for this challenge!

This is just a great activity to promote a little healthy competition among my classes.  I will say, that my high school choir does not do this very often, so please don’t judge me for their lower score!  As you can see, they don’t even have a regular spot on the board!  We’ve been swamped with contests this time of year, so they rarely get to do the 5 Minute Challenge.  Also – Kindergarten is on the bottom because they originally weren’t in the competition, later when they started learning the notes of the treble clef (yes, they CAN do it!) they joined.

I keep track of my scores on the white board.

Creating the tracker for The 5 Minute Challenge Music Classroom Activity

Your tracker can be as simple as you want – you don’t even need to track if you don’t want to! I personally think a little healthy competition can be a good thing! All of the materials I used to create my tracker can be found easily at your local dollar store or craft store.  I have provided some links to Amazon resources if that works easier for you!  These are affiliate links so I will receive a small bonus if you buy through them!

I created the chart on the main whiteboard in my classroom using painters tape. I used a foam sheet to create the arrow marking the current leaders, and hot glued a small craft magnet on it so it’s easily movable.

This is a great activity to give students a break from whatever you’re doing. It gets the moving but they are still LEARNING and/or reviewing in the process! Here’s some other fun activities for music classrooms! Including my FREE dynamics posters shown in the picture above!

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Music Classroom Tour

Music Classroom Tour

I have a bit of a unique classroom – it is half of what used to be one HUGE room.  A few years before me, teacher situations changed.  They took the music room, cut it in half and made separate band and choir rooms.  So, to get to my choir room, you actually have to walk through the band room – it’s a little different but it works!  Also, when I took these pictures we were prepping for a concert, so I had risers out in my room.  Typically I have chairs set out in rows.  But here is my classroom!

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Music Classroom Tour Continued

I love my back wall!  My mother-in-law let me borrow her Cricut a few summers ago.  I cut out a ton of music notes.  Several of them didn’t survive the first year, but the ones that are still up have been on the wall for about 2 years now – not bad!  I also love my Boomwhacker storage (velcro on the wall, small strip of velcro on each boomwhacker – works great).

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Here is the front of my classroom.  This is where I spend quite a bit of time (the piano, the Smart Board, etc.)  You can also see our tubanos which we just got this year through a big Donor’s Choose project!  I leave the left side of my board dedicated to keeping track of our 5 Minute Challenge Scores (read more about that here!)  On the left side of my white board is my dynamics display.  These are great to have front and center in the room to help forgetful students.  Purchase them from my Teachers Pay Teacher’s Store HERE!

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More Music Classroom Tour

Up next is one of my students’ favorite parts of my room – Dave, the minion!  I drew the minion and colored him in by hand (much cheaper than a big print).  This is another Pinterest find!

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This isn’t the prettiest part of my room – but it is definitely practical.  Here is the obligatory folder rack.  I get so much space and function out of this beast!  Choir folders, microphones for jazz choir (keeps them organized and protected), and my elementary folders.  Each class has a color folder (K=Red, 1st=Orange, etc.).  Each student has a folder with a number.  When my students need to get their folder they go to their slot number and find their color folder.  So each slot will have 5-6 different colored folders in it.  It let’s them find their folders quickly without taking up a ton of space!

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This is my “stuff” wall.  We have all our ballots from contests throughout the year, pictures from our events, our calendar, and our classroom rules.  You can purchase my classroom rules from my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE!

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I can’t remember where I came up with this next idea – maybe it’s my idea originally – who knows!  On the back of my door I keep all of these little signs to tell my students what they need to bring when the come in to the classroom.  I put the signs I need on the opposite side of the door, they take a look and grab what they need for class without me having to say a word.  Works like a charm!  I now just use a whiteboard and write what the students need to grab when they come in the room!

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Only a few stops left!  This is my word wall and solfege display.  Sorry for the glare in the pictures!  Purchase my solfege display from my Teachers Pay Teachers store here!

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Our last stop is on our way out the door.  I have the students line up at this door before they leave.  If they’ve had a good day – their behavior was “Grand” and they get to move up in the staff.  Read more on my Grand Behavior system on my other blog post by click HERE!

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That’s it folks!  Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you enjoyed!

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American Folk Songs for the Modern Classroom

American Folk Songs for the Modern Classroom

American Folk Songs for the Modern Classroom
A collection of 20 folk songs and sing-along audio files to be used in any classroom.

2Hello readers!  I received a grant from the Mary Chilton DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Foundation to create a songbook of folk songs to be used in the modern classroom.  American Folk Music is an integral part to America’s culture and heritage.  Sadly, many of these songs are no longer being taught as they are seen as “too old,” or “not standards aligned.”  These songs are a huge part of our culture and used constantly within other compositions.  Students are missing out on the experience of them simply because they do not know them!

Check it out at my Teachers Pay Teachers page.  It is my featured free download.

These files are 100% free to you and ready to use.  Simply download and enjoy!

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