Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Using SmartMusic in a Classroom Setting

I am lucky enough to teach in a team situation for a good part of my day.

We have this situation because of a new schedule this year.  It has been very good for our students because like instrument sectionals are pulled-out of our band rehearsals.  Last year, we were doing pull-outs during the students' other classes.

This new schedule leads to less stress for the students.  They don't have to remember to leave a class.  They don't have to stress over the class work missed that a leaving another class would put them in.  If we need a follow-up session on a particular topic (crossing the break on clarinet for example) we can flex the schedule to make it work for the student.

It may even be a time saver, because students are ready to play when it is their turn.  Not putting together instruments.

It's good for kids and I think it is good for the teachers.

I think some of my SmartMusic enthusiasm has rubbed off on my teaching partner.  I have also learned some tricks from her.  We get to watch each other work between sectionals and talk between classes.  Very helpful.  I know it has helped me with my game.

For instance, yesterday she was working through a dotted quarter pattern in Robert W. Smith's "Peace Like A River" with some beginning band students.  The sequence went like this:  1.) Review dotted quarters in our text,  2.) Put the clarinet part up on the IWB in SmartMusic (clarinets have the  problematic part),  3.) Have everyone count and clap the clarinet part with SmartMusic playing just the clarinet part,  4.) Have everyone "sizzle" the clarinet part with SmartMusic,  5.) Have the clarinets play the part alone with SmartMusic (clarinet part only),  6.) Have the clarinets play their part while everyone else sizzles their own part with SmartMusic playing all parts,  7.)  Play without SmartMusic like normal.

(By "sizzle", I mean the wind players do the air, articulation and fingerings without playing the instrument.  It is a fun variation and you can listen to SmartMusic while "sizzling" without turning the computer up too loud.)

That sequence looks like it should take forever when you write it out, but really, it was just a minute or two for that phrase.  Explaining dotted quarters this way kept the kids engaged, even the kids who didn't have that particular problem in their part.  Think of it as everyone learning the clarinet part and putting that knowledge in the bank for later use.  Without SmartMusic and the IWB, only the clarinets would know what the problem was.

By the way, the clarinets really rocked the part.

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