- August 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm #520504
I teach middle and high school chorus, as well as various music electives. For some time now, I’ve been looking for online tools to help my students build their knowledge of music theory/fundamentals, as well as practice their vocal parts at home, in a manner that provides for accountability and rewards progress. Since my kids are working with all kinds of electronic devices and computer operating systems, it’s important that these tools be web-based and hosted “in the Cloud,” so they can be used by anyone, anywhere that they can access the Internet. As often seems to be the case with technology, there is a bewildering array of resources available, yet I haven’t so far been able to find precisely what I’m looking for! Here are the three areas I’ve been focusing on:
1. MUSIC THEORY: sequential lessons/quizzes, with tracking of individual students’ progress
2. SIGHT-SINGING: sequential assignments (as above)
3. INDIVIDUAL PRACTICE TOOLS: technology that supports student practice and improvement in singing the literature we are preparing for performance
MUSIC THEORY: Students come into my MS and HS choruses with hugely varying levels of experience with music theory and notation. For the true beginners, I’d like to find online resources for teaching them the basics, as applicable to choral music, such that they will eventually be able to sing from a printed page rather than learning by rote. Other students come into chorus with some skills/knowledge, and I’d like to help them improve as well. Ideally, I’d find a thorough (multi-year), sequential curriculum that can cover ALL levels of experience, so that (after diagnostic testing) I can place each student exactly where he/she needs to be in the sequence. Since music theory can be a bit dry, it’s vital that the website be interesting and fun, with lots of hands-on exercises, games, and quizzes to keep students engaged and motivated. There should be a way for students to see (and thus take pride in) their growing mastery, as well as an administrative interface that will allow me to track their activity and progress.
SIGHT-SINGING: I’d also like to locate an online sight-singing program that I can use in a similar manner as the theory site, starting beginners at the beginning and more experienced singers farther in depending on their skill levels. Like the music theory site, the sight-singing program should provide for accountability and evidence-based progress tracking, whether this involves the teacher listening to and grading student recordings, or software that can actually assess and score the accuracy of each performance.
INDIVIDUAL PRACTICE: Finally, I’d like to find a technology-based method for helping students to practice and master the music we are preparing for our concerts. Here are some of the approaches I’ve thought of, arranged from simplest to most sophisticated.
a. Have the singers use their phones or tablets to record themselves practicing at home, emailing me the resulting recordings for review. [The question is what they would practice TO – accompaniment tracks they play on their laptop or desktop?]
b. Same as above, but using “thumb drive” style mini recorders (available under $20) that they could physically turn in rather than emailing sound files. Once again, they’d have to sing along with a secondary sound source.
c. Find a website where singers could create their own online “audio portfolios.” They’d use the website to record themselves practicing (with a secondary sound source), and park the resulting audio files in their portfolios such that I could access and listen to them.
d. Same as above (the online audio portfolio approach), except that the program would allow students to record themselves singing to audio tracks we could upload and play through the site. This would eliminate the need to play back the accompaniment on another device.
e. Same, except that I’d also be able to upload an XML (notation) file with the part they are to sing, with the website not only recording their performance, but also assessing if they are singing the right notes and rhythms.
Any recommendations or suggestions for meeting any of these needs (online theory, sight-singing, practice support) would be most welcome. I’m especially interested to hear from folks who have actually tried this stuff out with their students, since there is often a big difference between the fantasy of what a program offers and the reality of how kids actually respond to it!August 24, 2016 at 8:57 pm #520711
Look into CHARMS office, it has a great studio for students to send you recordings and also had a phone app.
For music theory I use musictheory.net it had great ear training exercises and well all music theory lessons.August 25, 2016 at 11:31 am #520765
I also am teaching Middle School and High School Choir. One resource I have started using with my middle school choir is Dale Duncan’s “S Cubed” (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Music-In-The-Middle-With-Mr-D) This will be my third year using this curriculum. It has revamped and reenergized my teaching at both schools. The curriculum starts very basic (for those with no experience) is very sequential, and very user friendly. I am very pleased with the results I am seeing in my choirs. It has given me the tools to be a better teacher. I highly recommend this curriculum for your middle level choirs. For my High Schoolers, I have been using Sight Reading Factory (https://www.sightreadingfactory.com) . In continuing to apply the method used with SCubed, and being able to generate sight reading examples tailored to the needs of my High School choirs, it has made sight singing more fun for my choirs. As to your questions about outside practice, my experience was the more work I did to make files available to my students outside of the classroom, Other than a very few highly motivated students, the less they accessed it. It seemed the ones who want to learn it will, and the others will depend on the few who did the work. My goal is to figure out how to fix that. 🙂 Blessings on an awesome year ahead!
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