Mar 14, 2018

Flat Music Notation - A Google add-on that both teachers and students can use

The Google add-on Flat Music Notation provides a practical solution for integrating music notation
in a Google Docs or Slides presentation. In fact, it's easy enough for students to use it too.

If it's not already installed, you’ll need to download it from the add-ons store. Once installed,
simply click Add-ons > Flat > Insert musical snippet, then input the musical notation you want to

I've created a short video tutorial to help you get started using the basic features.

Suggestions for use
Use Flat to create worksheets, custom warm-ups, or insert to a Google Slides presentation and
project it for the class to play. Students can use Flat to create their own rhythmic notation to submit
as an assessment or even use it as a basic composing tool.

Oct 15, 2017

Not Your Ordinary Playing Assignment

If you're like most band directors, you have students that struggle with practicing at home. Student musicians, especially younger ones, often have not developed the intrinsic motivation yet to practice on their own. Creating a practice and self-assessment assignment that involves goal setting, reflection, and performance motivates them to practice and even gets their parents involved too. 

The most rewarding aspects of a practice assignment:
      1. It's self-reflective
      2. Engages students in goal setting
      3. Reinforces practicing
      4. Encourages parental involvement
      5. Communicates performance standards
Take time to guide your students through the assignment and communicate your expectations. It is helpful to send an email home about the upcoming assignment describing what to listen for. TIP: include a music symbol guide describing the types articulations and dynamics they may see and hear in their child's music.

The parental feedback I've received is overwhelmingly positive. I often read how enjoyable it is for parents to hear their child practicing at home and giving a 'living room' performance for the family.  These assignments can be tailored to all kinds of music. From scales to the Star Spangled Banner, the possibilities are endless.

1. Goal Setting Practice Assignment:

2. Concert Music Playing Assessment

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Aug 17, 2017

Getting to Know Your Students

Creating a positive student-teacher relationship at the beginning of the school year is so important. Learning about as much as you can about your students will pay huge dividends down the road. Those relationships will help maintain a positive rehearsal environment and allow you to implement an effective classroom management plan.

A first step, is having your students complete a Get-to-Know-You survey the few days of school. Any types of questions can be included, but think about what you really want to know about your students. What kind of information would help you reach your students? What could you learn about your students that would help you be a better teacher? These are a few essential questions to consider when creating your survey.

Feel free to steal my Get-to-Know-You survey and customize it for your own use. For Google Classroom users, these questions can easily be posted to the class as a Google Doc or even converted to a Google Form for your students to complete.

Additional blog posts:

Jul 18, 2017

Ten Strategies for an Effective Middle School Band Rehearsal

As another school year is just around the corner, here are Ten Strategies for an Effective Middle School Band Rehearsal. Both teachers and students are eager to start the school year in a positive direction. These strategies are solid advice for the younger director and great reminders for the seasoned veteran teacher.  Refer back to this list throughout the year to keep your rehearsals on-track.

Have a tip to add? Leave your comment below.

Nov 2, 2016

How to Use Chromebooks to Record Playing Tests

Many schools now have a one-to-one Chromebook program which provides an excellent opportunity for students to perform and record their playing assessments. For directors looking for an alternative to traditional assessment methods, video assessments provide a viable option. Rather than using precious rehearsal time for individual assessments, directors can watch, listen and critique videos of their students playing tests at their convenience. It is an effective tool to assess playing skills like rhythmic accuracy, note accuracy, articulation quality, and dynamics. I have used it extensively as a way for my students to perform excerpts from their band music and for scale tests.

"My students often share how much time they spend recording their playing tests in order to record it perfectly."

In order to record a video on the Chromebook, your students will need to download a Chrome browser extension called Screencastify.  It’s free and can be accessed in the Chrome Web Store. Once installed and set-up, students can select the cam option to record using the front or rear-facing camera on the Chromebook. Mic level settings can be adjusted for optimum recording levels and videos can be saved to Google Drive or uploaded to YouTube.  It is important to instruct your students to save their video as “unlisted” for privacy purposes.

Your students will find it easy to record and submit their performance videos. So much can be learned from viewing and listening to your students individually perform. My students often share how much time they spend recording their playing tests in order to record it perfectly. Below are a few more helpful suggestions and advantages to ensure you and your students have a positive experience with video assessments.

Example of a student playing test as recorded with Screencastify and his Chromebook. (Yes he's playing the trombone correctly - video is mirrored.)

  • Students can record their performance as many times as necessary in order to submit their best work.
  • Some students feel less pressure recording a playing test by themselves, as opposed to in front of an entire ensemble.
  • Rehearsal time is not lost to in-class individual assessments.
  • Screencastify works seamlessly with Google Drive and saves all videos to one folder.  This allows students to record multiple “takes” of the same playing test while keeping the videos organized.
  • Video allows the director to assess posture and instrument hold in addition to music skills.
  • Videos can be shared with parents and students at anytime, as well as at parent-teacher conferences.

  • Take your time when teaching your students to install and set-up the Screencastify extension. Review again when assigning a playing assessment.
  • Practice recording a sample video in class and submitting or emailing the video link.
  • If your school does not have Google Classroom, students can email you a link to their video.
  • Provide written instructions to your students for recording with Screencastify. Here's mine!
  • Create a rubric to grade the assessments.  Quality feedback is essential to growth.
  • Brass players should focus the bell of their instrument away from the microphone for better audio quality.