Saturday, December 3, 2016

Get Moving with Nutcracker: Movement Activities for Elementary Music

What I love about teaching music, is that with every season, comes the opportunity to introduce my students to the classics!  For most music teachers, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet is a standard for December and provides a rich variety of material to draw upon for instruction. 

Nutcracker: March Movement Activity
Several years ago, my friend, Kristin Kreiss, shared with me an amazing movement activity she created for the Nutcracker March.  With her permission, I am sharing it with you. 
To begin, pair each student with a partner.  Ask each pair to decide who will be partner one and partner two.  It is very important that each partner know his/her role!  Explain to your students that this is a follow the leader activity.  Partner one is going to move in pathways around the room and it is partner two's job to follow.
A Section - Each time the trumpet theme is played, partner one marches 8 macrobeats around the room. At the end of the trumpet theme, partner one stops.  Now it's partner two's turn!  As the string theme is played, partner two marches 16 microbeats, chasing after their partner.  On the 16th step, they should tap their partner on the shoulder, as partner one moves again.
B Section - During the B section, I have partners scatter anywhere in the room, but they have to be back with their partner by the end of the B section.
A Section - Have partners reverse roles.  Partner one is now partner two and vice versa.
Nutcracker: Trepak Movement Activity
You can do a similar with Trepak as well.  To vary it a bit, I used foam swords from that I purchased from the Dollar Tree last year.  

Partner the kids together.  Ask the students to decide who is going to be partner 1 and partner 2.  Partner 2 begins by holding his/her sword still as Partner 1 taps macrobeats against it for 4 beats.  Then Partner 1 holds his/her sword still as Partner 2 taps microbeats against it for 4 beats.   You can see a video of my students do this.  If you can't use foam swords in your classroom, pool noodles cut in half or rhythm sticks would work just as easily.
Nutcracker: Dance & Freeze
Another fun way to get your littlest ones moving to the Nutcracker is simply doing a "Dance & Freeze" using music from the Nutcracker.  I love to use movement cards to help students who may need a prompt to imagine how to move their body.   I have an interactive product called, Dance & Freeze: The Nutcracker Edition that allows students to click on all the different characters of the Nutcracker to reveal a new movement to explore in their bodies. 
I hope this gives a few ideas to get your students listening to and moving to The Nutcracker this year!

Let me know how you like to use The Nutcracker in your classroom!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why I Teach Music

I know many music teachers are in the trenches, feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the profession.  Sometimes it's nice to take a moment, breath, and remember exactly why we were drawn to this profession.  I am teaming up with some amazing music education bloggers this week on a series called #whyiteachmusic.  We're all sharing why we love what we do and hosting a giveaway as well, because, who doesn't like free stuff?
I can tell you with all honesty, I did not choose teaching.  It chose me.  I always loved working with children, but I also loved music.  I loved playing, practicing, and performing on my flute.  My undergraduate degree was in flute performance.  My senior year, I took a class called Early Childhood Music.  All my friends took the class their junior year and every one of them loved it.  "Go sing with the babies!"  "It's the best class ever!"  So I enrolled in the class to fulfill the final 3 credit of my degree.  It changed my life forever.

In that one little class, I learned that every child is musical.  Every child has an aptitude for music. There isn't a person alive without the capacity to learn music.  I learned that every child can sing, chant, move, and play, but it was up to me find that access point in the child and move them forward. What I learned in that early childhood music class never left me.  It was such a powerful experience that instead of going to graduate school for flute performance, I went to school to get my teacher certification.

Twenty-one years later, I'm still using everything I learned in that class each and every day.  Every child that enters my room has the potential to learn music.  I simply have to find their access point.  
I love finding that one thing a child loves musically, and helping them to grow and see themselves as musicians.  The best thing is that I get to champion children who may be lost in the shuffle.  The child who struggles in the classroom is the best drummer in my class.  The child who is the outlier in her classroom shines as a singer in my class.  The disabled child who is non-verbal hums along to every tune in my class.  Every child has music aptitude.  Every child has music in them and I get to bear witness to that development each and every day.  Why I teach music?  Because it chose me and I cannot do anything else.

So want to win some amazing prices?  Enter our giveaway!  Here's what you need to do:  
  • Comment on my blog post!
  • Share your inspiration on social media using #whyiteachmusic
  • Share my blog post with your friends on social media so they can enter too!
  • Share every day until Monday, November 21st
Every blogger is giving away a different prize.  You can win a copy of my Differentiated Recorder Bundle!  It's a fantastic resource to help every student in your room!

Make sure to enter the giveaway below!  And leave me a comment!  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox - play fun interactive PowerPoint games using Office Online!
Have you ever purchased a game on Teachers Pay Teachers that uses PowerPoint?  You're so excited to play it with your students!  You download the game, enter in slide view but something about the game doesn't seem right.  Thought there was supposed to be sound?  Or animation?  Why isn't it working?
That happened to me with one of MY OWN games!  I was so excited to show my students the first interactive PowerPoint game I made for them.  I created the game at home on my computer, but when I got to school none of the sounds worked!  I almost cried!  The hours of work I put into creating the game felt wasted.
But I've learned that where there's a will, there's a way...
The game was created using Office 2011.  My school computer runs Office 2003.  Older versions of Office don't like the younger, newer versions.  They don't recognize many of the functions of the newer versions.  So what's the workaround?
1.  Open a Dropbox account.  (If you already have a Dropbox account, go to step #2) 
Dropbox is free online storage system.  With your account, you receive 2 GB free of storage.  You can purchase additional storage if necessary.  Once you've created your account, you will be prompted to download Dropbox onto your computer.  You don't have to do this, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.  I run Dropbox on both my home computer and school computer.  It allows me to share files from home to school without the use of the flash drive.  No more worrying about losing or forgetting a flash drive ever again!  
2.  Once you've logged in, you'll see this screen.  You can simply drag and drop files into your Dropbox account.  Save the PowerPoint game you want to use to your Dropbox folder.

3.  Now find the PowerPoint file you want to open.  Click on it ONCE.  If you double-click, it will open using whatever version of PowerPoint is on your computer.  ONE click is all you need.

4.  Now that you've clicked once, you'll see the file appear in the screen like this.  You're almost done!

5.  Look in the upper right hand corner.  See where it says open?  Click on it, then click on Microsoft PowerPoint Online.  Dropbox and Office have partnered so that you can use their online version through Dropbox.  I know, amazing, right?

6.  We're almost done!  Click on View and select Slide Show!  Your PowerPoint should enter into Slideshow view and you should be set unless...

7.  Depending on your browser, you may have one final hurdle.  Some browsers see the SlideShow as a Pop-Up.  I use Chrome, which automatically blocks Pop-Ups in its browser.   Other browsers will ask permission for the Pop-Ups.  You need to allow the Pop-Up.  If you're in Chrome, go to the menu at the top, click on Chrome, Preferences, Settings, Content Settings, Pop-Ups, and Manage Exceptions.  Copy and paste the URL of the slideshow into the box under Hostname pattern.  Click Done, then go back the PowerPoint page.  You should be good to play!  (If this all seems to complicated, simply try another browser like Firefox!)

Please note - you must always access the files from Dropbox via the web, instead of your computer for this to work!  Hope this helps you!  Let me know one of your favorite tech workarounds!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Music Education Blog Carnival: November 2016

Read the latest post on the Music Education Blog Carnival!  Seven great post about music education!

I am so excited to be the host of the Music Education Blog Carnival this month!  For those who may not know, the Music Education Blog Carnival is a monthly post hosted by different music education bloggers.  Each blogger selects a few music posts that were recently written and why they selected it.  I loved reaching all of the blog posts by so many talented musicians and educators.  Here are some of my favorites from October!  Enjoy!

I love this blog post by Jennifer Foxx at Music Educator Resources.  Her post, The Power of Praise in Student Practice, is such a wonderful reminder of the awesome responsibility we hold as educators.  A kind word of praise reaps rewards 10-fold over a discouraging word.  Whether we're working on-on-one in a private studio or with a classroom of 30 students, all children want to be praised and validated!

Literature in music education holds a special place in my heart.  I loved reading Tracy King's Books You Need in Your Music Classroom: Upper Elementary List, especially because of the connection for older students.  

Daria Marmaluk-Haijoannou's post, Sing a Song About Different Families hits close to home for me. As a single mother of an adopted child, I get lots of questions about from my students.  Are you married?  Why aren't you married?  Why does your son look different than you?  As I went through the adoption process with my own child, I became more sensitive to all the different and beautiful families within my own school.  Daria provides a beautifully simple way of validating how families can look different through story and song.  

I'm going to make a confession - I love data.  I'm a bit of a nerd that way, but here's the truth: When I assess and objectively look at what my children know (and don't know), my teaching is impacted.  Data informs my instruction and guides my decisions about lesson planning.  Aileen Miracle provides easy, step-by-step instructions on how to implement assessments and track data in her post, Data Tracking in the Music Classroom.

I love, love, love using technology in my classroom.  Know what I don't love?  Ads popping up while I am using technology like YouTube!  Jane Lee provides simple directions to make those ads disappear from your screen in her post, Block Ads in Your Classroom.

Anne Mileski's post, Tips for the Traveling Music Teacher, also hits home for me.  Confession time:  I've been teaching for 21 years and I have traveled between buildings for 17 of those years.  There are some positive aspects about being an itinerant teacher, but there are also some challenges.  Anne provides some fabulous tips for all music traveling music teachers!

And lastly, as the holidays approach, and our patience wanes, I offer my own post: Classroom Management Tips for the Music Room (that work!).   Simple, easy things you can do to engage your students and get them back on track on tough days!

Thanks so much for joining me this month on the Music Education Blog Carnival!  Want to find out more about the blog carnival?  Or how you can host one?  You can find out more on Mrs. Tanenblatt's blog!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Taking Care of Your Voice: Elementary Music Edition

I was in my tenth year of teaching.  It was late October and my I could feel my fall cold coming on.  A little scratch in my voice, a few sniffles.  Nothing that a seasoned teacher couldn't handle, right?  I did all the usual things:  I drank tea and honey, I broke out the humidifier, I got lots of sleep.  A week later, the cold passed, but my voice was gone.  Not so much as a whisper.  Nothing.  Nada.

Taking Care of Your Voice: Elementary Music Edition, Vocal health tips for the music teacher

This went on for almost six weeks.  Six weeks without a voice is a music teacher's worst nightmare.  I knew something was seriously wrong with my voice, but didn't know what was wrong.  After trying every home remedy I knew, I decided to take serious action.  I made an appointment with the Vocal Health Clinic at the University of Michigan.  It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.  I met with an ENT, speech pathologist and retired voice teacher.  The ENT scoped my throat and determined that the "cold" I had experienced was really a virus and it attacked one of my vocal cords.  I watched on camera as one vocal cord vibrated, while the other one was still.  It was fascinating and terrifying at the same time.  The good news was that with some rehab (over the course of a few months), I was able to regain full use of my voice.  I also learned some tips that have served me well throughout my career.

1.  Drink water, lots of it.
Seems so simple, right?  Yet as teachers, we know drinking water means using the restroom.  I get it.  Drink it anyways.  When I worked with the team from U of M, I was told repeatedly to drink water, and specifically, to drink water with electrolytes.  Smart water became my water of choice.  Here's the bad news - I was also told to cut the caffeine.  No coffee, no soda, no nothing.  Me without my morning coffee is a very unpleasant experience, so my compromise is one cup of coffee in the morning, followed by water the rest of the day.  It's so important to keep yourself and your voice hydrated!

2.  Keep the nasal passages moist.
I know - ewe!  Here's my confession: I have nasal spray in my purse always.  You need to keep your nasal passages moist.  Talk to any singer or vocal coach and they will tell you the same thing.  It's the same reason I run a humidifier in my bedroom all winter long.  Healthy nasal passages, healthy singer!  Spray away!
3.  Stop singing with your kids.
It sounds terrible, doesn't it?  But seriously, stop!  Sing FOR your students, not WITH them.  The reasons are simple: 1) When you sing with your children, you foster dependency.  We all know students split-second imitate while singing.  Teach your students the song, then listen to them sing.  Make corrections, then listen again.  That process fosters musical independence!  2) You create pockets of vocal rest within each class.  Your voice desperately needs those moments of rest. Take advantage of them!

4.  Stop talking over your kids.
Let's get real - we all do it.  Everyone of us has those moments of frustration where we raise our voices over our students to be heard.  Stop.  There are a many reasons why we shouldn't talk over our students, but prolonged yelling can damage your vocal cords.  Find other strategies to get your students' attention.
5.  Warm up your vocal cords.
This was my biggest "duh" moment of my vocal rehabilitation.  Your vocal cords are two tiny muscles that vibrate.  When I work out, I know I need to stretch and warm up my body before I begin strenuous exercise.  Professional singers sing vocal warm-ups before every performance.  Why wouldn't we do the same?  I start every morning with vocal warm-ups. I want to make sure my voice is ready for a full day of singing and speaking for my students.

6.  Use amplification when possible.
When I lost my voice, I did not have a teacher amplification system.  Having one wouldn't have prevented what happened to me, but I do believe it's a necessity for every music teacher.  Once my voice was rehabilitated, my family physician wrote a letter to my district requesting the system.  Now, it seems commonplace that every classroom have an amplification system.  If you don't have one, there are inexpensive systems you can purchase that plug into amps or other speaker systems.  Ask your PTA or write a DonorsChoose project!  Get yourself a system to help preserve your voice.

Do you have a tried and true vocal health tip?  Share it in the comments below!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Frustrated? Classroom management tips for music that really work

It's that time of year.  The honeymoon is over, the kids are comfortable with you and one another.  One child chats quietly to a neighbor and suddenly the entire class erupts in chatter.  You count down, you clap, you use your "firm" voice.  Nothing.  The talking what do you do?

Well, let's start with what NOT to do.  It's a quick and easy list:
  • Please don't yell.  It's so hard, I know.  
  • Please don't make idle threats.  Kids know an idle threat a mile away.  
  • Please don't publicly shame kids.  The kids who are acting out are doing so for a reason.  Identify the reason, not the child.  
So what do you do?

1.  Help students to understand that when they come to music, they are there to learn.  
Over the past few years, I've noticed more and more that my students come to music needing a break from the "rigor" of classroom instruction.  They come in talkative, in need of some down time or wiggle time.  Music inherently can provide those things, but we're still here to learn.  Explain how their work looks different in music than when they are classroom.  With their classroom teacher, they may learn a math concept, then practice applying the concept using a worksheet.  In music, we learn by listening, by moving, by singing, by creating, by performing, and by improvising.  Our work looks and "feels" different, but it's still important work.  This simple explanation helps students to understand that although music is inherently fun, we are always working and learning in class.

2.  Allow time for chatter.  
This sounds so simple, but so hard.  My kids know that in transitions, there may be 30-90 seconds of downtime, and that they are allowed to have quiet conversations then.  When they see my hand go up, that is their signal to get quiet.  And here's the hard part - the silence isn't immediate.  Think about how many times you are at a staff meeting and chatting with a friend about something.  The meeting comes to order, but you need to finish a sentence - our students are the same way.  Silence comes in a few seconds.  It's ok, they will get quiet.

3.  Be consistent with the language used in your school.  
Many schools have a PBIS program in place and use common language across classrooms for behavior and expectations.  Embrace it!  I've taught for 21 years in a variety of settings.  The most success I've had in my career is when all of our staff worked together to identify, implement, and use consistent language with our students.  My kids know that the same language, expectations and consequences will occur in my room as in the classroom.  Suddenly, classroom issues went by the way.

4.  Do the unexpected - get quiet.  
This sound so silly.  Our usual response to a chatty class is to yell over them.  Stop.  Get quiet.  Lower the lights.  When they finally quiet, talk even quieter than them.  You are the leader of your classroom and have control over the volume of conversation.  Bring it down a notch.  I'm always amazed at how calm my students become once I bring my own voice level down as well.

5.  Don't point out children.   
Ok, so this has nothing to do with the kids who talk or misbehave.  This is about the kids who are always doing the right thing.  Don't using them as the example.  For some kids, this can be embarrassing.   For others, this can make them a target.  Instead, try #6.

6.  Use phrases that support everyone in the classroom.
I have two favorite phrases to use in my class.  The first is simple: "check yourself."  I may say it for one child in particular, but the reality is that every child in my room has something they can check on before the learning starts.  I may have a child who needs to stop talking, another who needs to adjust how they are seated, and another who may "appear perfect" but who's mind is wandering.  We all have something we can check.  My second favorite phrase is "make a match."  Again, simple and to the point and without pointing a child out.  Make a match simply means find someone with whom you can match your behavior.  Make a match to someone sitting correctly.  Make a match to someone keeping the steady beat.  Make a match to someone using their singing voice.  I never say who we should be matching because the reality is that the children already know.  And what one child needs to match may not be what another needs.

7.  When all else fails, check your relationship meter.
This is the hardest one of all.  When I have a child that consistently is problematic in my classroom, it mostly likely isn't the child - it's me. Take a breath, I know.  It's a difficult thing to admit.  Let's be honest - a child who is acting out in our classroom is seeking something, right?  When they can't get positive attention, then negative attention is the next best thing.  Negative attention comes when my relationship with that child is not healthy.  My students need to know I care about them deeply and sometimes music is the last thing on their mind.  Some of my kids come to school to be safe, to get a meal, to get a hug.  They come to school for connection.  When my students are disconnected from me, the behavior problems escalate.  And I know what you're going to say - how can I possibly connect with 500, 600, 800 students?  My best advice is to greet your kids.  My teachers know that my kids may not come into my classroom until invited.  The reason I do it is because I want to greet every child as they come in.  I say hello to every child as they enter, I compliment a new haircut, a smile, a child doing the right thing.  I notice new tennis shoes, a beautiful dress, a superhero sweatshirt.  The smallest compliment can make all the difference.

And one last word - I know we all have different situations and populations.  I've taught in public schools with extreme poverty and elite private schools.  My low-income kids in Philadelphia didn't behave any different than my suburban kids in Houston.  Here's what I've learned in my 20+ years - we all want to be validated.  We all want someone to notice us and care.  Every time I've showed a child I cared, the behavior got better.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ideas for Using In the Hall of the Mountain King

It's my favorite time of the year!  I love Fall & Halloween!  There's so much folk and classical music to draw from for your classroom.  One of my favorite tunes to use during the month of October is In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.  It's the fourth movement of the Peer Gynt Suite.  What I love about In the Hall of the Mountain King is that it is such a simple piece of music with so many concepts to teach from it.

Melody -  Does the melody move by step, skip, repeat or leap?
Rhythm - Look at the rhythmic structure of the song.  Can your students identify the meter?  The key signature?  Read the rhythms with solfege?  Could they write the rhythm of the theme?

Form - Can your students identify how composer uses repetition of a theme?  How many times is the theme repeated?  Does it ever get boring?  Why?  Why not?

Timbre - Can your students identify instruments within the piece?  Can they identify the ensemble as an orchestra?  Can they hear how the composer groups different instruments together during each repetition?

Dynamics - Can your students identify the dynamics in the piece?  How does the composer use dynamics to create interest throughout the composition?

Tempo - Can your students identify the tempo of the piece?  How does the composer use differing tempi to create interest throughout the composition?

There are some great activities to get your students engaged with this song.  One of my favorites is doing a hand jive using a puppet.  I've seen it done with a variety of puppets, but in my classroom, it's all about "The Wizard!"  The Hand jive is simple: 4 claps, 4, fist pounds (2 times left hand on top, 2 times right hand on top), 4 scissoring of the hands (2 times left hand on top, 2 times right hand on top), 4 thumbs back (2 times with left thumb, 2 times with right thumb).  Do the hand jive 17 times, increasing the tempo each time and hilarity ensues!

Another favorite activity is reading the story In the Hall of the Mountain King by Allison Miller Flannery.  We love this version in our room.  It's about an adventurous little boy who travels a bit too far from home and meets...The Mountain King!  My boys (and girls) love it and you can almost hear the music as you read the story!

After listening to and reading the story, my older students fill out a listening log.  This is simply a sheet with some questions about what they heard as they were listening to it.  You can download my listening log for free on my SingToKids Blogs Freebie folder on Dropbox.  

And if you're looking for a fantastic resource to go along with all of these ideas, then check out my In the Hall of the Mountain King resource on TpT.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Music Aptitude: What is it? Why measure it? And tips for successful testing

If you use Music Learning Theory, you know one of the main tenets of MLT is music aptitude.  Dr. Edwin Gordon believed that each one of us was born with a specific aptitude for music.  The amount of potential, along with experience creates our music aptitude.  Through research, Dr. Gordon determined that music aptitude was developmental from birth through age nine, but at nine, music aptitude stabilizes.
Go ahead, read that sentence again.  I'll give you a little time to let that sink in. 
Now that the shock has subsided, that means by 4th grade, a students' music aptitude has stabilized and we move from potential to achievement.  Yet one more reason to support music education in elementary schools, right?  Dr. Gordon developed many music aptitude tests throughout his life.  The two tests most appropriate for elementary students are the Primary Measures of Music Audiation (PMMA) and the Intermediate Measures of Music Audiation (IMMA).  Both measure developmental music aptitude in students.  
PMMA was Dr. Gordon's first aptitude test for young children and was meant for students who were not receiving MLT instruction.  It's perfect for Kindergarten and First Grade Students as the content is a bit easier but can be used for students through Third Grade.  IMMA is a more challenging test for students who receive MLT instruction.  It's normed for students in First Grade through Sixth Grade.  I use IMMA for students in First through Fourth Grades.

Ok, so here's the obvious question: WHY aptitude test?  The only reasons to aptitude test is to inform and differentiate your instruction.  If you know a student has a high tonal or rhythm aptitude, it changes the way you teach him or her.  If you know a student has a low tonal or rhythm aptitude, you work hard to increase that child's potential.  It's so easy to assume that an outgoing child is musically gifted and a quiet, reserved child is not.  I can tell you from experience that you don't know until you test.  It's important to understand that never are the results of the aptitude tests used to exclude a child.  Never.  They are always used to devise a plan of instruction to help students grow their potential to achieve.
If you're interested in finding out more about music aptitude, you can comment below with your questions.  If you would like to find either aptitude test, you can find PMMA here and IMMA here.  There are computer and online versions of the test, but I prefer the paper & pencil version by far!
If you're already PMMA and IMMA testing, check out my tips below to make the testing process easy!
  1. Use test shields.  (And by test shields, I mean a two-pocket folder!)  This gives each student privacy as they test and keeps their eyes focused on their own paper.  I buy a box of 1 cent folders from Office Max each year and use them for testing shields.  Easy and inexpensive.
  2. Use a document camera for directions.  I used to scan part of the test paper into my computer and show it on my interactive white board.  But with a document camera, I can model how to circle answers on the test sheet (and how not to circle the answers).  If you don't have a document camera, see if a classroom teacher or IT will loan you one while testing.  
  3. Color code the testing sheets.  I don't use the copies provided to me in the testing kit.  I copy my own to prolong the life of the kit.  I always copy test sheets on colored paper - blue for tonal and green for rhythm.  Why?  Well, to color code my stacks of tonal and rhythm papers.  I've also found that the darker the paper, the less likely the images will bleed through from the other side. 
  4. Before copying those test sheets, write the name of the test in the upper right hand corner.  Although the PMMA and IMMA scoring sheets look similar, there are differences between the two.  By writing IMMA in the corner, you'll know you are using the appropriate testing sheet.  
  5. Upload the CD into your iTunes library.  It's so easy to do and you'll have the test at your fingerprints.  The best part is that if you have the test in your iTunes library, you can seamlessly play the practice items while using the document camera!  If you hover over the iTunes icon, a mini menu will appear so that you can keep the document camera screen open while using iTunes.  
  6. If working with little ones, pause the test after the last item on the first page.  After testing children for 20 years, I've learned that children don't always realize there's a back page.  It takes them a minute to realize there's more to go.  I find pausing the test gives them a moment to get over the shock and gets them ready to move on.  I've even squeezed in a movement break for wiggly classes between the front & back page.
  7. If you have a students with focus issues, you may consider sitting with them while testing.  I cover up the item we are listening to, then uncover it for the student to circle the answer.  I've found that some students can't focus long enough to listen to the two songs and will pattern mark to cover the fact that they haven't paid attention.  I've also included my resource teacher in the testing and had them come to support a child who needs one-on-one support.
I hope these tips help you to have a successful testing experience!  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Importing Class Lists into iDoceo

One of my favorite teacher apps for iPad is iDoceo.  What it is?  It's simply an amazing all-in-one gradebook, schedule.  As a music teacher with nearly 500 students, there is so much to love about iDoceo.  First, it's on my iPad, which is always with me as I teach.  Second, you can have multiple seating charts with photos.  (That probably should have been first.)  Third, all my grades are organized into one file and can be exported into Excel easily.

The only thing I haven't loved about iDoceo was inputting student names at the beginning of each year.  After typing EVERY name on the iPad the first year, I knew there had to be a better way. There is.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

The first thing I want you to do is e-mail your school secretary and ask her for your class lists in Excel.  Yes, she can do it.  (Yes, it's the beginning of the year and she might give you a hard time.) Ask anyways!  It takes her 30 seconds to do it.  Now go get her a Starbucks to say thank you!  (Always take care of your school secretary.  She just saved you hours of time!)
Once you have your Excel spreadsheet, you are going to do need to do a little prep work.  Each class has to be it's own file.  So copy and paste each class list and save it as its own file.  While you are doing this, make sure the student names are in one column and that you have a header called "Name."  This is super important when you get to the import of your Excel files!   I like for my names to be Last name, First name so that my lists are alphabetized.  You can organize your lists however you like.  Second, if you know what assessments you are going to do this year, you can also add them in your spreadsheet.  I highly recommend doing this to avoid typing every assessment into every class list later in the year.  You can always amend/change/add assessments later, but it's good to have a few in there.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo
Once your class lists appears the way you want it, I would encourage you to save them either via Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud storage.  You can access all 3 via iDoceo.  I use Dropbox for everything, so I saved my files in a folder called 2016-2017 Class Lists.   It used to be that you had to save the file as a .csv file (common separated values) but iDoceo has made some improvements in the last few years that allows you to import directly from Excel.
Now it's time to get busy on your iPad!  Open up iDoceo and you will see this screen.  Not very exciting, is it?  
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo
See the button that says "Add" in the top right corner?  Click on it.  You should see a menu pop up with things you can add. Click on Class so that you can create a file for each teacher's class list.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

Another frame will appear.  Where is says Class, type in the teacher's name.  iDoceo likes to alphabetize.  If you type Mr. or Mrs. Disney, it's going to alphabetize by the M.  Better to just type last names so that it alphabetizes your teachers' names in a way you can easily find. them.  (Learn from my mistakes...) I also add the grade level under Description and school year under Year.  All of my grade books are exported at the end of the year.  These tags help me to find what I'm looking for easily.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo
Once you have added your teachers' names, your home screen will appear like this.  Much better, eh?  Now it's time to import those Excel files.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

Click on the Edit button right next to Add.  When you do, your screen will appear like this.  Do not panic. 
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo
If you click on the little tool to the right of the teacher's name, you will see another menu appear.  Do you see the Import button?  This is where the magic happens.  Click on it!

Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

Another menu pops up.  Click on the csv/xls option.  That's going to allow you to import your class list from your Excel spreadsheet.

Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

Now you need to tell iDoceo where to find the file.  My iPad defaults to iCloud, so if I were using Numbers, it would be easy to locate my class lists.  Since my files are on Dropbox, I need to click on the Location button in the top, left corner.  When I do, it gives me the option to locate files in Google Drive or Dropbox.  I selected Dropbox because that's where I saved them.  You can see my 2016-2017 Class List file below.

Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

When you click on the folder, all of your individual Excel files appear.  Click on the class list you want to import.
Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

Now that I have selected the class list, I need to answer a few questions about the file.  iDoceo will ask you to identify the column that has the names of the students.  It will ask you to identify any personal data about the students (student number, address, etc.).  I don't include that information, so just click continue.  Lastly, it will ask you to identify any gradebook data.  This is why I include my assessments in the Excel spreadsheet.

Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

When I'm all done, I have beautiful class lists that look like this!  Now all I have to do is add photos of each child and create my seating charts!  So easy, right?

Importing Class Lists Into iDoceo + Save Time Importing Class Lists from Excel + Music Teacher Tips for iDoceo

In the coming weeks, I will post about some of my favorite features within iDoceo.  Check back soon for some more goodies about this amazing app!

If you like this post, consider checking out 5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps the Elementary Music Room.