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.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creative Ukulele Storage for the Elementary Music Classroom

Creative Ukulele Storage for the Elementary Music Classroom + Rubbermaid FastTrack System

I love my music room.  After teaching on a cart, a portable, a cafeteria, and a regular sized classroom, I hit the jackpot.  My music room is enormous and the shape of a grand piano.  (I kid you not.)  But as large and as lovely as it is, a huge curved wall doesn't lend itself to a lot of usable storage space. 

What I do have are deep cabinets with closet doors go to the floor.  The first thing I did was ask my custodian to cut the doors in half, leaving only the top half of the doors on the closet.  That allowed me to slide the Orff instruments in and out easily.  It also allowed me to get more than two instruments in each closet.
Creative Ukulele Storage for the Elementary Music Classroom + Rubbermaid FastTrack System


I loved my new closets, but I had a ton of dead space inside.  I also had 30 new ukuleles that needed storage.  I wanted a way to utilize the dead space in the closets for the ukuleles.  That's where the Rubbermaid FastTrack System came in.  I bought the system because of it's flexibility.  It could be customized it to fit my space perfectly.  I bought the largest rail I could find and had it cut so that I could use the two sections in two different closets.  The rail comes in two parts - a metal piece that installs to wall, then the black plastic cover (seen in the photo).
Creative Ukulele Storage for the Elementary Music Classroom + Rubbermaid FastTrack System
In addition, I purchased the Multipurpose Hook.  The hooks lock on to the rail but can be moved around to customize the storage for any tool (or instrument).  I love the Hook because it's long enough to hold 3 ukuleles.  I purchased 10 hooks for my 30 ukuleles.
My only concern with the hook was that I didn't want the ukuleles to hang from the pegs, for fear they would get damaged.  To allow the ukuleles to hang from the neck, I added 1/2 inch pipe insulation on each side of the hook.  This allows the ukuleles to fit snug around the neck.


This is the finished product!  It's the perfect storage solution for my room!  I love that I can open the closet doors and hand out the ukuleles to my upper elementary students.  Even better, when we're all done, I simply shut the closet doors and the ukuleles are hidden away!
Creative Ukulele Storage for the Elementary Music Classroom + Rubbermaid FastTrack System
What creative solutions have you come up with for storing your classroom ukuleles?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Are you teaching ukulele at your school?  You might be interested in checking out my ukulele program for elementary students, called Sing & Strum.  You can check it out here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Grateful Heart and An Elementary Giveaway!

A Grateful Heart and an Elementary GIveaway:  the act of being grateful + personal refection before the start of a new school year
I had a very tough year last year.  I won't go in to details, but suffice it to say that I've spent a lot of time reflecting on myself and my teaching.  I want to make sure that when I step back into that classroom this year, that everything with in me is ready for the best year ever!  I have a job that I love.  For that, I am grateful.

This will be my 21st year teaching elementary music.  My 17th year in my district, and my 10th in my current school.  I've been an itinerant teacher for 17 years - meaning I travel between two schools during the week.  It's my least favorite part of the job, but it's given me opportunities to see other programs, meet other teachers, and teach different children.  For that, I am grateful.

I see my kids once every three days - 60 times a year.  I read the stories in different music groups about how infrequently some of you see your students.  I read about teaching on a cart.  I read about mandatory concerts and programs each semester.  I read about the lack of materials, supplies, and instruments.  I haven't had a music budget in years, but everything I need, I have.  For that , I am grateful.

As I try to appreciate all that is good in my life, and good in my teaching, I realize that only thing I can be is grateful.  Grateful that my passion is my job.  Grateful that I can provide my 450+ students the music education they deserve.  Grateful that I get to share my passion for music education with others through workshops, conference sessions, MLT certifications, and TeachersPayTeachers.  I am so grateful that YOU let me be a tiny part of your musical journey.  So, I can only say thank you and give back a small portion of what you have given me.

I'm hosting a Back to School Giveaway for Elementary Music Teachers.  Prizes are listed below.  The giveaway ends Thursday, August 18 at 11:59 pm.  Winners will be announced Friday.  Enter up to 5 times to win!  Then take a moment and think...  What are you grateful for this year?

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music


I love iPads for the music room!  They're the perfect size for little hands and great for enhancing and supporting instruction.   The only first generation item I've ever bought from Apple,  I knew the iPad was going to be a game-changer in my teaching and my students' learning.  Many grants later, I now have 15 iPad minis in my classroom with music apps for students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth Grade.

I've bought A LOT of apps over the years.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly!  I'd love to share with you today my5 Favorite iPad Apps for Elementary Music. 
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums
Before I begin, I want to tell you that every app on our classroom iPads is carefully and purposefully chosen to support the learning that occurs in my classroom.  Rarely do I have apps that are "just for fun."  The reality is, I have 40 minutes every 3 days for music instruction.  I need to make sure every thing I do with and for children is growing them musically.  
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums
1)  Garage Band - Everyone knows about Garage Band, right?  But how are you using it with your students?  The possibilities are endless!  Songwriting, Composition projects, Video game background music projects, Ukulele strumming accompaniments, and Recorder practice loops.  It seems like every time I think I've mastered the app, they add a new feature to it!  Have you played with the new Special Fx tools yet?  So much fun!
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums
2) Rhythm Cat - This app is essential to my rhythmic notation instruction.  Students read simple rhythms in real time with background music of different styles and tempi.  As the students read the notation, they perform it by tapping a button on the screen.  It's great feedback to see who is really reading versus those who are still working towards mastery.  As each level is achieved, new, more challenging rhythms are presented.  
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums
3) Tune Train - I love, love, love this app!  It's perfect for lower elementary students as they begin exploring and learning melodic direction and the function of harmony and style within music.  There are 11 "levels" to choose from - each level a different song.  Students choose to add people to their train at each stop but here's the genius of the app.  Each represents a different chord within a progression.  At each stop, students choose 1 of 3 people with each person representing a different pitch within a triad!  Students have to make musical choices in order to create their melodies.  Once the student has completed their melody, they can select to hear it back using one of three different styles of music.  They can also play it back seeing the notation in real time.  If they hear their melody and want to make changes, they can edit their selections and re-route the path selecting different people at each stop.  My only wish was that we could print a student's final composition, otherwise it's a great little app!
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums

4) Monkey Drum - Monkey Drum is a simple app, but with great rewards.  The concept is simple.  There is a monkey with a drum but he doesn't play rhythms for you - you must tap the rhythm for him first, then he REPEATS what you performed.   I use this app with little ones with simple reading activities.  Each group (we have a 2:1 ratio of iPads) gets a bundle of rhythm pattern cards.  They must read them, then tap them on the iPad,  listen to the monkey play them back and decide if they read/performed it correctly.  But the real win was trying the app with my special education students!  I've worked with special education students for many years - believing and knowing there is music inside of them, but unable to access it because of their physical limitations.  Using this app, my special education students were able to communicate with me musically by the simple tap of a finger!  And there are additional instruments available for the monkey to play!
5 Favorite Things: iPad Apps for Elementary Music+Garage Band+Tune Train+Rhythm Cat+Carnival of the Animals+Monkey Drums

5) Carnival of the Animals -  There are so many things to love about this app!  I use it as a extension activity for my Carnival of the Animal unit.  What makes this app amazing is that each movement of the piece is performed by an ensemble (which students can watch) with simple, magical illustrations.  (I don't know that words can do this app justice.)  For instance, if watching the Royal March of the Lion, you'll see and hear the ensemble playing while an adorable little cartoon lion walks through the ensemble.  It's magical.  Long after we've done our Carnival unit, my students choose to use this app during their music center time on the iPad.  The same company recently released a Four Seasons app as well!

It's so hard to narrow my list to just 5 Favorite Apps, but these are my must-haves for my classroom.  What are your favorite, must-have apps for elementary music?

You might also enjoy Reclaiming Storage in Your iOS device
You might also enjoy Free Time on iPads 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

5 Favorite Things: Music Learning Theory


I'm starting a new series this fall called "5 Favorite Things..."  Professionally, I experienced a difficult year last year.  I spent a lot of time reflecting upon why and what was in my circle of control to not have another year like that.  One of the things I discovered was I became so bogged down in the details of "my work" that I forgot "my passion" I have for guiding children.  As I listed all the reasons why I loved my job, an idea for a series of posts came to mind!

This year I want to share with you all of my favorite things about teaching music.  Sometimes you'll hear from me and other times I'll invite friends and colleagues to share their "Favorite Things..."

My first post is about my favorite approach for teaching music to children - Music Learning Theory!  Many music teachers are familiar with Orff or Kodaly, but Music Learning Theory (MLT) is a theory developed by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon.  His life's work was studying, researching, and writing about how children learn music.   There are so many layers to MLT that is constantly engages and challenges me as a musician and educator.  I'd like to share 5 things about MLT that might make you consider learning more about it.

1.  Audiation
Did you grow up thinking music?  I don't mean singing it, or playing it on an instrument.  I mean, really thinking music?  I didn't.  I took piano lessons, played flute, sang, studied at an arts school, went to college to study music.  I could play almost anything on my instrument, but I didn't think deeply about what I was playing.  I couldn't hear or predict where phrases were going or what harmonies were beneath my melodies.  I couldn't compose and would have died at the thought of improvising anything at all.  I couldn't "think music."  I didn't even know that was a thing until my junior year of college and then it hit me - something was fundamentally missing in my musical development.  Audiation!  Gordon defines audiation as "hearing and comprehending music in one's mind that may or may not have physically been present."  I could "hear" music all day, but I couldn't "comprehend" music.  It was mind-blowing to me that no one ever guided me to think music.  Is it something we take for granted?  Do we assume children learn to do this or is it a skill that must be explicitly taught and constantly nurtured?  For me, learning to audiate was like Dorothy walking from the black and white bleakness of Kansas into the technicolor beauty of Oz.  I want that for every child I teach.  Every. One.

2.  Sequence
Speaking of Oz, what does Dorothy do once she finds Oz?  Follow the yellow brick road, of course!  The yellow brick road for me is the sequence that Dr. Gordon lays out in his book, Learning Sequences in Music.  It's a dense read but here's the basic sequence: listen and speak music, learn to identify and label what you've already heard, learn to think and label what you've heard, then read and write what you have heard.  Then spiral it in new functions, tonalities, and meters.  And if you can do that, then apply the sequence to new, unfamiliar music!  He splits the sequence into two ways of learning - discrimination learning and inference learning - big words with easy meanings!  Discrimination learning: teach children the process of learning explicitly.  Inference learning: allow opportunities for children to apply what they have learned and draw inferences from discrimination learning.  Brilliant, eh?  Dr. Gordon's sequence provides a framework for me to guide my students' musical development from the first day they step into my classroom!

3.  Improvisation
When it came to improvising on my instrument, I was the cowardly lion.  I could not, would not do it. No way, no how!  When you rely on notation for everything, it's hard to have musical thoughts of your own.  When I learned to audiate, the musical thought flowed from me like a river.  Suddenly I could hear all those chords they talked about in aural theory!  I could write my own songs!  And I could improvise!  Don't get me wrong - it wasn't pretty the first time and it took a lot of time and practice to learn to improvise meaningfully.  But I had musical ideas in my head and I wasn't afraid to express them!  I love that I can help guide students to do the same!

4. Vocabulary
An important part of Gordon's theory is the idea of building a rich musical vocabulary.  There is research in early childhood music that shows that a young child's vocabulary is a predictor of his/her success in school.  The higher the vocabulary, the more successful the child will be.  The lower the vocabulary, the more likely the child will struggle.  When we take the time to build a child's listening and speaking vocabulary, we enrich that child's thinking vocabulary!  In MLT, vocabulary development doesn't mean musical terminology.  It means musical patterns!  Pattern instruction is an integral part of a child's music development.  It consumes a small amount of classroom instruction but plays a crucial role in a child's ability to audiate.  If I had benefited from pattern instruction in elementary school, the idea of audiation wouldn't have been so shocking to me.  I would have understood how musical ideas and phrases are outlined and connected and supported through patterns.  Providing this type of instruction is critical in a child's musical development.

5.  Contrast
We learn what something is by knowing what it isn't.  We don't learn through sameness of experience.  We learn through differences - through contrast!  Gordon uses modes as a way to enhance our musicianship and musical understanding.  So much of our western music is Major tonality and 4/4 meter.  Sameness.  Lots and lots of sameness.  But when you've heard the beautiful chordal progressions of Mixolydian, or the raised 4th scale degree resolving to the 5th scale degree in Lydian,  then Major takes on a whole new life.  Why?  Because we have something with which to contrast Major!  My enjoyment of Major, Mixolydian and Lydian is enhanced and richer because I was able to contrast them with one another.  The same is true of Minor to Dorian and Phrygian!  And here's the kicker - great musicians and composers use these tonalities all the time!  I saw an interview recently where Prince talked about the importance of being musically proficient with modes.  Michael Jackson wrote in Aeolian.  Commercial composers and jingle writers use Lydian and Mixolydian ALL THE TIME because it's just enough like Major, but sticks in your mind like an ear worm.  Listening to, singing, thinking, improvising and creating in these tonalities has challenged my musicianship unlike anything I experienced in 4 years of college.  It has stretched me musically in ways I couldn't have imagined.  Again - if I can provide these kinds of opportunities for my students in developmentally appropriate ways, why wouldn't I? 
So those are my 5 Favorite Things about MLT!  Do you have questions about MLT for me?  Leave me a question or comment below!