Centers in the music room and class structure?

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    Background: Composition/Music Technology Masters Degree, Former small school 5-12 band director (LOVED IT!), now 2nd year elementary music teacher. I learn as I go, do my own research being that I did not get an education degree and had no training in the field. SO…

    Question: I was recently awarded a partial grant for the creation of a music tech lab which will allow me to have 3 computer stations with Music Maestro, keyboards, pedals, and headphones. The lab is the beginning of my long term goal of a fully equipped 25 station MAC music lab. I teach grades 4-6, this coming year will have 25 4th graders at a time, once per week for 55 minutes. 5th and 6th grade is CONFUSING! I will have up to 50 students at once, for an hour per class once every 8 class days. However, the band students in those groups will only be there for the first 30 minutes of class, leaving me with I don’t know how many.

    I use Music K-8 for some of my songs, for my computer games (great site by the way), we sing, we do impromptu impersonation contests of famous musicians throughout history (and we learn about them of course), we play music games, we play a rather eclectic collection of abused-in-the-past classroom instruments, and we have the annual programs for each grade level (Veterans’ Day, Winter, and Spring).

    I promise this will end soon.

    Now that I have thoroughly confused you, here it comes…

    My question is: with only 3 computers, how can I set up my classroom and lessons to allow 3-6 students at a time to use them? I have considered the pre-k/kindergarten concept of “centers”, but I am simply uncertain how to get the best and most efficient use of the technology I will have AND my instructional time with class.


    Congrats on getting the grant!! Music technology is hot and any way you can incorporate that into your lessons / units will be amazingly beneficial and enjoyable for the students. Parents and admins are ALL about music tech, by the way, so once you get a series of activities/projects with your new materials, be sure and publicize it in Department newsletters!!

    I would decide on a composition project which the students will do with the computers and/or not keyboards. Set rules and procedures the first day of school: explain and demonstrate for every class what to do, how to use the software and what to do if they need help. (+ consequences if these are not followed.) Set a time each student will be allowed to work on the computer / work station ….. say 10 or 15 minutes per student every other class for your 4th graders. For your 5/6th class, I’d plan a computer project which could be completed in just a few classes. Due to the fact that you are not sure how many kids you will have for the shortened class, I’d say keep it simple then if you have kids for longer, you could expand the project to make it more complex. Do you know what sort of previous knowledge they have?

    You might start the year with simple rhythm and note identification games on the web – say or; those are excellent kid-friendly sites — providing you have internet on the computers. Bookmark those sites and make clear in your rules/procedures that they are not to look up any websites other than those. You might talk to your tech expert/teacher about blocking popular children’s game sites (I don’t know any offhand, but kids pull them up in a second given the chance). Put a timer at each computer and train the students to set the timer for the specified minutes allotted when they sit down. You should put up colorful posters of rules and expectations / procedures for these work stations on the wall above the stations. Rules should be easily seen while they are working. Make class lists on clipboards of each class. Have the students sign in: full name, date, time on / off. You might put up a cheap clock with a 3M hook on the wall near these stations for easy reference. Put this in the procedures – they must sign on/off.

    When you start your lesson, make note of which students got a chance to work during the previous class and which students have a turn at that time. (Before the class starts or at the end of the previous class, check the clipboards and make note in your plan book of who got a turn and who will get a turn the next class.) Your first couple classes should be spent drilling these procedures. Have kids role play: walk over to the work station, pretend to sign in, set the timer for x minutes, then open the specified program. Then have the student pretend to be done, close the program, pretend to sign off and quietly return to the lesson in progress. Emphasize the fun projects and games which will be completed on the computers, the final result (compositions) which will be displayed in the hallway, etc.

    Main idea: be organized and leave nothing to the day-of. Kids will take over if you don’t cover all of your bases and tell them what they are supposed to be doing every moment. You could refer to the computer games / work during your lessons to make everything cohesive / ensure that they understand the connection between what they are doing on the computer and what you are teaching. The first composition project for 4th grade may only be 8 measures of rhythm. From there build up – say 4 measures using a three-note melody and selected measures of their previously-composed rhythm. By the end of the year they may be adding original lyrics to their melodies!!! Once compositions have been completed, print them and have the entire class perform them for other classes, parents and admins!! Have fun, be creative!!


    Thanks Maria! Great ideas! Unfortunately, I learned the hard way what happens when you are not sufficiently prepared. My ego did not get a boost that day. Thanks again.

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