There are all sorts of reasons to try out a new pedagogical model, teaching philosophy, or lesson planning technique this school year. Maybe you heard about something that was working really well for other educators. Maybe your district or school administration encouraged you to give something a shot. Or perhaps you experienced a life-changing presentation at professional development.
Whatever the reason, it’s much easier to make a change when you have a tool to help.
The flipped classroom model has become more and more popular with teachers over the past few years, and maybe this is the year you’ve decided to try it out. Yes, it may mean needing to create new content (such as slides with a voiceover), but you’ve read up on the benefits and think this will make a big difference for your students. You might even already have some great lesson plans ready to go.
Leveraging your existing tools can make a transition like this much easier. In this article, we’ll share some ways that you can use SmartMusic to flip your classroom.
More Efficient Rehearsals
Flipping the classroom means that students will learn content outside of class and apply that content in class. To most music educators, that translates as “practice your part at home, rehearse everyone’s part at school.” While this is a lofty goal, it isn’t exactly new – ensemble directors have been preaching this gospel for a long time.
There’s no magic cure for students who just won’t practice (though we’d argue SmartMusic can help with that too). But what about the students who are practicing wrong notes and don’t even know it? These students, even though they devote time and energy at home practicing, might be making rehearsals more difficult. Then there are students who practice concert repertoire but don’t spend time working on technique or tone production. They might be able to get through the notes and rhythms, but could be contributing more to your ensemble. The flipped classroom model can account for both groups of students.
SmartMusic can help keep your in-class rehearsals efficient and productive by giving you the tools to include these students in the flipped classroom model. Let’s see how you might use it.
Improving Student Practice
Let’s start with the student who is practicing “wrong.” SmartMusic addresses this student by making sure that both “My Part” and the accompaniment can be clearly heard. Have the student, as part of their practice routine, listen to both of these tracks without playing.
Similarly, SmartMusic can help the student with poor technique who can still navigate repertoire. Address this by assigning supplementary exercises to these students. You can even differentiate between students by assigning content of varying difficulty levels or that addresses different aspect of technique. If one flute player is struggling with finger position, assign him technical exercises using scalar patterns. If you have trombone player struggling with tone production, assign her long tone studies.
In all these cases, leverage the fact that students are working at home. Your rehearsals will become more productive because you won’t need to spend time working on these things at school. Instead, you can follow the flipped classroom model and have students come to class to apply their new knowledge in an ensemble setting.
This approach isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Ultimately, it’s an extension (though a good one) of “practice at home, rehearse at school.” The flipped classroom model is capable of much more, especially when introducing new technical concepts.
SmartMusic can help with this too. For example, if young students are learning a new pitch or an alternate fingering, have them learn it by playing through an exercise at home first. Students can see a fingering chart in SmartMusic, and practice at their own pace. Then when students come to class they’ll already have the note (literally) under their fingers. You can then apply it in an ensemble arrangement that uses the new pitch or fingering. This is more in line with the spirit of the flipped classroom model.
A vital musical skill that often gets lost in the shuffle of concert prep is self-assessment. In the rush to make sure the ensemble sounds as good as possible, it’s easy to overlook things like ear training. Giving students the answer is just faster than allowing them to discover it for themselves.
But students should learn how to assess their own performance. In addition to being a National Core Arts Standard, your ensemble will have better intonation and rhythmic consistency if you teach students to self-assess.
Obviously, the immediate feedback that SmartMusic provides can go a long way toward helping students learn to listen to themselves. The assessment “score” can also contribute toward making sure that students know what a good performance sounds like – at least for pitches and rhythms.
One common critique of the flipped classroom model is that it can be hard to ensure that students are learning the at-home material. Using SmartMusic can help you make sure that students are understanding their at-home content. For example, a popular flipped classroom technique is to have students submit recordings of themselves. These recordings provide a check for understanding so that educators know student worked on the at-home material. Of course, SmartMusic can help you manage these recordings; you aren’t limited to just the assessment score when evaluating students.
Better yet, you can have students self-assess these recordings as part of their at-home work. Because SmartMusic allows you to create custom rubrics and lets students comment on their own performance, you can make self-assessment a requirement for any assignment. After all, assessment goes beyond just the right notes and rhythms. Including self-assessment on your rubric will get students in the habit of listening. Have the self-assessment focus on intangibles like tone quality and phrasing rather than notes and rhythms so that students learn to evaluate their own musicianship.