This week’s blog features Martha Boonshaft, the third place winner in the “Share Your SmartMusic Story” contest.
Martha received both her degrees from the University of Hartford, with her bachelors from the Hartt School of Music and her masters in educational administration from the School of Education. Martha’s personal motto that she shares with her band is “How do you live your life when no one is looking?” Martha is as passionate about SmartMusic as she is about teaching her 300 students.
Why did you choose to start using SmartMusic?
I wanted something to get the kids practicing and help them be responsible for their work. I was also interested in having a more objective means of assessing student performances. Before SmartMusic, I would listen to students individually in the classroom and it was challenging to assign grades to students with varying ability levels.
How did you get SmartMusic integrated into your program?
No matter what I do, I focus my full attention to it. I researched the value of SmartMusic quite a bit before I started. My school district wanted teachers to get more involved in using technology in the classroom. After I showed SmartMusic to my principal, he was all for it. I planned out what I felt I needed to do to implement SmartMusic and then we were off and running.
Did you see results after you started using SmartMusic?
What happened was mind boggling. Because I was giving SmartMusic assignments, the students were practicing more consistently and therefore developing their skills and embouchures. Within the first three weeks of starting to use SmartMusic there was a huge improvement in the sound of the band. Since using SmartMusic, the performance level of the students has increased dramatically. I am able to do more advanced music with them earlier in the year and the students are able to meet the technical demands of the music. Listening to the students’ recordings helps guide my teaching to address specific problems my students are encountering.
What are some ways you use the Gradebook?
I provide a comment for every single exercise that a student submits. The parents appreciate this and it has helped in developing open communication with them. Parent/teacher conferences are relaxed. With the e-mail button, I can easily share the successes of students with their parents. The parents feel much more a part of their child’s music education. With the documentation that SmartMusic provides, parents are making their kids’ practicing a priority. I have an entire folder of positive quotes from parents regarding SmartMusic. You can’t beat that. I also create a portfolio of each student’s work over three years. Imagine that!
Can you tell us how you are using SmartMusic in your classroom?
In the classroom, I have a laptop computer, speakers, and SmartBoard with a projector. With SmartMusic in the classroom, I am able to reinforce reading skills consistently, which then is transferred to each individual student. For example, with SmartMusic being projected on the screen, we constantly go through a process of clapping and counting rhythms, looking at accidentals, the key signature and anything else of interest before playing something. The students learn this method and use these procedures on their own during class and rehearsals.
How do you inform the parents about SmartMusic?
At an introductory SmartMusic meeting, we go through the entire program from activation to student enrollment. The features of SmartMusic are also demonstrated. Some parents admit to being not computer savvy so we created tip sheets on various topics to give them when needed. Even my technology skills have improved!
What advice would you give teachers just getting started with SmartMusic?
Dive in head first!
That’s not the usual answer!
If you want your kids to get going with it, you need to do the same. Even if you are a little scared of technology like I was, just get going with it. This includes parents. I know that might scare some people, but with enough planning you can be successful. Anticipate that you might encounter issues along the way and that you can overcome them. Using SmartMusic on a large level is magnificent. Perseverance sums it up.
Do you have any tips or tricks you would like to share?
I use SmartMusic to help students that are switching to other instruments, for example a trumpet to tuba. The students use the same exercises that they did for their original instrument on their new instrument. With the feedback that SmartMusic gives them, they quickly become successful on the new instrument. This really helps in getting proper instrumentation.
Do you have plans for the prizes you won?
The JW Pepper gift certificate is going to come in quite handy this year as the budget for music this year is a little low. It will enable me to get brand new music for the students to work on. The other prize money will go into our band fund for the students.
Thanks, Martha, for sharing your thoughts!