Back to school checklist...

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With summer finally over, it’s time to start getting into school mode again. Everyone has their checklists, of course… things like books, new trainings, updated policies, setting up the classroom, and 59,396,296,436 new initiatives dumped on you by the district last minute. 

Sure, it may feel like drinking a haystack through a firehose, but that’s what we all signed up for… right? 

Here’s three totally basic things you probably learned about in your first semester at the Hogwarts School of Music Teacher Wizardry, but you may notice this list is a little… different...

Books!

Yes, we all use books. “Back in my day, we had so many books, we all had back issues by the time we were 9!” 

And now, more and more, things are moving to digital… but we still use books. Lesson plan books, technique, and theory - not to mention music notation paper. 

Have you ever considered the fact that YOU are the real book your students are reading?

Think about it, you’re likely a walking encyclopedia. You could probably record yourself talking and transcribe it, add some pretty pictures, and have a book. That’s what Hemingway did, right?

If we take this a little further, it’s actually not that hard to imagine new ways of capturing the lessons you teach, to classes of any type or size, into a kind of ever-growing digital book. 

To make that easier, try using your phone to record ideas. With Musico, those ideas can be dropped right into digital lesson plans and compiled into groups of lessons… ahem… “chapters” in your book, if you will. Check out a few lessons plans (sent via FB Messenger) HERE.

You could even pick a few popular songs - these can be movie themes, songs from the radio, or well known standards - and let your students pick a favorite to learn. Then record small pieces of them in class for instant looping practice, and assign them to everyone on the spot. 

This can boost engagement and help the students feel excited to learn something they already know… and you can always log in and see how much they’ve practiced. For extra credit, you can export an XML score from Finale or Sibelius and drop it right in, so the cursor tracks the notes as students read the looping patterns they are playing along with, deepening pattern recognition. 

Incentives

Sometimes students need just a little extra motivation. Some teachers hand out candy, others focus more on contests and prizes… but how you structure it (and what tools you use) can make all the difference. 

That can take many forms, and can vary in complexity. Some teachers keep it simple with things like sticker books or an all expenses paid vacation to SpaceX to see a Falcon Heavy launch. Others have a points system where students can pick out prizes of varying size and value. 

Whatever system you decide to go with, it’s a great tool to have at your disposal… and you can easily integrate new tech into this by tracking who practices the most at a glance.

With some apps, students aren’t as engaged because they can’t really get in there and add their own spin to things. That’s why Musico has the ability for students to record themselves inside the app, kind of like Garageband but easier. This makes it possible to have creative contests: scale and arpeggio practice marathons, improvisation throwdowns, track creation games (add beats to classical melodies), etc… 

Want to see who won this week’s contest? Look in the dashboard and instantly see who practiced the longest, or pull up different student projects on the spot and hit “play” in class (or any time) to listen back to their homework. This also saves teachers a lot of time on grading.

Strategies to Leverage Smart Devices

Most students (and let’s face it, teachers too) are glued to their smart devices. In some cases, tablets and phones are distractions - they can suck attention away from a lesson very quickly. 

Plenty of music teachers use these tools in a positive, educational way. For instance, show students an interesting music video or technique on YouTube. Have them download an app and do flash cards or another music game. Even something as simple as recording themselves practicing at home so they can review it for critique is useful. 

This is a great way to take something that already has their attention (their phone) and use it to spark interest in music.
Lots of apps focus on getting the right inputs in place, but how many of them also focus on creative student outputs? By making the phone or tablet function as an instrument of creativity itself, Musico takes smart devices a step further. 

Need Custom Digital Lesson Plans? Tell us exactly what you need HERE, and we’ll build it!

Every list is going to be a little bit different, and it’s likely this post doesn’t cover everything - some teachers might need valve oil, or repair tools, or a new shrink.

You may even want to include non musical things in your checklist - tissues and hand sanitizer are always good bets. 

You might even start classes and realize you forgot something important, like a college education or a working knowledge of how to even play music at all - it happens to the best of us.

But with a little bit of forethought, you can start the year prepared… or more prepared, at any rate!

Musico