Music During Online Learning

How can we still offer an authentic and genuine music experience during online learning? Especially when you are exhausted and your eyes hurt after countless hours in front of the screen? Music is a community-building art form. It requires collaboration and discussion between peers. It involves creativity in building upon one’s own ideas even if you have no more to give. Can music help strengthen our community during this time of social distancing? How do I as a music educator reach my students musically during a global pandemic? Let’s see!

Starting Blocks

When developing a lesson I start with, what is important? Is it important that students are musically literate? Is it important that my students continue their love of music? During online learning, I provide open-ended tasks for students to go as complex or as simple as they would like. I have found these types of activities have received the most engagement because they are free to explore and create. There isn’t just one answer. This includes creating rhythms, melodies, and patterns of their own choice to show their understanding of different concepts. 

Teacher question: How might you show rhythms using household items?

Some students need a little guidance by providing some starting notes while others are able to compose their ideas freely. Each of my lessons moves from a structured exploration towards a more open exploration. I have found this model reaches as many students as possible by giving them guidance as well as giving them room to explore new concepts. 

Building Up 

When planning with the end in mind, each lesson builds up from the previous lesson. This allows students of all levels room to call on previous knowledge when building upon their new knowledge. 

The example above shows students comparing time signatures listing similarities and differences while also doing a scavenger hunt to show prior knowledge. The following lessons are used to build up their knowledge moving them from a structured activity to a more open-ended task of creating different melodies in various time signatures of their choosing. 

A more agentic activity with students showing understanding by creating their own song in a time signature of their choosing.

This model gives each student a starting point while also giving student agency in how they represent their learning. 

Take Off

While I have used many visual thinking routines to gain an insight into my student’s thinking, nothing can replace the human interaction of a discussion. A simple 25-30 minute Zoom lesson has proven to be incredibly valuable in assessing understanding quickly while also answering student wonders. All of this is possible due to safety measures in place to keep our students safe during online learning. With the ability to have group discussions we are able to dive deeper into our learning by explaining our understandings and whys. 

Online learning is difficult in the best of circumstances. It is all of the work without any of the human interaction. We rarely get to see those “light bulb” moments during these difficult times. But in these difficult times, how can we make the best of it? We lead with compassion and grace. We give our students the best version of ourselves we can and we look at what is most important for our students. For me, it is that my students are looking forward to coming back to music class because their wonderings and thoughts were valued digitally as they were in face to face instruction. 

What is your take away during online learning? What has been a struggle for you during this chaotic time? Comment down below and let’s chat! If you’d like any of the activities above or any I have posted on Twitter, please subscribe and you will receive a link with all Seesaw activity links plus all editable versions to customize your own.

Continue sharing your learning, 

Levi Allison

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6 thoughts on “Music During Online Learning”

  1. Wonderful job Levi! Good to know you kept inquiring minds engaged during your session. I loved when you connected with real life objects to create rhythm. All the very best.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback! They loved going on a object hunt during our Zoom mini-lesson and bringing back objects they found and sharing why they thought it matched a particular rhythm.

  2. Wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing! I love the way students found objects at home to show rhythms. They came up with some very creative items! My biggest struggle right now is basically giving myself a crash course in how to use different technology platforms to create meaningful music lessons for my K-5 students. Also, struggling with deciding what I want/need to teach and how to turn it into an online/tech lesson that can be done at home especially with my little ones (K & 1). I’m not a savvy tech user so it has been very time consuming and stressful to say the least. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Thank you for commenting Dana! I understand the struggle and it took some time to get comfortable with them. I would suggest pick one and keep things as simple as possible to start. We use Seesaw and I only use Seesaw and sometimes a Flipgrid for reflection and sharing. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. 🙂

  3. I would like to subscribe it! I’m new to PYP music and I just finished creating rhythm lesson (online) with taiko. I want to learn from you and share my experience, too 🙂

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