Friday, March 8, 2013

K-1 music exploration with the iPad


I have been searching for apps that I can use with my Kindergarten/First Grade students all year.  Finding ways for kids to work individually on listening skills seems like an easy fit with the iPad.  Each week, I meet with small groups of 8 students outside of the regular music class.  This “special” class provides a great opportunity to experiment with different apps and procedures. 

Hearing pitch and sequence is a big part of music learning from early education to the music conservatory.  In music school, it’s called “Dictation” where the teacher plays a melody, or rhythm, or both and the student writes it down.  A famous and extreme example of dictation was during the 17th century when Mozart heard and transcribed from memory Allegir’s Miserere.  This particular Mass was supposed to be exclusive and only performed in the Sistine Chapel.  No copies of the music were to be published by order of the Pope. 

Early on, I found the “Blob Chorus” app, which is great fun for kids and requires careful listening.  I have found many apps that are fun, but don’t really teach anything, or teach and are too boring for most students.  There are a couple apps that have worked well.  “Young Genius”, also called “Young Music Genius” has been successful.  Students can practice listening to different instruments then take a quiz and/or play a matching memory game.  All of these activities provide great listening practice and enhance knowledge of musical instruments.  One good thing also is that the program gives a score at then end of each activity so the student or teacher can keep track of progress.  One less good thing is a section of the app that compares 24 composers.  This is only fun for real music geeks.  Another app that I found that works well is called “Musical Me!”  The “memory” section of the app has a great sequence and pitch game that is fun and progresses well.  The only issue for me is that the sequences are visual as well as aural.  Many apps that I find have issues that I wish I could adapt or change.  If anybody out there can program apps, I have a bunch of ideas for activities.

A big challenge working with young kids and iPads is coaching them as they learn the activity while they are wearing earphones.  It’s easy for them to start tapping off into iPad oblivion when they get frustrated or bored.  On the other hand, I am often surprised when some kids with generally short attention spans can get totally sucked into iPad activities and not want to stop.

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