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Using JoyTunes in class
JoyTunes was originally designed to boost students’ practice motivation between lessons and speed up the teaching process. However, as the project started expanding we were surprised to find out that many teachers use it in a classroom setting, creating excitement and a positive buzz around their recorder lessons. Being Smart Board compatible,this program turned out to be a great content resource for various educational and fun class activities.
We divided the activity ideas to topics (the first 2 “Basic” topics are our own entries). We hope you find some nice ideas you can use and we wish you a great time and a lot of success. Here’s the place to thank everybody who shared their great ideas with us!
- Basic 1: Presenting The Game in Class (with or without a Smart Board)
- Basic 2: Homework Assignments
- New Note Introduction
- Introduction to Reading Music
- Working on a Fingering Transition
- Learning a Song
- Preparing for a Class Performance
- Team Work
- Before a long Vacation
- Special Bonus Activities
Presenting the game in class: Basic Activity 1
This is the most basic activity we can recommend in order to get your students excited and starting to practice at home. If you have a Smart Board, this activity is ideal for you – extremely easy to execute and both educational and fun. If you don’t, you can use the computer room in your school, or you can bring a projector and a computer to your classroom. You’ll need internet connection, a microphone and speakers - to hear the accompanying music.
- Get the students excited about studying music in school (and overcome psychological barriers regarding music and recorders).
- Motivate the students to practice in between lessons.
- Improve the quality of your students’ practice sessions.
- Improve teacher-student relations- create commitment to the teaching process.
Prepare the game in advance either on your smart board or with a projector and a computer. When your students arrive, have them sit not too far away from the screen. Tell them you prepared a surprise/bonus for them and show them the game. We recommend you start from a basic level (either a fly level of a basic target level) and explain what to do if needed (usually kids understand these things much faster than us, grownups...). Have them try it one by one while the others watch. This is a great opportunity to comment on each student’s poster, sound, hand and finger position, tonguing etc. while the others watch and absorb your comments and can implement them even before they actually play.
Don’t forget to show them where they can connect to you (with the “Connect to Teacher” tab inside the game). When they’re connected to you, you can see how they’re doing between lessons using our progress reports, and can adjust your teaching accordingly.
It’s very important to make it clear for your students how to start playing (=practicing) – by going to www.joytunes.com/play. You can print the fun designed link page we created and simply hand out the links to your students. Or, if you have their emails, you can send them your personal link and when they click on it they enter the game already connected to you. You can find both the printable link page and your personal link in “My Classroom”.
- Presenting the game at the beginning of the school year is recommended. This way the students get excited about playing and set their practicing routines. By the way, if music lessons at your school suffer from low esteem, this game may help...
- If you have microphone issues, you can pin the microphone on each student in his turn.
- Modeling in class is very effective and highly recommended. Your students will learn a lot from hearing and watching you play.
- Improvisation is welcomed: you can accompany the students, conduct ‘mini-competitions’ in class, etc. For more ideas, see the other activities on the list.
Posted by the JoyTunes team
Homework Assignments: Basic Activity 2
Music educators very often have a hard time motivating their students to practice their 10-20 minutes sessions at home. There are different tricks and incentives, some work more than others. However, this is exactly what we set off to do in JoyTunes – to create a homework platform that would boost the students’ practice motivation and speed up your teaching process. This is the core of our doing and we invite you to try it out.
The Principle is Simple – there’s a clear curriculum of where each note or finger transition is being practiced - for instance, the “B-A transition” in world 3, producing the note “Middle D” in world 12 etc.. You can see this list in the Game Curriculum tab and give your home assignments with it. In addition, there’s also a score factor – in each level your students can collect between 1-3 notes as indication of performance. So for example, after teaching the notes B and A you can tell them - “for the next lesson please finish world 3 (the B-A transition). Whoever gets 3 notes in the last level gets a “great job!” sticker”. Then you can open the progress report and see how they’re doing at home - who finished world 3 easily, who had difficulties completing it and more.
Another way to go at it is by using our song index, where you can see which songs include which notes. To some you can even download the sheet music and playbacks for free (we couldn’t get them all because of copyrights). The easiest thing would be to ask your students to play a certain song or 2 at home and perhaps get a high score. For example – “For next lesson I want you to collect 3 notes in the song “Hot Cross Buns” in page 5 (Recorder Express). I challenge you to unlock the bonus level in page 5!”. Then you can continue the work on the song in class with a smart board, or simply by downloading its sheet music and playback. Recorder Master and Express have close to 100 popular and original songs to choose from. See Song Index
Posted by the JoyTunes team
New Note Introduction
Teaching the note G
"from my experience, teaching the note G is always tricky, especially with young kids with small hands. Common symptoms: air leaks from 3rd finger, the tone cracks or jumps an octave, etc. Usually the note G is quite discouraging for the kids. So this year I decided to try something else. I showed them the fingering for G (warning them about the air leaks) and gave them homework - to play the 4th world in the Recorder Master game where they work on producing G and the G-A transition. Get at least 2 award-notes, I told them (the high score). On the next lesson I played the "Blues" playback in class (with G and A) and they loved it. We played it several times, and every time I pinned the microphone to somebody else. Almost everybody got it right and there was hardly any cracking at all. I couldn’t believe it! From the progress report I saw that most of the kids practiced more than 40 minutes at home, and some of them went on to practice B-A-G by themselves."
Sheril Demsky, music educator, CA
Introduction to Reading Music
The next letter was sent from one of our recorder teachers to be posted
“Regarding your question whether I used the game in class, the answer is yes as I found it useful in several occassions. My latest use was for starting to read music.
I personally prefer first to get to the point where my students can actually play something before I teach them to read music. The Recorder Master game fits my method very nicely since it’s not staff based but still provides the main principles of reading music - physical locations of the birds correlate to tone heights, “stuffy birds” correlate with half tones, etc. After a while I move to the Express game (that uses staff lines) in order to make a smooth transition to reading music - and it works great.
So, here are the details:
What I did is this - I got to the point where they can play Mary Had a Little Lamb (Recorder Master, 7th world). They learned to play B-A-G without learning to read the notes, just by listening and playing the game. I then asked them to play the same song in Recorder-Express (called “Merrily We Roll Along”, page 6 in the free area). The students already knew the song from the Recorder-Master, so the only thing added here was the staff lines and having notes instead of birds. I guess that’s why it wasn’t a problem at all for them. They succeeded playing it because they knew it already by heart, and the transition to staff lines wasn’t an issue at all. In the next lesson I formally introduced the staff lines and saw that most of them got it easily - B is in the middle, A under that and so on. After that I went on to the different note values - quarters, half notes and eight notes. For each, I introduced it first in class and then gave them home assignments from the Recorder Express. For instance:
- “Suo Gan” (page 5) to practice quarters vs. half notes.
- “Hop Old Squirrel” (Page 8) - to practice eight notes.
- “The Frog” (page 7) to practice quarter rests, etc.
Seili Johnson, music educator, MA
Working on a Fingering Transition
Practicing the B-A transition:
”I teach the fingering for the note B, practice tonguing with it and then introduce the note A. Playing B and A together is always a leap and I spend several lessons finding fun ways to make that transition as smooth and clean as possible. I have several fun things I picked up over the years, but I have a bit of a weak group this year, so it was going slower than usual. A friend of mine told me about JoyTunes and I decided to try it. First, I sent all the parents a recommendation and my personal link. Then I showed the game in our next lesson, and told my students to reach world 3 (the B-A world). In the next lesson, I showed the game again in class with a projector, divided the class in two and played a level together - one group played only B and the other played the A's. First, each student played a note in his turn, and only then I let the group play unison. It worked great - my kids were so excited about it!! I look forward to trying it with G and with different songs."
Dana Mockert, music educator, CA
Learning A Song
“Songs are the main mile stones of my teaching. I want to give my kids a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of playing a melody as fast as I can - even as soon as they know their first 1 or 2 notes. It really drives them forward from my experience.
Your program really helped me accomplish that with my last group (thanks!!). On the very first lesson I showed them how to stand and hold their recorder (also no teeth etc.), taught them the note B, and demonstrated the game on the smart board. They were really excited of course, and it was a bit hard to control their enthusiasm. But the important thing was that I showed them where the song index is and told them that we’re going to collect all these songs on the list. That made them excited and some were very eager to start. I showed them how to connect to me as my students from the game, and told them to complete the 1st world until our next lesson (I asked them not to go on to the 2nd world yet). On our next lesson we played the song “Country Ride” together using the smart board (It’s only with B). First I put them in a row and each played 1 note in his turn, and then all together. That gave me the chance to comment each one, and everybody could hear and learn from it while they were waiting. I kept this format for a few lessons - giving them assignments to complete a world, and then working on a song or 2 together in class. After a few weeks, they were already playing with B-A-G together and they had all the songs of the first map unlocked. That’s when I declared a “party” (I brought balloons and decorations) and we played the songs of the first map one by one “by request” (each student picked one). They were playing most of them anyway at home from the song index, so it went quite smoothly. I called the principle to come and hear it, and she was absolutely thrilled! Thanks for everything. I’ll keep you posted how it goes on.”
Jennifer (Jane) Flory, music educator, IL
Preparing for a Class Performance
I was already 4 months into the school year when a mom called me and asked me if I heard about JoyTunes. Her son (which is one of my students) was playing with it and she was wondering what I thought about it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I got into it and sent the link to my students who loved it. We already covered G to middle C but it was still great watching them have so much fun with their recorders. What I did find extremely useful was the song index tab, which I used to prepare for the school performance that was planned a few weeks after that. You have a pretty big selection of songs there (especially if you consider both games – Master and Express) and it was real easy telling my kids what to work on at home. We ended up playing both “Old McDonald” and the “Ode To Joy” arrangements - I never imagined I’d have enough time to prepare both. The way I went at it was to tell them specifically to collect at least 2 notes in “Old McDonald” at home (from their song index), and then I downloaded the song playback and sheets and we played it in class. It went so quickly that I decided to go for the Beethoven song as well. Just before the performance I planned a special lesson where I brought my laptop and a projector and we all played it together, which was a great preparation for the concert because they understood they have to play together or else it drives the game a bit crazy. I guess if you have a smart board that would be much easier to do.
Orrie Shifman, music educator, Texas
This activity is a great ice breaker and a bonus activity. Along the way students also practice their timing, rhythm, hearing and general technique.
You need a projector, speakers, microphone and an Internet connection. Smart Boards are perfect of course.
- Choose a melody from the song index. Both Master and Express games work fine.
- Divide the class into groups; the number of kids in each group is equal the number of notes you want to practice.
- Each group is summoned to the ‘stage’ to play the game in front of the whole class. However, each player in the group is responsible for playing only one note. For example, in a group of 3, there is one who plays only Bs, one only As and one only Gs.
- The group needs to perform the melody together; each player needs to look and listen very carefully and play his/her note in the right sequence and timing.
- For example, to play ‘Mary had a little lamb’ you will need a group of 3 students, each plays one note but together they perform the whole melody.
- Homework assignments for “Superstars”: Practice together, same format, until you are ready to perform in front of the whole class.
- To spice things and encourage the kids to practice together, you can announce a mini-competition between the groups (can create a lot of motivation, but also a lot of emotion - it’s not suitable for every group)
Guy Larsson, music educator, NY
Before a long Vacation
This is something we got from a teacher who found the game especially useful when her students went on a long vacation -
“I’m very fond of this program, though I haven’t used it extensively like I know others do. I introduced it once in class and I’m enjoying the progress reports since then. Other then that, I use it on the smart board every once in a while as a fun “ice breaker” activity (which works great, I have to say). But to answer your question, I was truly amazed on the first lesson I gave after the last Christmas vacation. I told them before they went away to reach page 12 in Recorder-Express, and also to choose 3 songs from pages 7-12 that they like and get the highest score in each. The result was amazing - they came to the lesson after Christmas as if our last lesson was just yesterday! Some even made a big improvement in ton quality... When I looked at the progress reports from Christmas later that day, I saw that most have spent hours of practice time during the vacation. Probably trying to unlock the bonus levels or get the highest scores I asked them to.
I never had that before. Usually the Christmas brake is a major step back. So thank you guys for this program. I’m definitely gonna do something with it on the summer vacation...
Danielle B., music educator, NY
Special Bonus Activities
The following activity is called ‘PM’, which stands for Physical Music. You don’t need any accessories, but if you want to make things nicer you can use 3-6 small poster-board squares with the name of the notes on them. The activity looks like this:
Choose 3-5 volunteers and have them stand in front of the class, each representing a note (B, A, G, etc. They can hold the poster-board squares, if available). Each time a volunteer raises his/her hand, the the whole class should play that note with their recorders. For example, when the ‘G’ kid raises his hand, the class plays the note ‘G’, and so forth.
Practice a little with the class, randomly. The kids will figure out the game in no time. After several tries, ask the group of volunteers if they can play a song with their hands. It should be an easy song, such as “Old McDonald”, “Mary had a little lamb” or any other song from the song book. “Playing with hands” means that the volunteers need to figure out when to raise their hands (timing) and for how long (rhythm). The class should ‘listen’ to their hand-music, and the teacher can comment and correct if necessary. The next step would be to have the player/s follow the hand movement of the volunteers and play with the recorders accordingly.
The game is fun, fast and physical and can cause a commotion in class. It is great for tension release and highly activated kids, but also for “numb” classes that you want to wake up. You can also use it as fun activity in between projects or in special school activity days.
Masha Bikovsky, music educator, MA