Equipment Wish List for the Adventurous Music Teacher
Consider adding these wireless devices as well as other classroom supplies to change the way you teach.
What’s on your wish list of school supplies? I’m talking beyond the basics like pencils and paper or more expensive items like a laminator or Cricut.
Consider the devices and equipment listed below that will change the way you teach! If your school has benefitted from COVID relief funds or your fall budget has increased due to higher-than-expected numbers, take advantage of this windfall and stock up on these supplies. You won’t regret it!
Upgrade the Sound System
Some classrooms are outfitted with audio playback capabilities such as a CD player or shelf speakers with an auxiliary cable but it’s time to upgrade your sound system to something that students can play along with.
An adequate PA system in the classroom is a fantastic way to engage students with instruction, reference recordings and backing tracks. The process of quieting a classroom so that every student can hear the All-State recording can be replaced with turning a nice sound system up to level eight so that students can even hear the coughing in the audience.
Classrooms that have ceiling speakers can also be improved with a headphone amplifier, which boosts the input signal, creating a more immersive experience for students who are listening or playing along.
The Power of Bluetooth and Wireless Tech
Wireless connectivity has reached a point where a teacher can be anywhere in a classroom. Prevent yourself from making a battle station in the corner of the room by utilizing Bluetooth audio, screen-sharing tablets, smart outlets and an Alexa device. Classroom teachers like to use proximity to their troublesome students to engage and curb behaviors. But how do we press play on the backing track if the student is across the room? Bluetooth your phone to the sound system! Bluetooth technology is a standard feature to many recent audio devices, but if your technology isn’t up to speed, consider purchasing a Bluetooth receiver that can turn any sound system with inputs into a Bluetooth speaker.
Once your phone or tablet is connected to a sound system via Bluetooth, you can utilize your phone’s voice memo taker as a recording and playback station for your classroom. Record a difficult passage with your phone and play the recording back while speaking directly to the students who need your help. Moving the phone around the room will allow you to capture the moments that the students may not be hearing. For instance, recording close to the students who are out of tune might help you segue into the importance of listening and tuning without calling out specific students. Let the recording be the bad guy.
An older technology that allows teachers to walk around the room is the PowerPoint clicker, but now we can do much more than just progress to the next slide. Wireless keyboards with touchpads are a great solution to moving your entire computer! The computer can stay glued to all your outlets while you set up shop next to a student you are helping. Learn a few hot keys to change tabs in Chrome, play a YouTube video or trigger a timer to start without having to walk back to the computer.
For the elementary teacher who is tired of asking a student to walk to the light switch to turn the lights on or off, program your Alexa device and a few smart outlets to do this with a single voice command. Smart light bulbs can also change the color of the room to match holidays, special events and school colors (see top photo). For example, a fun way to kick off a Friday rehearsal before the big game would be to tell Alexa, “Go Cats!” which triggers the smart bulbs to turn blue. Elementary students might also appreciate sound-reactive lights that illuminate when sounds reach a certain decibel. It’s definitely a fun and visual way to teach dynamics!
And for teachers who already have their entire lives on a single laptop, an Apple TV or Google Chromecast allows you to wirelessly share your screen from your device to a projector or TV in your classroom. If you’re looking for more ways to present visual information, consider a wall-mounted flatscreen TV that can be strategically placed to engage students farthest from the projector.
Try Nonverbal Commands
Nonverbal commands can become a part of your routine if you choose to utilize wireless doorbells and soundboard applications on your phone. Plug in a wireless doorbell speaker near a noisy location in your classroom and use the doorbell to signal students to return to their seats, end their conversations or begin cleaning up. Codes like “two rings” could mean time is running out while “one ring” could mean the class is over.
If you need more sound options, download a soundboard application such as Big Button Sound Effects to your phone and utilize the thousands of free sounds that are available on your smart devices. I love to use the applause sound effect when students perform and the bugle call for lining up. Apps like Custom Soundboard Creator allow you to record sounds with your phone and trigger them with the press of a button. Record yourself saying any classroom command and then trigger it from your phone while you work with small groups. Themed soundboards can match the current season or most recent popular movie. Students will be excited to see what you come up with next!
Seating and Staging
Apart from technology, seating and staging have a large impact on how students act in the music room. Though traditional seating is important for posture and performance, is there space in your room for a non-traditional seating area?
Elementary music classrooms utilize yoga balls, buckets and even cajons to allow students a chance to engage at their own energy level. Students who love to bounce around finally have an option to do so while engaging in meaningful conversation in order to keep their new favorite seat. A long communal bench might be the fun place for students to assemble their instrument, warm-up and socialize before making their way to the primary seating area.
Don’t let the choir have all the fun with stages and steps! Create dynamic seating by elevating your ensemble to match exactly how you want to see them at the concert. Not only will students love the opportunity to step on and off the platforms, but you’ll love storing cases and bulky items underneath (see photo to the left). Hide your items with a curtain made with some fabric and Velcro.
The last, and possibly most ridiculous, recommendation is a celebrity video from the website Cameo. Do you want your students to pay attention while you read your syllabus? Or want them to memorize the classroom rules?
Go to Cameo where you pay a celebrity to say almost anything! That’s right. You can pay real artists to read your script for a set price and keep the video forever. Here’s a video of Snoop Dogg telling university students to read the syllabus! Make sure your script includes a line where the celebrity wishes they could be a student in your classroom.