Using Themes to Inspire and Engage Students in Music Technology Lessons

Inspiration For Music Technology Lesson Plans

Sometimes inspiration for music technology lessons comes in an unexpected way. A great idea for a lesson might pop into your head while driving, eating or even showering!

Have students research a historical figure and create an original rap about them using an app like OceanWaves. This is an engaging and fun music tech lesson that’s a good fit for all elementary grades.

Units or Themes

A lot of teachers find inspiration for lessons in unlikely places. Perhaps a new idea pops up while you’re listening to a music podcast or browsing YouTube videos. Maybe you’re reading a blog by a fellow music teacher.

Often, those ideas don’t always fit your current class or students. If you want to incorporate more technology in your classroom, consider using a theme or unit to guide your planning.

For example, you could ask your students to create a musical story. This could include composing, recording and even creating a final product. It would be a good way to introduce the concepts of music composition and how it works in the real world.

Another theme could be exploring different instrument families. Your students can use websites like Noteflight or a app called Acapella to compose and then record different vocal or instrumental parts. This is a great way to reinforce the concept of rhythm. The final project could be a performance of a song created by your students.

Themes Make Lesson Planning Easier

Whether you prefer to jot down ideas on sticky notes and stick them on a corkboard, keep track of them in a notebook or use an app on your phone to take quick notes, the more organized you are, the easier lesson planning will be. However you keep track of your ideas, make sure to jot down everything, including what resources you plan on using and activities that you want to include.

Having a clear theme will help students identify it as well. A good way to see if students are understanding the theme is to ask them to annotate a passage with details, quotes and other “golden lines” that highlight the theme.

New technology tools and programs can drive creativity, foster passion and inspire student thriving – when they work! Are you struggling with tech causing major classroom disruptions, wasting valuable lesson time and preventing student learning? Get started with simple, effective and proven strategies, tools and lessons inside the Midnight Music Community.

Themes Help Students Stay On Track

Students can stay on task with music technology lessons that are easy to understand, engaging and fun. Themes are especially useful for younger learners who can sometimes be easily distracted. Themes also help teachers identify whether or not students have grasped a lesson’s theme. For example, if a student makes a playlist that includes songs about a certain topic (such as happy music during a tragic period in history), the teacher can check that the students have understood the theme.

Another way to gauge theme understanding is by allowing students to create their own musical accompaniment to a short film. For example, the popular Rap My Name lesson has students writing a 4-measure rap within a structure and then creating a rhythmic backing. You can find the full instructions, downloadable lesson plan and a walkthrough video in this blog post.

For a more playful lesson, students can write a song on OceanWaves or create a composition in a program such as MuseScore or Noteflight. For an additional level of engagement, try partnering students together and having one student make a song or piece on a site like OceanWaves while the other student interprets the music with crayon or pastel art.

Themes Help Students Stay Engaged

Students embrace technology in their daily lives and it is easier for them to adopt new music tech tools when the lessons are based on familiar themes. Themes are also a great way to differentiate learning and challenge higher level students with more complex tasks while allowing lower level students to stay engaged in basic, foundational skills.

For example, a student can practice music theory by listening to different songs and identifying the underlying lesson or theme. For more advanced students, this can be done by using tools like Noteflight or even more complicated programs such as MuseScore or Finale.

Other popular music technology lesson ideas are to use song lyrics in a research project and compare the lyrical content over time. Similarly, instructors can teach history by playing songs from different eras of time and discussing how the style changed. For example, play “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” to teach the Charleston or “War; What Is It Good For?” to discuss the causes of the Vietnam War.

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