Keep your teaching practical

When we teach a musical concept it is easy to fall into the trap of “chalk & talk”. Now that is an old phrase, but I think you know what I mean – we talk too much and students don’t leave their seats. In this Sound Advice for Soundtrap blog I want to look at how to keep your teaching practical.

What does it mean to be practical?

To be practical is to actually do something. It is taking a concept and doing something with it. In schools we have subjects that are seen as practical subjects and some that aren’t. I have some issues with this distinction because sometimes the word practical leads people to believe that we are not therefore academic. I also believe that all lessons can have practical elements, and when they do, children are likely to learn more.

Imagine an English lesson where students don’t read out loud, or a languages lesson where students don’t act out some dialogue. Practical options are available to all teachers, but maybe in music we have the edge. We have the ability to bring to life everything we teach, and we can do this using listening, composing and performing.

For the purpose of this blog I am considering how we can turn to Soundtrap to keep our teaching practical. I want you to look at your schemes, projects and lessons and look for ways to bring topics to life using Soundtrap.

More than a composing tool

When we think of music technology we often think of it as a tool for helping create and compose. Indeed it is, and students will be able to use software alongside instruments to create music. However we must also see it as a tool for learning. If you want to keep your teaching practical then you need to think about different ways of bringing a topic or piece of knowledge to life.

Take Rhythm for example.

If you want students to fully understand rhythm then you might like to get them actually creating one. I have blogged about this and I want you to think about a lesson where this might be useful. If you are teaching students in what the note values are and how they form rhythms in bars, then it is good to get them trying this out. You might write a rhythm on the board and then ask them to try and recreate it in Soundtrap.

Creating a Rhythm in Soundtrap

This kind of practical task will aid them in their understanding and get them out of their seats doing something practical. Of course you could also get them to take this rhythm and play it on a drum or even their violin or saxophone. The point is, music technology and cloud based software is there for you to use in your teaching.

Come in and log on

If you are lucky enough to have computers in your classroom then this process becomes much easier. Students know that if I ask them to “come in and log on” then that means we are going to be using the computers during the lessons. It is a helpful way of getting the computers warmed up, especially on a Monday period 1. But it is always a way of showing students that you intend to get them doing something – the lesson starter is going to lead to something.

Of course if you don’t have computers, then ask them to complete practical tasks at home – just like we did during lockdown.

Keep your teaching practical

Over the coming few weeks I am going to blog about how I am using Soundtrap in my teaching of harmony. I want to share with you how I am linking the study of harmony to guitars, and then linking this to Soundtrap. I am not planning on teaching students to play the guitar or compose a song. my goal is for them to understand more about harmony and chords, and I plan to use guitars and Soundtrap to achieve this. In the 5 hours of lessons I have I don’t expect them to become proficient guitarists. What I do expect if for them to have the opportunities to explore chords and harmony in the pursuit of understanding.

In order to keep your teaching practical you might like to look at what you are doing next lesson to see if there is something you can do in Soundtrap. If you don’t have Soundtrap, then you might like to use some other software. The great thing is that Soundtrap is cloud based, so you could even get them starting this at home. You might be exploring structures and you could ask students to create a loop-based piece at home on Soundtrap that they then share with you in the lesson.

All I ask is that you start to think practically when it comes to music tech, and always think about how you can expand on a task using Soundtrap. If students can actually try and create something, then they are likely to learn more and build a good level of understanding.

When we listen, perform and compose, we truly understand the power and complexity of music. We also see things in different ways and that is why I think you should always keep your teaching practical.

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