10 Excellent ways to use an IWB in the music classroom Pinterest

So you’ve been given an interactive whiteboard (IWB) to use and you know you should be using as more than a simple projector or place to screen videos.  The benefits of incorporating an IWB into your teaching are many: it allows you to create a bank of learning resources that can be used many times across multiple classes, you can replace some of your physical resources with digital versions so you don’t lose them.

Luckily, you don’t need to rewrite your curriculum.  By learning a few IWB basics, you’ll find that many of your current class activities can be adapted for use on an IWB.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. An “Enhanced” Traditional Whiteboard

Start simply with a few basic IWB techniques:

  • you can write words and let the IWB convert them to text
  • you can draw music symbols (rhythmic notes, clefs, dynamics) and drag them freely around board
  • make use of the blank manuscript that is usually supplied within your IWB software.

2. Model Note Or Music Symbol Writing

Some brands of IWB allow you to record yourself drawing and writing on the board by using a built-in screen capture tool to create a short movie (on the Smart Board it’s called the Smart Recorder Tool).  Using this feature, you could record yourself modeling the drawing of notes or clefs, then step away from the board so the students have an un-obscured view.  You can set the movie to play on a loop so students can watch it repeatedly.

3. Digital Kodaly Song Shapes

You could use your IWB to make a digital version of the Kodaly song shapes that are used for early music literacy activities with young students.  For example, if you’re teaching “Rain, Rain, Go Away” to your students, search for an image of an umbrella ahead of class. Open it (import) into your IWB software and create multiple copies.  Keep the supply of umbrella images to the side of the screen – you could even draw a box or basket to keep them in – and then students can drag them into position the same way the would have done with the magnetic pictures on a traditional board.

4. Teaching Form

Find images (with students during class, or ahead of class time) to represent the different sections of a song.  Students can listen to the song, decide the form and place the pictures in the correct order.  They can also experiment with changing the order of images to rearrange the song and then perform the new version.

5. Notation Programs For Literacy and Performance

If you use a notation program like Sibelius, Finale, MuseScore (free) or Noteflight (free) you can put it to good use on your IWB for group exercises in reading and writing music, or even for class ensemble performance.

Possibilities include preparing a short score such as See Saw ahead of time.  Then, save a copy of the score and delete all or some of the notes so that students can fill them as melodic and/or rhythmic dictation on the IWB. When you display the score, zoom in as much as possible to make the notation readable and then have students “click” notes into the stave using their finger (or the IWB pen).  Before you try this with your class, make sure you test it out on the IWB yourself first.  Doing exercises like this on the IWB take a little getting used to, but can be incredibly effective.  Once the melody is complete, you could have your class sing it back and then have the notation program play it back so you can compare versions.

If you have class ensemble arrangements that you’ve created in your notation program, you can turn the program into your personal accompanist.  You can play all the parts back together so that students can hear the full arrangement, or mute selected staves so students can play along with a backing track.  You can control which parts are playing by opening the mixer and using the mute or solo buttons.

6. Interactive music history

Ask your IT person to install Google Earth on the school network so you can tour the birthplaces of composers in 3D.

7. 21st Century Soundscapes

Your IWB can provide a new or alternative approach to creating soundscapes. Choose topic – such as “under the sea” and brainstorm ideas with the class about the sorts of things you’d see and hear.  Kynan Robinson – a music teacher at North Fitzroy Primary School – describes his approach on his blog Illegal Harmonies:

“Using the IWB draw up a series of pictures and then have the children suggest appropriate vocal sounds for them. The children can also suggest what the pictures would be. So we had bird sounds, rustling sea weed, we made body sounds to represent the octopus, screaming for the scary fish, bubble sounds for the school of small fish and a scraping sound for the large rock. Then draw a simple submarine and explain that the sub is on a sound-gathering trip under the ocean. When ever he reaches a destination a new sound will emerge. Using your mouse guide the sub around the ocean and let the children make the appropriate sound.”

You can use the IWB’s in-built recording facility to record the student performance, or use GarageBand or Audacity.  Kynan shares a video of the soundscape in action:

Read the full Under the Sea post on Kynan’s blog.

8. Repeat-Use Multimedia Units: Peter & The Wolf, Carnival of the Animals and More

Larger projects or units of work which you may use for multiple classes such as Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals or Instruments of the Orchestra can incorporate all the best features of an IWB.  Creating a great interactive unit of work may require more preparation time on your part, but once the preparation is done you’ll have it for all of your classes and even for subsequent years.

A unit like this can be put together in your IWB software, or even in a program like Powerpoint or Keynote.  Everything can be included in the file – interactive worksheets, listening examples, background material or history, images and video.  Students can tap on images to start video playing, complete worksheets together by matching pictures with audio examples, or zoom in on an embedded map.

9. Interactive Websites

Strictly speaking, any website becomes “interactive” once displayed on your IWB, however there are some music education sites which really seem to shine.  Here are a few of my favourites:

10. Specially-Designed Music Software For IWBs

The following programs were made with IWBs in mind, although they still work beautifully with a plain-old data projector too!

  • Free music games from The Music Interactive. Staff Wars 1 and Staff Wars 2 in which students can practice identifying notes on the stave with a Star Wars theme are excellent, as are many of their other free games
  • Groovy Music suite of three programs for primary students.
  • Australian publishers Jozzbeat have created Jelly Beans #3: an interactive class ensemble performance program
  • Bushfire Press – another Australian publisher – has developed The Interactive Music Room

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Interactive Whiteboards in the Music Classroom Online Course (and more!)

If you’d like to learn more about using IWBs in your music classroom, there is an online course inside the Midnight Music Community.  See what’s inside the Midnight Music Community here.


This article originally appeared in the Kodaly Newsletter for the Victorian branch of the Kodaly Music Education Institute of Australia.