Clone Yourself - The Flipped Classroom in Elementary Music Education

Clone yourself!

This article has been written by a guest author.  If you’re an educator or music industry professional who is interested in contributing an article to the Midnight Music blog, you can apply here.

1-mallory-martin-clone-yourself Welcome to another blog post written by a guest author.  The author of today’s article is Mallory Martin – a music teacher from St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Mallory has her own excellent blog – Mrs Martin’s Music Room – where she shares lessons, information, resources and tips.  I encourage you all to take a look at it!

In this article, Mallory shares a her tips for incorporating the flipped classroom model into your teaching.

– Katie Wardrobe

What is a “flipped classroom”?

Flipped classrooms have been a popular concept in education for a while now, but it never really seemed do-able for us in elementary music.

It’s a great concept: students watch pre-recorded lecture videos at home, then spend class time doing homework under the guidance and supervision of their teacher. This worked great for subjects that require a teacher-led lesson followed by individual student work, such as math or social studies. However, this didn’t really work for music classes because we typically don’t use the lecture-homework model.

How I flipped my keyboard unit (and the positive effect it had)

A few years ago, I began incorporating iPads in my keyboarding unit and a fellow teacher pointed out to me I had a flipped classroom. What?!? Yes! A flipped classroom in elementary music.

What I realized was that we simply need to expand our understanding of what “flipped” can mean. If we look closely at the flipped concept, we can see what’s really at work here: the teacher is using time more efficiently so attention can be devoted to students. There is no need for a teacher to be up in front of a classroom delivering content when that content could be accessed independently by the students. With this understanding of the flipped concept as simply a way to maximize classroom time, it opens up our opportunities to apply it to the music classroom.

What I was doing was making a series of short videos teaching kids how to play a song on their keyboards. I had a small collection of iPads in my classroom (only four iPads), which students were allowed to borrow during class. They would watch the video of the song, then go back to their keyboards and play the song. They loved it and it was very successful!


Students were highly motivated to play their songs, and achievement improved when compared to past years. I am so happy I tried this because flipping helped bring greater rates of academic success to my students.

The videos are made by myself in my classroom during my prep time. It was front-heavy as far as the workload, but it paid off in future years when my lesson planning was already done and I saved my voice from having to teach the exact same thing (multiple times in the case of classes that rotate). Here is one of the videos I made of the keyboard unit:

But you don’t have to make a bunch of videos in order to flip your classroom. It could be as simple as making one video and showing it to the whole class, allowing you to do other things at the same time. It could mean you make multiple videos and the students self-select which video to watch based on preference or ability level (like I did). It could also mean you make videos for students to watch at home, allowing lesson time to be spent more productively and interactively.

Other examples of the flipped classroom in music education

Here are other examples of the flipped concept being successfully implemented in elementary music.

My colleague Cassie Allen-Armstrong uses the flipped concept to teach her students how to play Orff instrument parts. She makes one video during her prep time, then shows the video on the SMARTBoard at the beginning of every class. While the students are sitting and watching the video, she has time to walk around the room and set up the instruments. I was inspired to create one of my own. Here is an example of a full-class video I made in her style:

Meghan Thompson of Illinois uses the flipped concept to help her chorus students rehearse their parts. She creates short videos for the students to watch at home, so they can come to school already knowing their parts. She uses the free app Acappella to make videos of herself singing multiple parts of the same song. Here is one of Meghan’s videos for her elementary singers:

How to decide whether to flip

Obviously, not every unit or lesson is a good candidate for flipping. Sometimes you just have to be in front of the class.

Here are some questions to consider when deciding if your unit or lesson would work with flipping:

  • Do students have a lot of questions about the homework that would be better addressed in class?
  • Do students get stuck in the homework and need teacher help to proceed?
  • Is the unit or lesson long enough to make it worth your time?
  • Will you repeat this content year after year?
  • Will students progress at their own level/pace (or do you wish they could)?
  • Do you use individual assessment (or do you wish you did)?
  • Do you have a 1-5 minute speech or demonstration that won’t really change?
  • Can steps easily be broken into 1-5 minute segments?

Really, if you have an idea, just try it. Feel free to ask me or the Midnight Music community for support or ideas!


Ideas for flipping your music classes

Here are some more ideas and suggestions for the flipped concept in elementary music:

  • Worksheets: Make a video of yourself teaching how to do the worksheet. As the class watches the video on the screen, you pass out papers and pencils. This also works great for a sub activity when you are gone!
  • Manipulatives: Make a video of yourself leading a dictation activity where the students use popsicle sticks to notate the rhythms they hear. Press pause as the students are making their answers, then press play again for them to check their answers with the video. This also works great for a sub activity when you are gone!
  • Orff instruments: Make videos teaching students how to play the different Orff parts for a song. With 4-5 iPads, have small groups watch the videos and learn how to play the song. You can walk around the room to monitor progress and give help where it’s needed.
  • Advanced recorder players: After a few high flyers have completed their “black belts,” make a video teaching them how to play a harder song. That small group works on the video in the hallway while you work with the rest of the class.
  • Guitars/Ukes: Make a series of videos teaching how to play the various songs in your guitar or ukulele unit. Allow students to watch the videos on their own and progress through the curriculum at their own pace. Have students make videos of themselves for you to assess during your prep time.
  • Note naming: Use an app such as Reflector to project the iPad screen to the SMARTBoard, then have students pass around the iPad as they play Flashnote Derby to name the treble clef notes. You mark down individual assessment scores as the class watches each child play.
  • Instruments of the orchestra: In small groups, have kids play Peekaboo Orchestra on the iPads. You walk around the room and assess their ability to identify the instrument by its sound.
  • BYOD: If your school allows students to bring their own devices to class, you could have a selection of videos that students can access on their phones or tablets during a centers activity.

Thanks so much for reading! What ideas and questions do you have regarding the flipped concept in elementary music?

About the author

Mallory Martin is a music educator with eleven years of experience. She has taught high school and middle school vocal music, and is currently in her sixth year of teaching elementary general music in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Her passion for making music lessons relevant and engaging have led her to create Mrs. Martin’s Music Room, a place for sharing ideas and inspiration for other music teachers.

Connect with Mallory

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