This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Katherine Miller.
I have been lucky enough to have a job where I worked closely with other music specialists which changed my teaching practice. With colleagues, I was able to grow and learn to the benefit of the students in my classroom.
When I found myself in a new teaching position, I craved this connection with other educators which is how I found social media. The community I found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, of course, the Midnight Music community has helped to fill the void of being the only music educator in my building. Like the relationships I built with colleagues in the past, these communities have made a huge difference in my life as a music educator.
Yes, I spend a lot of time on social media. Yes, my boyfriend thinks this is insane as he cannot fathom watching people in his profession do their jobs online.
But, in recent days, we have all been issued the challenge of turning our normally active music making classrooms into a virtual community. The tribe of educators I have found online have really made the difference in my own instruction once again. There is no better professional development in my eyes.
One of the biggest trends I have seen recently on music educator social media groups is the use of choice boards to help students to continue to be active learners and makers of music at home.
A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose how they would like to learn about a particular subject or concept. If you need more information about choice boards, you can follow this link to the blog post: 30 Ideas for Elementary Choice Boards
Luckily for us, many online colleagues have been willing to share how they are incorporating and using choice boards in their own elementary classrooms as examples for what might work for you and your students.
7 Choice Board Examples for Elementary Music Teachers
Each square, or task, on a choice board can be set up one of two ways. The first way is for the board to allow students to choose tasks at random. It is completely their choice as to which tasks they would like to do. Here are a few examples of ways you could set up a choice board for your students where they can choose the tasks they would like to complete.
You could set up your choice board as a scavenger hunt like Alison Meyer. Since music is all around us, in this example, the students can look throughout their home to find examples of music concepts. Students can do all or some of the examples listed. They get to choose!
Tic Tac Toe is another great way to organize tasks for students. Just like in the traditional game, students would need to choose 3 tasks in a row to complete their work. Becca, from Becca’s Music Room, has made this template available to educators for free in her store on Teachers Pay Teachers.
I love this resource because Becca has examples for activities that include technology and also activities if students do not have technology available. She also made this template completely editable if it would work as an option for creating a choice board in your teaching situation!
Another adaptation on a familiar game is creating your choice board to mimic Bingo. Jennifer Hewitt created these amazing SINGO boards for primary and intermediate students. Students can choose activities to get 5 in row, just like a winning card in bingo would look, including that famous free space in the middle. This allows students to pick and choose which tasks they would like to complete in order to be able to shout “Singo!” and be done with their music learning tasks.
You can extend this idea even further, just like Morgan Unruh did, by combining with the other specialists in your building to create a Specials Challenge bingo board. This gives students even more voice and choice in the tasks they want to complete.
Students are still working to get a “bingo”, or 5 tasks completed in a row, however they have more options to choose from. They can choose from tasks in music, physical education, technology, art or whatever other specials are offered at your school.
Another option is to organize the tasks on your choice board in a way that students have more structure in the tasks that they choose. The example I like to use is imagining your choice board as a menu.
Food items on a restaurant menu are separated into appetizers, entrees, and desserts. In terms of choice boards, if activities are more organized, students would have to choose one from each category: an appetizer, an entree and a dessert to make a complete meal.
A musical example of this is making your choice board an adventure! Hannah Lemont created a menu of learning options for students where they could make a choice about what they wanted to learn.
Once they choose their adventure, the tasks to achieve that goal are more structured. Students have just 1 thing to watch, 1 thing to do and 1 thing to share in order to complete the objective. This provides for student choice, which is a benefit of using choice boards with students, but also provides a clear path for how they will complete the work for the choice they made.
Carolyn Joy Reynolds created a choice board with a different type of structure. Each of the learning tasks she has onlined for students has a different point value. This still gives students the choice of which activities they want to complete, however activities that require more work or more risk are worth more points.
That means students would have to do fewer tasks to achieve the weekly point goal. Or, they could also complete more lower point tasks to achieve the same goal. But, the choice is up to them!
Another example of this same idea is the activity calendar created by Samantha Shall. Students have 5 activities a week to choose from to earn their points for the week. Some tasks are worth more and some worth yet.
They can choose the combination they want to do in order to reach the point value for the week. The next week, students get 5 new activities to choose from. This continues through the calendar month.
As we enter into this new challenge, drums/recorders/ukuleles a blazn’, the amazing professionals who are willing to share their expertise, knowledge and creativity online should be celebrated. They continue to provide an appropriate and engaging music education regardless of the tools or resources that their students might have at home.
And, I am still watching.. maybe more than ever! And learning! And in awe!
Are you amongst this group and have another example of a choice board to share? Join us by sharing your examples too!
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About the writer
Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 15 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.
She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI, where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom. She was recognized in 2018 as a WPT Education Innovator by Wisconsin Public Television Education team.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.