“My voice, your voice, blending together…One voice, our voice,” rang out from the Rocky Mount Elementary School chorus in a virtual performance that shows how one Cobb music teacher is keeping the music alive in quarantine.
As schools transitioned to digital learning, virtual high school choirs popped up from California to Cobb, and Rocky Mount’s music teacher Andrew Geocaris felt inspired to keep the music going for his elementary students, too.
“As I thought about the music we had been learning and all the hard work the students had been putting into it, I realized that this was something I really wanted to do for the students,” the Rocky Mount educator explained. “It’s a gift to have such dedicated students, and I have missed hearing their voices each week.”
As he started piecing together the individual performances of Rocky Mount students, he could hear his chorus, the chorus the students had worked on all year, coming to life.
“There were moments after adding the next voice when I would just think, ‘Wow! This really sounds like us!’ It was a thrilling experience, and I’m just glad that I was able to do this for the students,” he recalled.
Beyond the virtual chorus, Mr. Geocaris has found other ways to keep music on the minds of his students including a 50-student Zoom session.
He has also found ways to keep the love of music alive in the hearts of students outside of the elementary school choir.
“Music is multi-faceted, and students will show their musical knowledge in a variety of ways. Some sing or play instruments, some compose or improvise, some are masterful with vocabulary and background information. Therefore, each week I try to emphasize a different part of music to give students a variety of opportunities to showcase their musical learning in a way that is meaningful,” the Cobb educator explained.
As the Rocky Mount teacher plans out his grade-level specific lessons for the week, he tries to make it as simple for parents as possible and takes in to account that students won’t have access to the host of classroom instruments available inside his music classroom. He also collaborates with his fellow music educators in Cobb to develop new ideas on how to keep students engaged in digital learning.
He uses a hot of digital tools for online music instruction that are efficient, engaging, and interactive for students. FlipGrid, for example, allows him to model instruction for students as well as collect student responses and performances.
After watching his recorded music lesson, students can submit videos of themselves singing, playing, composing, or even discussing a composer that they learned about.
He then sends each student feedback so they can continue to develop their musical skills.
“It’s also a social experience for the students because they get to see their friends’ videos and ‘like’ them,” the music educator added. “I use other tools to provide online playlists, choreography videos for dance, and fun quiz-games for students to play along the way.”
During digital learning, the Rocky Mount students have sung songs, learned dances (sometimes with their family members), gone on musical scavenger hunts, learned and performed songs on the recorder, composed songs, played Kahoot quiz-games, learned about composers, followed interactive listening maps to famous songs, practiced vocabulary words, and even learned about the bass clef.
Mr. Geocaris even used one digital learning activity to teach students about another culture. The activity centered on Children’s Day in Japan and taught the Rocky Mount students a song in Japanese. The students then created Koinobori (a colorful and festive windsock used by children in Japan).
“It was wonderful to see the students’ colorful creations and dancing along to international music,” he said.
The Cobb educator’s favorite part of digital learning is simply being able to see his students engaged in music.
“Their personalities come through in their videos, and it puts a smile on my face. Some are a little shy, others are more dynamic on camera, some add emojis to their videos (I’m still trying to figure that trick out), and some even get their whole family involved in a song or dance,” Mr. Geocaris said.
When music again rings out from Mr. Geocaris’s classroom, he doesn’t plan to completely flip off the switch on digital learning. In fact, he plans to incorporate some of the new activities and lessons with his traditional school lessons.
“My plan is to reflect and refine my use of those digital tools to make them a mainstay of my instruction once we return to our classrooms,” the Rock Mount music teacher explained. “I’m envisioning a digital component to my classroom that allows students to discover exciting ways to create music at home and also take more ownership of their learning.”