A “Bloggable Moment”: ActiVboard and Jazz Band

I am so excited about a lesson that I (literally) just got finished teaching. My second (freshman and sophomore) jazz band was sight-reading and we were having a tough time with some very simple rhythms. The “old school” teacher in my wanted them to count and clap, skill and drill, and LEARN BY ROTE…”This is how it goes, kids”. WE DO THAT ENTIRELY TOO MUCH because it is way too easy. Think about it- do the kids REALLY learn when we count the rhythm for them and then have them say it back to us? The answer is NO, because there is no assessment.

Then I had a thought- I could use my ActivBoard to illustrate the concept that I was trying to teach. Since we are on 90 minute blocks, I instructed my students to “practice” at their seats while I prepared the lesson on the fly. In under 5 minutes I had scanned in my score, saved it to a .pdf, plugged in my laptop to my activboard and brought up the .pdf of the section we were struggling with.

Now for the cool part…

Instead of demonstrating (a la chalkboard or whiteboard) how to write in the counts, I had students volunteer to come up and use the pen to write in “what they know” or what is obvious. One student came up and put a 1 under the first quarter note- I asked him “why”? He said “because it’s at the beginning of the measure and it takes up an entire beat it HAS to be 1”. NOW WE ARE LEARNING AND ASSESSING! Several students came up and filled in the rest of the measure with the notes on the beat. We were having a tough time with notes on the “and” of the beat, SO I framed the lesson this way:

Essential Question: What is seen but not heard in the measure?

The “Hook”: What is the definition of a good child- seen but not heard (story and fun interaction with students- insert here) analogy.

The process: STUDENTS help EACH OTHER identify where the missing counts are (count 4 is seen but not heard because it is a quarter note that starts on the “and” of three) to complete the measures. The rest of the class is “coaching” the student or students that are up at the board.

Assessment: Students count out loud while keeping a steady beat. At the end we either agree that the counts are correct or investigate why it didn’t come out right.

The entire process is STUDENT DRIVEN and I am the “guide on the side”. After the process was complete, we were able to successfully perform the section of music.

This is an example of integrating technology. While it could be done using a traditional whiteboard and an overhead projector, the activboard provides the added dimension of being “endless”. That is you can keep clicking on the right arrow to add pages and never run out AND you can go back to a page in the past (try doing that with a whiteboard!).

It also takes a significant amount of TIME. I devoted 30 minutes to the “interrupted lesson” considering it an investment that would pay dividends later on. Aren’t we all way too focused on the next performance? We sacrifice learning at the for expediency!

After the lesson, I printed out what we had done and gave each student a copy with the assignment to fill in the remaining measures on their own using the concepts in the example. I plan to give them a quiz grade on this the next time I see them. After the students left, I saved the flipchart with the name of the class and the date- now it is a documented lesson plan for the day (in case my principal wants to know what we did on 4/16/07 in block 2- ACCOUNTABILITY).

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6 Responses to A “Bloggable Moment”: ActiVboard and Jazz Band

  1. Owen,

    Great article and read! An excellent method and ides for moving upward on the “taxonomy”!

    J. Pisano
    http://www.mustech.net

  2. Rio Clemente says:

    I can’t say I totally get the process due to my lack of the technology expressed in the article. Having said that I feel that it was very informative and being an educator myself, it is always a joy when you can come up with ideas that will spark the interest of your students. This has happened to me out of necessity. I can definitely appreciate your ecitement..Children are the future of jazz and we must make it accessible and interesting for them to carry on this wonderful art form.

  3. Rio Clemente says:

    What is Activeboard?

  4. Rio Clemente says:

    I can’t say I totally get the process due to my lack of the technology expressed in the article. Having said that I feel that it was very informative and being an educator myself, it is always a joy when you can come up with ideas that will spark the interest of your students. This has happened to me out of necessity. I can definitely appreciate your excitement..Children are the future of jazz and we must make it accessible and interesting for them to carry on this wonderful art form.

  5. Owen Bradley says:

    Rio-

    ActivBoard is an interactive whiteboard or “smart board”. It is an electronic replacement for the chalkboard and interfaces with your computer. It is VERY cool technology! You can go to Promethean’s website to take a look at what it does by going to

    http://www.prometheanworld.com/us/server/show/nav.2210

    that brings up the ActivBoard +2 which is the model I am using. Thank you so much for your comment!

  6. Mark R says:

    Finale Notepad is brilliant on a Promethean Activboard… and you can get a free copy

    http://www.finalemusic.com/notepad/

    you can drag and drop and move notes – and play it back

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