Cell Phones Prohibited in the Middle School Choral Classroom! Seriously? It's 2015!

Times have changed.  

I'm old.  I've been teaching middle school choral music for 23 years, but I recognize that if we don't move and change with the times, we become stale and uninteresting to our students...

and...well...in many ways as harsh as it sounds...


When I see this sign on the door of one of my colleagues...

...I know they won't be around much longer, and if they stay, they'll be so mean to the kids that they'll be bitter for most of the time they stay past their "sell by" date. 

That doesn't serve anyone well.

There are two Broadway songs that pretty much sum it up:

I'll take Spamalot for $500 please Alex!

...A culture reference that may well fly over the heads of folks under 30.

Here is how I see it...Change is constant in everything in our lives. We can move with it and continue to learn and grow, or we can constantly harken back to the 1950's when our home phones were all on "party lines".  I mean, at some point, wasn't television "new"?   My guess is that some people resisted TV too.  

Can you imagine your classroom without access to visual media like television?

I certainly cannot.

How can you use technologies in your 21st century classroom to involve and engage your middle school children?  Comment below with your ideas!  

Here are a couple of ways I've used them with my 300 non-auditioned students, and specifically, a way I use technology at the end of the school year.


I created an Instagram page.  Here is the link.  I follow them.  They follow me.  It's professional not personal.  This is their "Facebook".  
Middle school students wanted to fly under the radar of their parents about 5 years ago, and this age group stopped doing Facebook.  It'll be something new in a couple of years, but for now, this is it. When it changes, so must we.

We do a spring musical each year.  This year, I created an HMS Musical Instagram page.  We posted rehearsal videos, and we generated excitement about the work we do...on their turf.  New kids decide they want to join chorus.  

It's a new way to recruit students!


Now, at the end of the school year, I tell them to bring their cell phones to my room.


So they can create their end of the year project.

After our spring musical revue, I ask them to create "musical parodies".  I teach them what a parody is.  I show them great parody artists from Saturday Night Live, and I use the internet to find examples of parodies like many of those created by the folks at Forbidden Broadway.  Then, for the next three class periods, I let them work in groups to come up with ideas to parody songs from our most recent musical revue.

They use their phones to videotape.  The most advanced kids use their phones to edit.  The less technologically advanced kids take it home to edit on their laptops.  

They absolutely love doing this project.  

For the students who aren't as comfortable with technology or who don't have smartphones, I allow them to present "live" so everyone is engaged.  

We discuss how tricky comedy can be, and how I want them to dig deep to find "smart humor".  They need role models, so I came up with two ideas.  I asked if they know who David Letterman is and most just stared at me...even with his pending retirement and the media blitz that is happening right now.    Then, I asked if they knew who Jon Stewart was, and their hands flew up in the air. With his retirement planned for August, that will change too...

I also encourage students who aren't comfortable using iMovie or other editing apps to explore other options for the parody that utilize both their personal talents and current technologies that are available.  

I ask questions like this:  

Do you draw?  Can you make a cartoon online?  

Let your brain go even further as you offer your children opportunities to share their personal talents while using technology.

Technology is moving so fast that each year I do the project with the students, I have to be flexible enough to be open to new ways of allowing them to present it.

The biggest goal is to engage at the end of the year and to allow them to develop and share their own individual talents and unique sense of humor.

Everyone loves to laugh!

I learn.  They help me stay current, and the best part...they get to have fun using the latest technologies about which they are passionate.  

That's why I created S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners.  Sight Singing books are a dime a dozen. I've bought them and used them.  They helped a bit, but now, we have more modern means available.  We can actually WATCH a teacher in a real public school classroom teaching the curriculum.
We can actually watch video teaching tips for specific lessons so we might have a chance to be more successful as we teach the new material for the first time.

It's a new day.  It's good to move with it. 


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  2. Love the Forbidden Broadway idea!

    1. Glad you are enjoying it! It's always great to make the teaching of music literacy as fun as we can!