Sunday, February 9, 2014

Keeping Students Engaged During Class

As I continue to reflect on the wide-eyed wonder of my first year of teaching, I've been thinking about different approaches to engaging students during class.  I mentioned in my first post that I have always embraced using technology in my classroom.  In the last 20 years technology and my students access to it has changed so much!  Nothing will ever replace the sheer joy of children singing and dancing, but in these days of video games and virtual worlds a little bit of tech savvy can really help to perk up those young ears.

Almost 3 years ago I had the opportunity to have a Smartboard installed in my room.  Little did I know how much this one device would impact my teaching!!!  Now on those days when the computer isn't working or the network is down, I'm getting frustrated or even rewriting lesson plans because I cannot do what I had planned without the technology!

The Smartboard really helps with keeping kids engaged during class and is a great tool to have in my bag of tricks.  My students are excited about coming to music class because they know that will have an opportunity to interact with the Smartboard.  Since I've gotten it I've created most of the files I use myself.  I like being able to tailor the activities to my students and can always fine tune them over time.  The kids really love it!

If you have access to a Smartboard here is an add-on that can be really helpful, the SmartResponse Clickers.

These are individual remote controls that students use to interact with the Smartboard.  The version I have (SmartResponse LE) are for younger students and have basic options for yes/no, multiple choice, and true/false questions.  There are other models that allow for short response answers where students enter words like they are texting!

The Smartnotebook software can also record the results.  The kids answers can be collected anonymously, which is great for voting on class favorites or getting a general idea of class progress.  Or the clickers can be set up to record individual students results that are automatically graded for you!  These results can then be exported to Excel or your grading program.  With almost 900 students this year, this is a great time saver for me!  This week I have been using the clickers to do an assessment on "Could It Be sol mi sol mi?".  The only thing I added was the clicker questions and now I have a very quick and accurate data collection tool!

Another thing I have been doing more is using the Smartboard for literacy purposes.  Teaching in a K-2 building, this is an area of focus for everyone and the teachers and administration in my building really appreciate having it reinforced in the music room.  An example of this is the song "Ant Beat".  Students are introduced to the song from the Smartboard activity that requires them to fill in the last word of each verse.  I have it set up so that when one of the choices is tapped it links to another page that tells the students if they are correct or not.

This activity is now available in my TeachersPayTeachers store!  Click here to purchase it!

Don't have a Smartboard?  This activity (and most others) can be adapted very easily to your classroom computer by using a TV or projector.  You or a student will have to use your computer mouse to click on selections, but the whole class can watch and follow along.  If you don't have Smartnotebook software (available here here for free 30 day trial) then many teachers use Powerpoint for in the same way.  I'm beginning to transfer my Smartboard files to Powerpoint so I can make them available on my TPT store.

What do you do to keep your students engaged in the classroom?  I would love to try some new ideas in my classroom if you are willing to share!  Please comment below or contact me at

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