A couple of years ago, I challenged myself to vary and innovate my pedagogical strategies. And thus, I learn about Flat for Education, a great and intuitive browser-based music notation software. I have been using it ever since. It opens up many possibilities to quickly create scores and exercises for my elementary music classroom.
At first, I was a little skeptical because I couldn't imagine how Flat for Education would help me to engage students in learning music. But, I dug deeper, asked around, and went over Flat’s resources to figure out how to use the platform to create responsive music lessons.
Read on for 5 quick ways I use this powerful program to augment my teaching.
Before we get into the matter,
What is a responsive music lesson?
Responsive music teaching involves some practices based on the Responsive Classroom approach. Namely, I encourage adopting the following elements into your teaching habits:
- Interactive modeling
- Interactive learning structures
- Active teaching
- Student practice
- Small group learning
The goals of the responsive classroom are:
- Reach students where they are at by accessing prior knowledge.
- Set up systems to respond to how well the students perform on a given task.
With this mindset, let me share with you my five favorite ways to use Flat for Education for responsive music lessons.
NOTE: This is just a small sample of the ways to use this program in a music classroom.
5 Quick Ways To Use Flat For Education For Music Lessons
1. Students Hear Their Ideas Instantly: Composition
Music teachers should be able to teach composing to their students at all age levels. Older students compose more complex musical ideas based on the knowledge they’ve gained. But even the youngest students can compose or arrange simple rhythms and melodies.
One of the things I’ve always done as a teacher is to playback their ideas for them, so they hear what it sounds like. Then it occurred to me:
How much more engaging and responsive it would be to have my students input their ideas into Flat and hear it back themselves?
At one of my previous schools, I had access to 1:1 devices, so it was simple to have them sign up and put in their scores. But this can be done where you’re the only one with a computer as well. I have students give me their compositions; I put it in and play it back for them.
Flat’s great playback ability and score tracking helps students get a feel for the music they’ve made.
2. Timbre Lessons
Timbre is an important musical concept to cover. The best part is that it’s doable with even the youngest learners using Flat for Education.
One of my favorite activities is to take the melody of a folk song they know and change the instrument in the software.
With the youngest kids, I just let them suggest different instruments, we listen, and they share their reactions.
With older students, we discuss the timbre of each instrument; they must explain why they like or dislike certain options.
Beyond that, this is a great way to get them to interact and enable small group discussions.
3. Building Ostinati
Gearing up towards more complicated part-work is a big goal of any elementary music program. And yes, one of the beginning ways to do this is to give students ostinati to perform.
In my case, I show them the score with the parts after we’ve learned it. But this is still more of a “telling” model rather than a student-driven model.
Flat for Education is a great way to try out different ostinati and test drive them to see how they’ll sound.
Students can work together in small groups and put in the music into the software. If they don't have access to technology, you can collect their work and input their data for them to see and reflect on.
4. Apps Available
All of this is great to model and lead yourself. But Flat offers its resources in a variety of ways.
If your students have access to Chromebooks, Flat for Education is 100% compatible with those devices.
What is more, Flat for Education has a mobile app for Android and Apple devices, which syncs up with your account.
This gives you flexibility and a variety of options on how you conduct your lessons. Which leads me to my next point…
5. Online Education Integration
Flat for Education offers an amazing online integration for music education which allows you to:
- Add students to special Flat's classroom
- Make announcements
- Create assignments with embedded scores
- Collect assignments
- Interact with students and provide feedback
Best of all, it has complete integration with Google Classroom, which most schools are already using. This means that all your classes and assignments are synchronized.
I regularly use these techniques to make my teaching more engaging, and Flat for Education has helped my students to develop their musical independence.
I strongly encourage you to check out all of Flat for Education programs and resources for supporting education. Including their free educational resources in response to the current crisis.
I hope you enjoyed learning about how to use Flat for Education to create responsive music lessons.
About the author
Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher at Bay City Public Schools and writer for Dynamic Music Room. Also, he serves as Past-President of Michigan Kodaly Educators and current Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.