One of the goals behind Unison.School is to help teachers with limited time make a meaningful impact on their students' lives. In our last few posts, we discussed how planning and organizing can help you get the most out of your class time. The other end of the time conundrum, however, is reaching students outside your class time.
Unlike band and orchestra programs, general music classes are often limited not by student ability, but by the inability to practice their music outside of the class. The instrument studio on Unison.School allows students with any internet-enabled device to access a practicing tool for barred percussion and piano assignments.
Using the rhythm builder and melody builder, students can hone their understanding of musical building blocks.
To unlock the full capabilities of the rhythm and melody sections, students should first log into Unison.School. There are three ways to do so:
On a shared device that the teacher has logged into, there is a class dropdown for student logins, that only require a student class number and password. This is ideal for a shared device in the music room.
From any device, students can use the student login at the top right of the page. They must select state, district, building (although it will try to use GPS to fill in these three steps for them), class, student number, and password.
That's too hard! Try the QR codes, printable from the teacher's class page. You could pass out these codes, or even email them to students. They can use the camera on a device to scan, and it will log them in automatically.
Drag and drop rhythms to create long patterns or short ostinati. Click play to hear the drum give feedback, and try to clap along. Use the dropdown menu to select tempo, number of measures, and rhythm sets. (Hint: also click on the ending barline to see what happens)
Using a touch-screen, mouse, or space bar, students can tap the rhythm they see. Choose from a computer-provided click track or a test that checks only for steadiness and rhythm at the child's own tempo. Rhythms include sixteenth notes, syncopation, long durations, and different time signatures.
Once again using the on-screen xylophone, students can tap the pitch patterns that they see, with instant feedback in yellow (correct) and red (incorrect). Need more of a challenge? Turn on the rhythms as well, and test both skills together!
In our last post, we discussed getting started with the Unison.School planner. The planner is ideal for day-to-day class tracking. However, we often have lesson ideas that span days, weeks, or even months. This is where the Lessons component of Unison.School shines. Lessons are ideal for instructional units, studying a particular piece of repertoire, or any other plan that takes longer than a single period to accomplish.
Using the built-in dropdown menus, you can quickly select musical elements, national and state standards, without having to copy/paste from another page or type them in!
Take advantage of full formatting options in most fields, such as italicizing solfege names (e.g. do-re-mi), and using a numbered list for the steps of your process. Just like with Word, except you don't have to create the full template!
At the top-right of the page is a button to go to reading view, which displays the entire lesson in a clean, easily-read format. From here, you can use the "Print" menu built into your browser (Ctrl-P on Windows, Command-P on Mac, arrow up button on iOS) to print out or create a PDF for sharing.
Share in the App!
From within Unison.School, at the top of your Lessons list, you can view apps shared with you personally, or shared within the school, district, or everyone! Click on "All Shared Lessons" on the right to view 10+ free lesson plans I've added in there. Feel free to add your own!
Sync with Google Drive
Your building administrator probably doesn't want to remember how to log into Unison.School to view your lesson plans. That's why it's as easy as clicking a button and logging into Google to share lessons, pre-formatted to PDF, and updated as you make changes! This will create a folder in your Drive titled with your name and "Unison.School Lessons", which you can then share with anyone.
Connect to Daily Planner
Of course, writing a lengthy lesson plan is only helpful if it's easy to access and reference during class. That's why the detail view of the Planner includes an option to reference and link to unit lessons. Select one from the dropdown list (it will only display lessons written for the same grade level as the class), and the "Process" section of your lesson will pop up on the screen!
Impress your principal with your incredible organization, and start using the Unison.School Lessons module today! Not registered? Click Here to get started.
Whether it's a new year, new semester, or your first time using Unison.School, there's no better time than today to get started laying out an easy-to-use class planner!
Setting Up a Term (Grading Period)
A term in Unison. School can be for an entire year, semester, or any length. In the Classes page, click "Create New Term." Add a start date and end date, then add in any non-instructional days off, such as PD days, holidays, etc. Note you can edit this term later and add in a snow day, and Unison.School will automatically recalculate your rotating classes!
Next, add classes with the "Add Class" button. The most important features here for using with the Planner are the "Set Up Calendar" checkbox, and the "Rotation" settings. Select the correct settings for your class. Note that Day 1 of any rotation begins on the first day of your Term that you set up in the previous step.
When you click "Submit," Unison.School starts chugging away in the background, laying out class periods for your entire term. This may take a few moments, so don't panic if your planbook still looks empty at first!
Once the classes are added, go to the "Planner" page, to view the classes! You can choose from Planner view, Month view, Week view, or Day view. To quickly jot down notes for a class, as you would in a paper planner, type directly into the planner view. To see more details on a class, simply click on the name of the class from any view!
Notice there is also room in the planner view to add non-class events, and the ability to sync with your Google Calendar. The planner is also visible on any device, including your phone!
As an Orff Schulwerk teacher, I know how hard you work to develop student-centered, creative lessons for your students every day. Two things I loved about teaching with Orff Schulwerk: seeing my own ideas coming to life with the students, and even better, seeing the students' ideas take over and guide the learning!
There were also some things I didn't "love" about teaching. One was documenting my lessons and assessments. I never quite felt comfortable teaching from any one textbook, as the pace of my classes never fit the perfect model. For assessment, I would rather be "in the moment" with the kids, giving them direct and immediate feedback to improve their skills, than standing aside with a gradebook writing down scores.
So I designed Unison.School to be a tool for busy teachers like myself. The lesson planner gives me the ability to write unit/project lesson plans based on repertoire and the creative process, and share them on Google Drive with my principal and colleagues. The calendar and daily planner, which functions just like a paper planner, lets me keep track of what each class works on with minimal typing. Finally, I designed the melodic and rhythmic assessments to be completely objective and automated, allowing students to take an authentic, skills-based test, with immediate feedback, from any internet-connected device. This means I can send a few students at a time back to a computer station to take a test, while continuing the creative process for the class. Alternatively, I can bring in a cart of iPads and test an entire class in less than five minutes! The scores are saved to a grade book, and can be used for Student Learning Objectives, Common Formative Assessments, report cards, or whatever system your district employs.
I hope that Unison.School can make a few "less exciting" parts of your job easier, and give you more time to focus on creative student engagement. To get started, register for a free account, and follow my walkthrough video, or just start playing with the free tools!
One last thing. If you're stressed out this last week before winter break, try sharing my Jingle Bells lesson with your classes! I'll try to add more interactive video lessons in the near future.
I'm always open to suggestions and feedback to make Unison.School serve you better.
Have a wonderful winter break, happy holidays, and a joyous New Year with your students!