Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garage Band--Some Possibilities

I introduced GarageBand this week. It is mostly music creation software but has so many possibilities for elementary school. I started out by just teaching kids how to record their voices and to add some background music. We used poetry and kids had a ball reading the poems in different ways, trying new voices, adding a bit of music or a sound effect her or there. It is not a tool I know well, but I can't wait until I know it well to introduce it. My goal in teaching media literacy is for kids to see what is possible, to read with a critical eye and to create with tools available. I don't need to know everything about GarageBand in order to introduce it to kids. I taught myself the basics and we are jumping in together.

One of the challenges, from a writing/creation perspective, is that students don't have a lot of models for what they are creating. Or, they have a lot of models but haven't yet made the connection to the tools that will help them create the things they see. So, as I move forward with GarageBand over the next few weeks, I wanted to throw some possibilities out to kids. I want them to see many options for their work with GarageBand and the other tools we've used this year. I have learned, in my 23 years of teaching, that if I give kids some possibilities and some open ended play time with a tool, they come up with many, many ideas that I would never have imagined.

When I think about creation, I want the students to eventually have a menu of possibilities to show their learning, to create new understandings, etc. One of the things that has struck me in the library, seeing so many different classes each week, is the way the students approach new ideas. When I introduce a new piece of software or a new web tool, they definitely need some play time. They have a ball just trying things out. Then they need to pull back and seem ready to see what they can actually make or do with the software. So, now that kids have done a bit of playing with GarageBand, I want to show them these samples--different pieces where music plays a part. Not that I want them to replicate any of this--that is the reason I wouldn't show them one at a time. Instead, I want it to be a way to begin thinking of the possibilities for this software and the way it might work with other tools they have.

Having a toolbox of possibilities for creation is key for moving ahead with creation and communication.

Pete the Cat is one of my new favorite books/songs thanks to Katie at Creative Literacy. In order to show how music enhances a story and how songs can be created from text, this is a fun example for kids to begin thinking about music.

Sharing several examples of a familiar story like "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" will show kids how different each story can be if you change the way you read/sing it and if you change the music and/or sound effects. For one lesson, I might show several different versions of one book to open up the possibilities and to show kids how sound can impact presentation. Two samples are below. One uses student art which is another thing I want kids to start thinking about.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

After I fell in love with Pete the Cat, I found more songs by this artist. One that I think has huge possibilities with older kids is The Three Pigs song by Eric Litwin. I think taking favorite tales and creating story/songs might be fun for some kids. This is a great example.

Three Pigs audio

The kids have become very familiar with PIXIE and FRAMES this year. Drawing tools and some basic animations are making sense to many kids. I want them to take a look at creations like the following songs to see how music and drawing can go together in new ways.

The Elephant Song

5 Little Monkeys

Because so many of the tools are new for kids and because they are just beginning to see the possibilities, much of this spring is about planting seeds, knowing that kids are amazing and will come up with ideas that I cannot possibly imagine. I can't wait to see which of the things from these samples they pick up on to try and which other things they find on their own.


  1. I love what you're doing with and for the kids with these great software tools. You are so right about needing to give them time to "adapt" to the tool and then mess around with it. Getting them to go the next step with some structured learning is, I think, the hardest part. Good on you for all your efforts here! :)

  2. I love it when the kids wonder about the possibilities in creating. What fun to use Eric Litwin's story songs to plant the seeds for experimenting with software tools! You have great ideas!
    Warning: After I used Elephants for story time it was stuck in my head for days.

  3. How fun...B and I were just jammin before we made dinner, now we have to get the book.

  4. I think what you said about "planting the seeds" is huge! We have to get kids playing and practicing the possibilities with tools of technology. Kids can be creative with anything if we open door for them!


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