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Over the past few weeks, I decided to do a GarageBand project with my third grade students at Altman School. Since we were learning about AB Form in Music class and had studied multiple examples as well as created some of our own class compositions, I used the GarageBand as a formal assessment to see if they could compose their own piece of music in AB (or AABB, ABAB, ABACA, etc.) form in groups of four to five students. I began the project by showing each class the GarageBand App on my own iPad after hooking it up to the SMART Board in my classroom. We went through the "ins and outs" of the app, which led to us composing our own classroom compositions using the Apple Loops and even recording our voices. It was a very successful tutorial because when each group got the iPad to begin their project, they had little to no questions about how to use it and were able to begin creating right away. When I began the GarageBand project, I only had one iPad with GarageBand on it (my own), so it started off quite slowly since only one group could use the iPad at a time (it took three weeks--or 6 music classes--to finish this initial part of the project). When the groups were not using the iPad, they were brainstorming on a worksheet about how they wanted their final projects to sound (for instance, "What do we want our A Sections to sound like? Why? When someone hears our A section, we want him or her to feel...," etc.) so that they had an idea of the loops they wanted to choose right off the bat. After everyone finished their A sections, we had an informal "recital" where I hooked up the iPad to the SMART Board in the Music room, and each group was able to play and explain their A sections, with constructive critiques from the rest of the class.
After some discussion with my principal about they project, he agreed to put GarageBand on the Learning Center iPads, so the next part of the project went very quickly. I was able to give each group an iPad to compose their B section (which had to be different from their A section), and then I hooked up all of the iPads to my classroom computer and pulled off each project. After formatting the separate A and B sections for each group, I pre-loaded each's groups A and B sections to a Learning Center iPad before Music class so that they could put them together in any combination of AB form that they wished. We had to do a whole-class tutorial on the SMART Board in order for the students to understand what to do, but after they knew what they were doing, that part of the project was very exciting to watch. I overheard each group discussing why they wanted the B section to play twice, or have an A section to end their piece, for example, which led to very musical discussions and persuasive arguments.
When every group was satisfied with their composition, they renamed their composition in GarageBand with a creative name for their piece, followed by all of their names, partly so that they could get credit for writing them, and partly so that I knew that everyone participated in the project. I plugged in each Learning Center iPad one more time to pull the compositions onto my computer, and then I burned each project to a CD so that we could have a "recital" of each project. Everyone was really excited to see that their pieces "made it" to a CD and could play in my sound system rather than off of my iPad, and the whole recital was a great way for everyone to hear their pieces (which all turned out totally different from each other!) and why they wanted to write their pieces the way they did.
Overall, the GarageBand project was very successful, and I look forward to doing it in the future. I may refine a few things, such as my approach to the project and what the students will actually write, but they loved working on the iPads and creating something that was truly their own.