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20 Musical Challenges for iPads and Instruments

Gosh! She's not getting mad!20 Musical Challenges for iPads and Instruments

When I was in band, I always wanted to play the cymbal. I wanted to crash it  loudly during the “Stars and Stripes Forever” march. The cymbal meant power and stardom! But, No! Only boys were able to play the cymbal; girls were given the triangle. Fast forward a few years…. I can see it in my students’ eyes – They desperately want the freedom to just play and explore all the instruments in my music room – especially the cymbal!  This idea of 20 Musical Challenges for iPads and Instruments started with a collection of cards designed for independent use by children with a box of instruments, found on the tesconnect website.   These cards and the SMART Notebook lesson is my adaptation of the free teaching resource first created in 2009. It’s my way of creating opportunities for my students to freely explore all instruments they’ve always wanted to play. . . with a technology twist.

20 Musical Challenges for iPads and Instruments

Directions for the challenges:

To use this activity, have small groups (2-3) touch a fish on the homepage to choose their musical challenge. Each numbered fish is linked to its challenge page. This activity is designed for students to record their challenges on their iPads, but the challenges will still work without the technology. If you are using iPads, have students use the “Explain Everything” app. They should take a picture of each challenge card, record on that page, and then make a new page for each new challenge.  Once the challenges are complete, their Explain Everything project can be exported as a Movie and shared with everyone.

Room Setup: I tried several different ways, but the way that seemed to work the best was to put two large tables in the middle of the room and fill them with tons of rhythm instruments. Drums are grouped outside or in a corner, Orff instruments can also be made available. If you choose to use the printed challenges, consider placing each card in its own chair and have students walk around to choose their next challenge. The attached video will demonstrate the setup.

Noise: This is an active, sound-producing activity. Plan ahead and take extra meds! If you have outside access as I do, it works beautifully. You might even consider making this an outside activity for a sunny day!

Outcome: In a 30-minute class, students will be able to finish 2-3 activities. Save time at the end to ask “Why?” Give students time to discuss the sounds they created, their favorite challenge, and even share their creativity on the iPad. This activity can be repeated for several class times.

Watch this video for examples of children completing several musical challenges:

Download the SMARTNotebook Activity here:

Download the PDF challenge cards for copying here.

Here is a special video example of a team of very gifted  girls creating a rain storm story.

I hope you can use these challenges to create opportunities for your students to create and explore. They were a big hit with my students and a great introduction to small group activities(centers) to come.  I was afraid it might be too chaotic, but the students were totally focused and driven to learn. It was amazing.

Most of all, I hope you have many students who will finally get to play those cymbals loudly.. with all their hearts!

If you use it, I’d love to hear how it goes!



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Cherie Herring

Music/Technology Integration at Hammond School
I teach elementary music, am passionate about integrating technology into my teaching, am obsessed with my SMARTBoard and iPad, and enjoy creating lessons and sharing ideas. I love technology almost as much as I love cheesecake, and with more energy and ideas than I know what to do with, I can't wait for the sun to come up each morning! I'm wife to Prince Charming and mom to three incredible girls who keep me balanced. . . sort of!

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Ginny September 2, 2013, 10:38 AM

    Beautiful lesson. Two questions – do any of the students ever complain about the noise level bothering them? Perhaps not since you seem to be able to put some of them outside. Also, what brand of iPod cover do you use? I’m in the process of buying some.Thanks!

    • Cherie Herring September 2, 2013, 2:04 PM

      Ginny, The noise level is not a problem only because I can put them outside in the courtyard. I can go in and out and keep tabs on them easily. It would be a problem if we had to remain inside. Since each group is recording at some point, I have to remind the other children to avoid interrupting another group with stray comments. I think you can see in the rainstorm clip that the boys didn’t seem to bother the two girls creating the story. This activity is definitely worth tolerating the noise!

      Our school purchased the Griffin iPad cases for our students. During the year, many of our students ended up dropping their iPads and it would seem to land on the corner and crack the screen slightly. Most were able to keep using them… we just covered the crack with clear packaging tape. Our PreK and K students are getting the Speck iGuy cases and the new cases will allow them to use their iPads without worrying the teachers. I would rather them spend the $ and buy a more substantial case to avoid the damage. Overall, the breakage has not been as bad as anticipated.

  • Alison September 16, 2013, 7:47 PM

    I love your resources! I have 10 iPads in my classroom and I have benefited so much from your ideas! Thanks for taking the time to upload and share.

    • Cherie Herring September 17, 2013, 8:47 AM

      Thanks, Alison! I’m glad you can use the ideas.

  • Mark H November 16, 2013, 8:57 PM

    I love the way you encourage the students to play different instruments. One of my fondest memories of music as a child was a class where we were allowed to play anything we liked. It has stuck with me for decades. Thanks for the post!


  • Michelle Warshany September 1, 2014, 9:03 AM

    This is such a wonderful idea! I can’t wait to try this in my classroom. 🙂

  • Kathryn September 6, 2017, 2:56 PM

    I am unable to access the downloads- perhaps they have been taken off dropbox?

    • Cherie Herring September 6, 2017, 10:56 PM

      Hi Kathryn, There is a problem with Dropbox. As of September 1, all of the public links are broken. I’m repairing them as fast as I can. Thanks for letting me know about this one and thanks for stopping by. – Cherie

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