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Oops! I Flipped the Elementary Recorder Class

Flipped Recorder Class

This is the second year of teaching my elementary recorder class with technology and the resulting progress of my students could not be more profound. This year, we have completely flipped the recorder unit of study.  For a look back at the baby steps we took with technology in my class last year, read this post.  I honestly think I could write ten posts on the amazing way technology is changing my music class, but I will focus on the recorder class first. I want to tell you how I accidentally flipped the elementary recorder class.

Do you have an iPad or smart phone at home?

When I asked this question last year, just a handful of students raised their hands. When asked the same question this year, all but two out of 78 students raised their hands. What a difference a year makes! After a year and a half of 1:1 iPads, our students completely understand how to use their iPads to make a video and attach it to an email. They are comfortable looking up our recorderkids.wikispaces site. They know how to move between the linked pages, work with the sound files, and save images to their iPads. Some children have figured out how to read the music and play along with the accompaniment on one iPad while making a video with their parent’s smart phone. Various levels of independence in making the videos can be seen in the thinglink below. The access to technology makes flipping the elementary recorder class possible.

Who controls the learning?

Because of all the technology the children have at their disposal at home, this year, the children are controlling the learning. I never understood the potential until these last three weeks with my 4th graders. Although I’ve heard Alan November explain it, read about teachers in upper grade levels doing it, I never ever thought flipping a class would be remotely possible in an elementary music class that only meets forty minutes just once every six days. Sha-zam!! It wasn’t intentional, but it works!!! The students are using the wiki to learn their recorder pieces and emailing me their performances to pass their belts. By the way, they are using their parent’s email address. When I receive their email, I download and listen to the piece, then I email them back with all kinds of praise and affirmation, and when needed, a suggestion to fix something played incorrectly. I’ve even sent back a demo video just for a student who is having trouble. The boys and girls are learning at their own pace; the instruction is completely individualized. Do you want to know how?

“If you build it, he will come!”

This quote inspired me. It’s from Ray Liotta’s character, Shoeless Joe Jackson, in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.” When I built the wiki at recorderkids.wikispaces.com., I wanted a place where my students could go to learn and play along with their recorder pieces. I know that’s not the real purpose of a wiki, but it works for me and it was super easy to set up.  On the first day of the recorder unit, I sent home the link and told the children to get started – making a big to-do over the secret recorder site just for kids. This year, I added videos of me and/or students teaching them how to finger and play the new notes that must be mastered in each belt level. The wiki provides the materials and instruction my students need to learn at their own pace. It’s a work in progress though. I have to keep updating the teaching videos because a large group of the children are moving quicker than I can demonstrate in class. The ultimate reward for a student who sends in an A++ video is to have it linked on the wiki page as an example. A child demonstrating playing is always more effective than anything I do. Between you and me, the only problem with the videos sent in by the children is sometimes they don’t position the camera correctly and it cuts off their fingers, or their head, or it’s slanted, or facing a vase or the ceiling, etc. haha! The wiki works for most of the children, but I also have hard copies available for those who want to work the old-fashioned way. What I would like for them to do via the wiki is to play the slow version, the fast version, watch the demo if needed, and record themselves playing along with the piece. It doesn’t always work like that (yet). It’s easy to identify those who practice playing along and those who don’t, but I realize some students have more access to technology at home than others.

What is a flipped class like?

Housekeeping: At the beginning of our 40 minute class time, the students take care of housekeeping: they move their names up to the correct belt level (bulletin board) and get their earned belts and beads. They don’t put on beads during class because that would take up too much time. I’ve given them a pipe cleaner on which to put their beads to store in their recorder bags until they get home. Review: For the next 15-20 minutes, we play through the pieces they have learned at home. I start with easier belt pieces and move on up.  For example, after they have learned it at home, we play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in different styles. Using the MK-8 resources, we have so many wonderful accompaniments to enjoy.  I explain how being part of the “Orchestra” is so fun when you know your part. We also work on musicianship: playing with long, beautiful phrases, contrasting dynamics, or spunky rhythms…making sure they are playing with LH on top, etc.

Flipping the Recorder imageWork: For the rest of the time,  I have the children use the wiki site to work on their next pieces because all the children are now on different levels. The children group themselves by belt levels for the remainder of the class time. I’m free to check on different groups and spot those who need encouragement. When they exit, they have to tell me the piece they are working on.

Test: If any student needs help with a piece, select students instantly volunteer. (In the emails, I tell the children who have played a piece perfectly that they can be a tutor / tester for that piece. They are to remind me during class.) This helps those children who are not able to record at home for various reasons.  If any student wants to pass of a piece, they have to make a recording – no “live” playing. I’ve found it’s a better use of our class time: they work on their own until their video is perfect and I’m not tied up trying to listen to 18 students before class ends. Students either email me their recordings during class time or the afternoon after class, my inbox is flooded with attached videos from excited and competitive children.

The Difference: The amazing difference that a flipped classroom makes is how well they play when they return. They play with confidence. They have great questions to ask. If a child says, “I don’t get it!” he/she is instantly helped by children around him/her. I’m not teaching the class anymore. The kids are doing the teaching. I’ll say, “Who needs to pass the green belt today?” Who can show us how to play the low ‘e’? Five students instantly pop up! One tells the class how to blow softly, another gives a hint on how to play with flat fingers to cover the low holes. Instead of using the recorder to learn music once every six days, my students are now actively learning music every day. Am I reaching every student? Realistically, there are those children who are lazy and still difficult to reach, but fewer in number, they are no longer controlling the class. They have been silenced by the excitement of the others.

Time: The class time does have a fast pace to it. I have children on all different levels wanting to play their pieces together. 40 minutes seems like 10 and no one wants to leave. Because I am emailing back and forth (through their parents), there is a greater connect to the children and their families. It is making a huge difference! Is it time-consuming? Yes. Initially, setting up the wiki took the longest. Once a system is in place to download/upload the videos to Dropbox, the emailing is actually fun because of the interaction with the kids. I receive an average of 8-10 videos every day or two days and it takes about 3-5 minutes per response.

Look at the videos

I uploaded the videos to my Dropbox and created a thinglink to share with you so you could see my precious little ones creating their videos at home. Talking about it is one thing, watching them in action makes the point. You can see the variety of ability. In their pj’s or around the dinner table, their pride in performing is priceless. I just have to share what is working so well.

How about you? Have you found a way to flip the elementary music class?

If you have ideas, let’s share and learn from each other. Next post, I want to show you the cool way we are using Aurasma with recorders.


Here is the Recorder kids info letter 2015-16 that I sent home to my students and parents.

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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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{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Nell February 3, 2014, 9:15 AM

    Cherie, this is so neat! 🙂 Would you be willing to share correspondence with parents? I just wondered if you emailed them, sent home a note? Also, do the kiddos bring their IPad, smartphone to class with them? We are not a 1:1 school, so I’m just curious if it would work with only the tech at home or should I ask for the students to bring those to school as well? 🙂 Would LOVE any of these hints you are willing to share!

    • Cherie Herring February 3, 2014, 10:27 AM

      Nell, I didn’t realize how many of my students had access to technology at home and I’ll bet that many of your students are the same as mine. These days, everyone has a smart phone and that’s the minimum they need to record from home. I don’t think I would have the children bring their tech from home… that seems very risky and if they email the video to you, there is no need to bring it to school. I like using their parent’s email because of safety and it keeps them involved in the learning. Last year, I gave out papers with the pieces and QR codes linked to examples and acc files. The children were able to practice at home, record it and email it back to me. Look back at the linked post for all the details. If we were not 1:1, I would still offer the tech option to my students because it allows those who want to move ahead a way to excell. Class time is so limited and the quiet ones so often get overlooked. I’m amazed at the number of “quiet” students who are sending in their videos and progressing so quickly. Interestingly enough, the boys don’t send many emails but they do pass the belts at school. Parents have said it’s because of the sports activities in the afternoons. That is something I’m pondering.

      I’m happy to share the letter I sent home at the beginning of this unit. I’ll post a link after my classes today. If I haven’t answered all of your questions, just keep asking. 🙂 Cherie

    • Cherie Herring February 16, 2014, 5:29 PM

      Nell, Here is the letter I sent home to my parents. Let me hear how it goes for you!! 🙂 Cherie

      • MG March 6, 2016, 12:21 PM

        Cherie, The link to the parent letter does not work. Can you re post please? Thanks

  • Nancy February 14, 2014, 12:28 AM

    Hi Cherie,
    I love this idea. Would you be willing to share the letter you sent home?
    Thanks so much,
    Nancy Baxendale

    • Cherie Herring February 16, 2014, 5:26 PM

      Hi Nancy, I will happily share the letter. I hope it is a good starting point for you. Here is the Letter.

      Experiencing the extended classroom has changed my teaching forever! I’d love to hear how it goes for you!!

      • Nancy April 2, 2014, 9:20 AM

        Thanks so much! I have several students sending me videos and we have started the Wall of Fame. They are amazed with the Aurasma images. This is so worth the time it takes to set up.

        • Cherie Herring April 2, 2014, 9:40 AM

          That is great news, Nancy! It won’t take long and you’ll be busy every evening creating the auras. It is such a motivating use of technology! I’m here if you need any help! – Cherie

  • Terri February 19, 2014, 9:26 PM

    Cherie, how did you get your thinglink picture embedded into your post?

    • Cherie Herring February 19, 2014, 9:36 PM

      Terri, On my Thinglink.com page I can see my images. When I pull one up, the option to share is on the right side and the embedding code is there. I just copied that code and when I wrote my post, I pasted it in as html text. I use Wordpress. Does that help? Are you stuck on the “Where do I get the embedded code?” side or the “How do I put post it on my blog” side? – cherie

      • Terri February 21, 2014, 8:55 PM

        Thanks for your quick response. I do see the embed code. I haven’t used Wordpress before so I guess that’s my next project. I really like how you put all the pictures and buttons on the picture. Not sure how you did that, either!!!!

        • Cherie Herring February 21, 2014, 9:33 PM

          Terri, Wordpress or Blogger would be good to use to start a blog. I started with Blogger and found it very easy to use. Go to thinglink.com and explore creating a Thinglink, or just explore what others have created. It isn’t difficult. I store my files in my DropBox and copy the public link to whatever I want to use and just paste it in when I place a dot on the thinglink image. If you are wondering how I created that image of all the children, I used SMARTNotebook to create the collage and the SNIP IT tool to save it as an .png image.The Snip it tool can be found in your accessories folder on your PC. There is a similar option on a MAC.If you want me to walk you through creating a ThingLink, I will be happy to post the steps and create a video for you. Sometimes seeing is better than reading!! Cherie

  • Becky Knox February 20, 2014, 12:21 PM

    Hi there- I too love incorporating technology in my music class and am feeling inspired to approach recorder the way you do. I’ve never used Aurasma and I’m really curious about how you’re using Aurasma with recorders? I could see a link to it. I should also tell you that I teach in public school and not all children have iPads and some don’t even have computers. I think most have access to smart phones, however. Thanks! I

    • Cherie Herring February 20, 2014, 7:42 PM

      Hi Becky! thank you for your comment. I’m working on another post about my adventures with recorders this year. I can’t seem to find the words or way to describe how incredible the use of technology in my room and at home has been. We are a private school and our students don’t seem to lack for anything at home. I know I’m in a lucky position. Since most of the children do have access to smart phones at home, they would jump at the chance to send you videos of their playing. A smart phone is all they need. If you can send home the paper copy of the music with your email attached, that would work just fine.

      I am using Aurasma two ways in my recorder class: First, I am linking the children’s videos to a picture of them on the “Wall of Fame.” When anyone scans the picture, the video immediately begins playing as if in mid air. This motivates the kids to send in their videos so they can become a recorder STAR! (more details soon) Second, I have chosen several of my advanced students to produce “Recorder Repair” videos. The purpose of these litte videos is for the students to explain, teach, or give hints to playing the recorder. These videos are linked to at picture, and whenever a student has trouble with a fingering, squeaking, reading notes, a passage in a piece, etc., they go to the Recorder Repair board, find their problem, scan it with Aurasma, and watch the teaching video produced by their classmates. This is the post I’m currently working on and I’ll explain it more in the post. Do you have iPads in your room? With at least one, you could do the same thing and have students scan the AURAs you produce. It is a lot of work, but after the learning curve, the finshed product or experience for the children, is so worth it. For me, Aurasma isn’t just a flashy app; it has become a really cool way to turn an ordinary lesson completly upside down with higher-order thinking skills. I can’t wait to tell you more!! Go for it, Becky! Today’s kids have access to technology that we can be using to extend the classroom. I don’t know much, but I’ll happily share what has worked for me and you can go from there. 🙂 Please stay in touch!! Cherie

      • Becky Knox February 20, 2014, 8:43 PM

        That’s super cool! I’m going to try it and see what happens. I have a personal iPad that they could use, but we also have a bring your own device policy that would allow them to use their own devices, assuming my district allows aurasma. They can get a little funny about things sometimes. I’ll let you know how it works out, thanks for your help!

  • Becky Knox March 18, 2014, 11:56 AM

    Hi Cherie-

    I just looked at your recorder wiki and it is awesome!! I was wondering if you would mind if I let me students use it? I want to learn how to build my own but I don’t really know how and probably need the summer to do it. Would that be ok with you? I didn’t see anywhere that looked specific to your school.


    • Cherie Herring March 25, 2014, 1:55 PM

      Becky, You are more than welcome to use/access my wiki site with your students. I have posted a few example videos and have a few more to post. I think it’s good for the students to see and hear other children playing the pices. If it helps you, I don’t mind if you use it. 🙂

  • Meredith June 18, 2014, 4:00 PM

    Cherie, I am going to be working at a new school next year and I would love to do this with my kids. How can I help those few who don’t have access to technology at home be successful with this? I think the vast majority will but some won’t. I hate doing pass-offs in class. It does bog everything down and create behavior problems.

    • Cherie Herring June 18, 2014, 5:37 PM

      Meredith, There were a few students in my class who did not have access to the same technology as the rest of the kids. These tech-NO students quickly became very frustrated. Because all of the other students had things to work on during class time, I was able to zero in on those few who needed help DURING class time. I also set up after school times just for the tech-NO kids and that helped the most because I could give them focused attention and even use my iPad to record their playing. Sometimes during class time I would group the students and have them make a group recording including that tech-NO student. They used their iPads to make the movie. I could use that recording for the link to the Aurasma wall and they felt more included. Before you start the unit, do a quick survey and you’ll be able to identify those who will need specific real-time help. Even if you have a few tech-No kids, it will free up your class time and change the dynamics in a positive way.

  • aimee February 12, 2015, 8:55 PM

    I also Flipped my recorder class this year; I made videos using the app explain everything and the kids and the parents loved them! The playing was the best I have ever heard from syudetns and there were fewer mistakes made as they could go back to watch them over and over if needed . I uploaded the completed videos yo vimeo, password protected it for my parents, then emailed parents the links each week as a new song was unveiled! Loved it!!

    • Cherie Herring February 12, 2015, 10:02 PM

      Hi Aimee! Thanks for the comment. You are one of my heroes! Flipping is certainly the way to go. I think it helps level the playing field and gives each student a better chance to succeed and be heard. Thanks for sharing the way you flipped your class. Toot! Toot!

  • Linzie September 22, 2015, 3:05 PM

    Can you show us how you made that wiki page… it is INCREDIBLE!

  • Carol Van Gorder December 3, 2015, 10:38 AM

    I am very interested in flipping my recorder class as well. Please send me any help or ideas and a password to see your videos on thinklink and a copy of your letter that you send home to the parents, I couldn’t access it from the drop box.
    Carol Van Gorder

    • Cherie Herring December 3, 2015, 2:32 PM

      Hi Carol
      Here is a link to a Google Site I’ve created with all kinds of flipping resources. https://sites.google.com/site/flippingtherecorderunitandmore/ I’m actually giving a presentation this weekend in NY and I’ve attached the handout on the front page of this site. Look on the left navigation bar and you’ll find what you are looking for. There are links to download all of the files year are requesting and video tutorials to get you going. I hope this helps. If you have any questions along the way, please contact me and I’ll do my best to help you.

      • Carol Van Gorder March 1, 2016, 4:13 PM

        Thank you Cherie,

        It’s very exciting. Many students are sending me videos and earning their belts outside the classroom!

        Carol Van Gorder

        • Cherie Herring May 27, 2016, 11:21 PM

          Carol, that is very exciting! I would love to hear how the year ended with your recorder students! – Cherie

  • Beth March 24, 2016, 8:52 AM

    Hi there!

    Just starting the research to try flipping my Recorder Karate unit next year! Such valuable information! Would it be possible for you to send me an email copy of the letter you send home to parents at the beginning of the unit. The link seems to be broken. Thank you so much!! esimms@lakeorion.k12.mi.us

  • Dalton July 27, 2016, 3:00 PM

    Hi I am from jamaica I saw your blog on Pinterest and I want to try it out I need to know tho what is a ‘wiki’ and how does it work ?

    • Cherie Herring August 3, 2016, 2:34 PM

      Hi Dalton,
      A ‘wiki’ is like a blog site and it was the first recorder site that I built when we first started flipping the recorder unit. Since then, I’ve created a Google site and it is much easier to navigate for the children A Google site is free to create, and with all of the themes and layout options, it’s super easy to use. Here is a link to one of my Google sites for recorder flipping: https://sites.google.com/site/recorderkids15/
      I hope I’ve helped you. Are you flipping your recorder unit of study? Please email if you have any other questions. Thanks for stopping by.

      • dalton Spence August 3, 2016, 4:51 PM

        ok so i have set up a google site. so I am trying to set up the situation inwhich the students will be able to record themselves performing the recorder piece and then send it to me for evaluation. How do i do that?

        • Cherie Herring October 26, 2016, 10:48 PM

          Hi Dalton,
          Many students have access to technology at home, either a smart phone or iPad. From home, your students can access the recorder lessons or videos and practice / learn the required piece. Once they can play it well have them use their iPad or have their parent film them and email the video to you to grade. I always have the children go through a parent’s email because I want parents to know what is going on. Your job is to listen and watch the videos, to take notes as you listen, and to reply with comments. If they have having difficulty or playing incorrectly, you should send them a recorder “repair” video and repeat the process until they can play it correctly. Yes, it is time-consuming, but it is soooo worth it! I hope that helps you get started. I’d love to hear how the rest of the year goes!

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