Google Classroom for Band
FINALLY, Google has rolled out their new Classroom feature. It syncs with Drive and Gmail, and makes organizing any assignments incredibly easy. Many districts are requiring it and transitioning to all Google Apps for Education. That leaves those of us in the band world in a bit of a bind. Sure, Docs and Sheets are great for language arts and math, but we're band. How on earth can we use it? Believe it or not, especially for smaller programs, you can do literally EVERYTHING through Google Apps. Here are a few ideas to try yourself! First off, you'll need to go to Google Classroom. Set up the classes you teach and give them a title.
Once you have your classes created, you can change the theme if you'd like. Right at the top of your class page, there's a section to add an assignment. You can attach nearly any type of file or link and give a few instructions. From the student's end, when they log into classroom, they will see that they have an assignment. It gives an option to upload their file and turn it in. Once it's submitted, you can see how many students have turned it in and how many haven't.
Now, how do we use this in band? Let me show you the ways.
Information Forms-We have to collect an insane amount of information from students. Contact information, shirt size, uniform number, instrument serial number, food preference for trips, bus seat partners, and who knows what else. Some districts have programs that have much of our students personal information built in, and some have a program like Charms, which collects band-related information. That's all fine and dandy, but if you don't have access to that software, and it can be expensive, you'll have to do all that data collecting yourself. Enter Google Forms. Simply add an assignment that is a Google Form and have each student fill out what you need. You can have them self-submit information for their checked-out or personal instruments, surveys, shirt sizes, fundraiser information, and whatever else you can come up with. At my previous job, I refused to print out paper forms unless the student didn't have access to the internet at home. If they didn't, they got a copy to fill out by hand, then had to type it in on a school computer. We collected any emergency information about students, shirt sizes, instrument inventory information, and even votes for things like shirt designs and where we might want to eat on trips. Instantly, all that information is there at your fingertips wherever you are.
Practice Records and Playing Tests-While practice records are a debatable issue, if you use them, you can upload a Form or a Sheets template and let students fill in how much they practiced that week. You may not have the option for a parent signature, but there are ways around that such as having the student fill out a template (that automatically calculates total minutes, grade, etc.) and have them print it at home for a parent to sign. For playing tests, there are a variety of ways to record from home. Students can simply upload their sound file to the assignment and you can listen on your own time. Search for online voice recorders to find quick and easy ways for students to record. There are apps and software that can record as well. What you choose is up to you, just be aware that recording, saving, and uploading a sound file may take a bit of teaching on your part so the students know how to do it. I recommend posting detailed examples in your assignment page. You can even link to a recording website that you like. Try Online Voice Recorder. I used that website in combination with a few Chromebooks to have my entire class record their tests.
Reference Recordings- With the option to assign a YouTube video in an assignment, you can provide reference recordings to students for both full-band pieces as well as instrument-specific recordings. Send your students a few recordings of the solo or ensemble they are playing so they can hear the piano accompaniment. Assign recordings of your UIL pieces and attach a Form with questions about style and musicality. Depending on the amount of devices you have available to you, you could use this idea for sub plans when you are away. Here's a video explaining this a little better...
Student Accounts- While this one may take some editing and tweaking on your part, you could use a Sheets file to show student accounts for money or fees owed. Be careful of confidentiality if you do this. Don't use a student's full name. Instead, talk to your office about using a student identification or a lunch number. Students (and parents) can see what is owed while not being able to tell who the other students are. Have each student submit their assignment as what they owe, so that you know that they've seen it.
These are just a few ways you can use Google Classroom in the band (or orchestra, or choir!) hall. If you have any questions about how to put these into practice, or you have an idea for an assignment that you need help creating, please leave a comment below!