I face the same challenge every working day. It isn’t coursework deadlines or paperwork, though we all have those… It isn’t challenging behaviour or rudeness and it isn’t a lack of time…
It is, in fact, the problem of making the most of the hour per week I have with each of my students at Key Stage 3.
See, I strive to give them a tailored and fitting musical experience that a) they find enjoyable, b) that captures their imagination and c) that stretches and challenges them as young musicians. That would be a tall order to do for one student, but, like most of us, I have upwards of 25 in a class. This has made me search for tools that could help me in my quest.
I immediately liked that the system guided the user’s learning – they are given a London Underground-esque map and new stations are revealed as they complete different exercises. It also struck me that there was enough content to the programme to engage novices and professionals alike. So I brainstormed on how to incorporate it into my classroom teaching. This is what I came up with (with my results in brackets):
Key Stage 3:
- Setting homework where I instruct a class of students to register for a free account and to complete an exercise every week for 6 weeks.
- (This worked very well for Year 7 and Year 8. Voxtrain allows you to record to Soundcloud and I asked each student to send me a recording of themselves completing the 4th and 6th exercise. It was great to be able to track progress SO closely. A note on the admin involved: I added each Soundcloud link to my pupil tracking sheet – parents were impressed that they could have a listen to their child’s recording during parents’ eve!)
- Moving a computer and microphone into one of the practice rooms.
- (At first I asked for volunteers in each KS3 class to try out the system – in private. Some indicated that they wanted regular access to the facility. I placed them on a rota to use the system as part of their regular music lesson – a great way to extend their learning).
- Accessing Voxtrain on the EWB and using a few of the breathing and warmup exercises as starters to lessons.
- (This idea concerned me at first, but most classes participated more readily in this than with my traditional method of playing guitar as accompaniment.)
- Asking a small group of students to learn some of the Voxtrain warmups and run these as a class-singing warmup.
Key Stage 4:
- Students accessing Voxtrain on our IT suite as part of their BTec research into vocals.
- (Worked extremely well – they clearly found it entertaining, with a few even trying some of the exercises)
- Students using Voxtrain as a training tool for their GCSE / BTec / Rockschool practical.
- (My graded students seemed to enjoy it and used this in conjunction with their regular singing lessons).
- Accessing Voxtrain on the EWB and singing intervals as a class to strengthen melodic dictation skills.
- Using Voxtrain as a backtrack to warm up student voices at the start of choir rehearsal.
- Using it as a practice tool for our rock bands’ vocalists.
- (Our bands run on one day from 3:30pm until 7pm with some vocalist waiting for the 6pm session. I introduced the idea of using Voxtrain to warm up and practice before the rehearsal. All the vocalists have participated so far!)
- Using it as a practice tool to teach harmonising to voice groups during Junior choir rehearsal.
Some of these ideas worked better with some classes than others and I realised that online practical training did not suit everyone’s needs. Certainly the old internet adage of “Your Milage May Vary” applies and the system isn’t everything to everybody, but I’ve found Voxtrain to be a great addition to my range of classroom tools.
This year I plan to give all singing students access to the system and to allow pre-booked lunch-time access to our vocal practice room for all students with Voxtrain access. I also want to give some choir members, who aren’t studying music as a subject, access to Voxtrain to help them strengthen their musical skills.
I hope you’ve found some of these ideas useful and/or inspiring. Now that Voxtrain is freely available to music departments, I can’t wait to hear about the innovative and useful ways in which you and your students are able to make use of the system. I welcome any feedback and would love to hear about features that you would like to see in future releases – I will most certainly pass these on to the developers. I look forward to hearing from you!