With the exception of practicing with Sight Reading Factory, the first two weeks of online learning didn’t include much actual singing for my students. I knew I wanted to change that once I realized that we might be out for a very long time. All it took was a little inspiration from a colleague on Facebook to get me started!
Some of our selfies on Flipgrid. Aren’t they cute?
We were fortunate with the timing on our online learning extension. After the initial scramble (2 days for TWO WEEKS of assignments), I had a plan leading up to our spring break. Check out that assignment in this blog post. At the end of those two weeks, SC announced they were extending distance learning until April 30th. This gave me a full week to pull additional plans together, and that’s when I discovered the #AprilSing Challenge on my Facebook page. A fellow choral director in my area, Tim Morgan, came up with this idea. I’ll let him tell you more below:
This is Tim. Be sure to check out his bio at the end of the post.
“I was originally inspired by visual artists during the month of October. On Instagram, artists were given a word prompt for every day of the month, and told to create an ink drawing based on the prompt, and thus it was aptly named "Inktober".
Being a choral director, immediately the idea came to my head that there should be a similar type of challenge for vocal artists. Not having much time to devote to seeing if one existed, I just assumed and continued on with the busyness of life. Fast forward into quarantine. Trying to find e-learning activities for a Choral classroom isn't ideal, and so I toyed with many ideas like the virtual choir, or just getting the singers to send me their audio files and mixing a piece together.
After feeling like I exhausted most of the ideas available, the Inktober concept came back. Social media was booming with activity, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a teenager to be noticed for their talent. Toward the end of March I sent my idea to a couple friends and students to get some feedback and some possible word prompts, and didn't really get many excited responses.
The idea was similar to Inktober, except the singers were to find a song with that prompt word in the lyrics and video themselves singing it. One of my students took on the challenge and sent me her list of 30 prompts for the month. With 60 total words (mine and my one student) I took 30 and created a calendar of word prompts for vocalists. I wanted to find a catchy word like "Inktober", and toyed with words like "Singpril" and "April's Song", but when it came down to it, the hashtag "AprilSing" not only wasn't used, but it would also be an easy way for others to search and find new participants as the challenge continues.
This is Tim’s #April Sing Calendar that was posted on Facebook.
#AprilSing started out with around 23 videos of people singing the first word "music" and has grown to over 100 within the first third of the month. I hope to turn this into a tradition of sorts for years to come.”
Special thanks to Tim for his inspiring idea, and his willingness to share with us here at The Chorus Room!
How I adapted #AprilSing into Quaransing
When Tim tagged me in his first #AprilSing post, I had a huge light bulb moment:
I bet I can make this work for my students!
I started with the calendar that he and his student created, because I really liked the idea of including lyrics with the word for that day, and just made a few modifications that I thought would work better for my students as an assignment. I ended up calling my calendar the Quaransing as a fun poke at our current situation, and so it can be used at other times of the year. My final calendar is below:
I altered the #AprilSings calendar from 7days/week to 5 to reflect our normal school week. This changed my calendar from 30 days to 20. I also removed the dates so that anyone could start the challenge at any time. Here are the directions I included on a separate document for my students:
Using Flipgrid for Quaransing
I wanted students to have the option of keeping their submissions private if they didn't feel comfortable sharing with the entire class. Flipgrid was the perfect platform for this! If you’ve never used Flipgrid, it’s free and very user-friendly.
After you create an account, you can create classes (sort of like Google Classroom). Privacy settings range from public, to e-mail sign-in only. I’ve set up my classes using our district emails, so it helps keep everything a little more secure.
Within each class, you create grids. Grids are topics, like individual assignments would be on Google Classroom, Canvas, etc. When you create your grid topic, there are places to provide directions, upload additional materials or links. I’ve kept mine simple and included directions only. Here’s the most important part (I think) about creating these grids for your students:
When you create a new topic, you ALWAYS want to click “more options” after you provide directions, because it takes you to additional settings, like topic moderation. Topic moderation is what allows students to upload their videos privately so that I’m the only one who gets to see them.
Students let me know if they are ok with their videos being public. Everyone has handled this a slightly different way. One said that if his screen was completely black, then he didn’t want the video public, otherwise it was fine. Others have told me that they are ok with ALL of their videos being visible. Some never want other people to see their videos….and that’s ok, too! Sometimes, I will email the student and ask if it’s ok for me to publish a particular video, and they usually say yes. The important thing is to make students feel as comfortable as possible about recording themselves.
How has Quaransing been going so far?
My students are currently beginning week three. I’ve been participating with them every day, and it’s been eye opening!
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Even as a professional musician, I still feel awkward making a video of myself singing for other people. If I feel that way, then I know it’s nerve wracking for some of my students.
Making a video with your family around at home can also be weird!
Even if you aren’t making a serious recording, it usually takes some practice time and at least a few re-dos before you get your submission the way you want it. I’ve found myself spending around 30 minutes working on each video.
Some days, it’s hard to find songs with the word you have to use. (I had a really hard time on “break”) I’ve been allowing everyone to use different tenses and pluralities of a word to make it a little easier to find. (Example: for “Hide”, you can also use hiding, hid, etc.)
I sang "Yellow" by Coldplay with my cat, Napoleon for Day 2- Star
On Day 4 I played around with the Acapella app and sang "Go to Sleep you Little Baby" from "O Brother Where Art Thou."
Here’s what I’ve learned from watching student videos:
They have blown me away so far! Even some of my shyest students (the ones that I thought might not want to do the assignment at all) have been turning in great submissions!
I can see their confidence grow as they continue to make new videos.
Some talk to me before or after they sing, which I love to hear! They tell me things about the song, or that they miss me, singing together, are sad we didn’t get to perform at adjudication, etc.
People record in all sorts of places: in their rooms, their closets, bathrooms, outside in their yards. Some sing with siblings and parents (and pets!).
I'm getting insight into individual musical tastes. Most of them are picking songs that they know already, so you can tell what they listen to on a regular basis. One student has found a way to make almost all of their submission some sort of Twenty-One Pilots song.
Check out some of my student submissions below:
Day 8- Rain
Day 11- Somebody/Someone
Want to try Quaransing with your classes? Here's how!
This is a word document, so you can customize your dates and directions to work for you.
3. Set up a Flipgrid Account! The link below will take you to the main page for Flipgrid. It’s very easy to get started with, and they have great directions in the help section. Don’t forget to make each grid “monitored” so videos are private to being with! Click here to get started with your own Flipgrid account.
4.Decide how to share with your students. Many of us are using online platforms to share assignments with our students right now anyway, so this should be an easy one. I’m a Google Classroom user, so I just placed all of my materials and links into a material file that I pushed out to all of my students. Happy Singing!
About Tim Morgan: Tim Morgan is the choral director at James F. Byrnes High School. Having graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Music Education, In his ten years of teaching, Morgan has worked in both elementary and secondary levels of music. Outside of teaching in the classroom, Mr. Morgan regularly enjoys music gigs with a local group called Songband Upstate. Check out the submissions for his #AprilSing Challenge by searching the hashtag #AprilSing on Facebook!