Flipgrid – What’s New?

Flipgrid - What's New_August 1st was a day many teachers on social media were looking forward to – it was the day Flipgrid announced their new features for this school year! While I was not able to make the trek to Minneapolis for the release party (silly new puppy got in the way – at least he’s cute!) instead, I co-hosted a viewing party here in Northern Virginia.

Flipgrid did not disappoint! The new features are fantastic. From recording capabilities to security and everything in between. I look forward to trying a lot of new things this year. Here’s a recap of some of my favorites.


New recording features

You now can trim and add to your videos! If something goes wrong at the beginning or end of your video, no need to go back and re-record, you can trim those parts out! Then you can also add more content if needed.

Videos can also be shot in several sizes, optimized for your device, whether it is a desktop, square video, or full-size mobile screen. Also, you can flip between the front and back cameras on your device while shooting the video.

New privacy features

No more required passwords! Those were just a placeholder as the new features were configured. (Passwords are still an option, just not required.) Now when you set up your grid you have three options:  classroom/school, set up by student ID, or open to the public.

  • My Classroom or School – this grid is restricted to people within your email domain. It’s perfect for situations where all participants have (school) email addresses. You can also set this up with multiple domains (when collaborating with other schools.)

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  • Student ID – you set up or upload student IDs, and the grid is restricted to those participants. You can also print QR codes for younger students!

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  • PLC’s and Public – this is open to the public, but restricted to students 16 and older

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It’s now even easier to find and connect with GridPals! GridPals are like video pen-pals. Last year over 1500 classes were matched through the GridPals program, and this year I’m sure that number will grow exponentially. While I did not have any official GridPals last year, my students did connect with others around the world and it was an excellent experience for them. I can’t wait to do it again. If you want to learn more about GridPals, check out this “Adventure Passport” that GridPals creator Bonnie McClelland put together. It has everything you will need!

Other things I’m super excited about

It would be impossible for me to list all of the other things I am excited about, but here are a few that stand out at the moment.

  • You can now add multiple resources to a topic
  • You can add topic tips, as a short reminder to studentsScreen Shot 2018-08-13 at 11.53.53 AM
  • Students can now view the entire topic when on the recording screen
  • The teacher can add “vibes” to student videos. Vibes are short messages that will be visible to all at the top of a student’s video. A great way to showcase specific videos.

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  • Mixed Tapes – this feature becomes available in the fall and will allow you to mix up and loop your favorite grids!

How to use Flipgrid in music classes?

Previously I posted about five ways to use Flipgrid in Instrumental Music. Those ideas all still work, and I highly recommend them. Now with the new features, it is even easier to take Flipgrid to the next level.

  • Getting to know you – set up a topic for students (and teachers!) to get to know each other. This is a great way to learn about your student’s interests, prior experience, and even how to correctly pronounce their names! If you teach instrumental music, it might be a great time to have students play something so you can see and hear progress from the beginning to the end of the year. Jornea Armant Erwin provides some other beginning of the school year ideas here: Back To School
  • Concert shout-outs – give families the opportunity to record a “good luck” message before a concert or performance. Students will love hearing these messages, both before and after the big event.
  • Dress rehearsal – this would be especially valuable for any individual, solo and ensemble performances. Have students record a video of themselves playing the piece a week before the performance. Students can then critique their own videos and leave feedback for peers. I did this last year with students in our TED-Ed club, and plan to do it next year for our Spring Recital.
  • Collaborate! I can’t recommend this enough – find another school or class to collaborate with! Whether you share music that the whole class/ensemble is working on, or if you have individual students share music, or even pair kids up with a “practice buddy,” it’s worth it.  The students take pride, knowing other kids will hear their music. Last year my students collaborated with other band and orchestra students sharing holiday music, and we worked with third-grade classes in Chicago helping them learn to play the recorder. Both were great experiences!

Getting started

If you’ve never used Flipgrid before, now is the time! Go to www.flipgrid.com and sign-up for a (free) teacher account. From there, create your first grid! If you need some ideas, check out the Discovery Library for over 4,000 topic templates. They are searchable by subject and grade level, and should definitely spark some ideas. I’ve added my “How-to Videos” topic, “Holiday Music,” and several others. To use a template in the Discovery Library, select which grid you want to add it to and click Add. From there you can customize the topic however you would like!

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I encourage you to check out Flipgrid this school year if you haven’t already. There are so many uses; you won’t regret it! And feel free to reach out if there is anything I can do to help you get started. I fully expect as the year progresses to find even more fun uses for this great tool.


Using Flipgrid in Instrumental Music 

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student

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Mozart Minutes

Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to work on something that interests them, that they are passionate about, or that they want to learn.

Mozart MinutesI started the school year with several goals and changes I wanted to make in my music program. One of them was to incorporate a student-directed, or Genius Hour, type project. I had heard about Genius Hour several years ago, but it wasn’t until I read Amy Rever’s blog, The Noisy Room Down the Hall, that I believed it was possible in music! Amy is now in year three doing Genius Hour with her middle school band students and it’s quite inspiring. Essentially, Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to work on something that interests them, that they are passionate about, or that they want to learn. In school, students are often limited to content the teacher (or standards) dictate. But with Genius Hour, students get to choose their path. If you are not familiar with Genius Hour, I highly recommend John Spencer’s video, “What is Genius Hour?”  It provides an excellent introduction.

Initially, I planned to have 5th-grade students (second-year players) come up with and carry out their own performance opportunity. They would pick the venue or event, choose and prepare the music, and do the performance. In the end, I decided not to go this route. After observing the students this year it didn’t feel right, and I didn’t know how I would manage that type of project for 96 students. So instead I decided to keep it more open-ended and let students design their own projects. I introduced the project we are calling “Mozart Minutes” to the students by first showing another one of John Spencer’s video, “You Get to Have Your Own Genius Hour.”  I told students they would have the opportunity to create their own projects – learn whatever they wanted to learn or do whatever they wanted to do – as long as it related to music. We spent time in class brainstorming, and I asked students to come up with a list of ideas using Lee Araoz’s framework, “Four Pathways to Genius.”  From there, students were asked to narrow down their list to one great idea. The pathways were more helpful to some students than others. Many didn’t understand that the pathways were to help them come up with ideas and that their final plan did not have to incorporate all four categories! I will need to explain that better in the future. Pathways to genius

The students have been given four weeks to work on their projects during band and orchestra lessons (30-minutes each) plus 10-minutes each Friday during chorus to reflect on the week’s progress. They have also had some time to work during vocal music, and of course at home, if they choose. As you would expect, some students have been more successful than others. Some of the projects have been very creative though! Here is a sample of some of their ideas:

  • Composing a song
  • Learning to play new songs
  • Researching the history of an instrument or composer
  • Learning about how instruments are made
  • Creating background music for video games
  • Creating a talk-show about musicians
  • Building an instrument
  • Making tutorial videos to help younger students

I enjoy watching students and their various approaches. For example, some of the composers start with their instruments, while others begin with paper and pencil. Some are digging into research and creating Google Slideshows, while others are drawing or hand-writing what they learn. A few students have reached out (with my help) to various experts, and some even got responses!

The idea of a Genius Hour in music fits into something I’ve become quite passionate about, and that is empowering music students.  Genius Hour fits almost all of the essential qualities! Students have voice and choice, they get to ask questions, they are creating, and they own the learning process. Isn’t this what we want for our students? Next week we will have a gallery walk showcase for students to share what they learned or created. I am very excited to report back the results!


Links for further reading:

Inquiry and Mozart Minutes (a Mozart Minutes recap)

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student

10 Reasons to Pilot a Genius Hour This Year, by John Spencer

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Empowered Music Students Create as Well as Consume

When students create musical experiences, they own the process much more then if only consuming music.

Have you ever taken time to think about everything you consume throughout a day? I’m not referring to food, but information. On a daily basis, I consume information from so many sources: radio, social media, blogs, podcasts, television, books, YouTube, email and more. Combine that with the music I consume, and the list grows: through Spotify, music my ensembles are learning, music I’m practicing, music I’m studying, etc. Just as the saying goes, “you are what you eat,” the same is true about the information, and music, we consume. As music teachers, one of our jobs is to ensure our students are exposed to (consume) high-quality music. Most of us spend a significant amount of time making this happen! One thing we often forget, while helping students become discerning consumers they must also have time to create.

Create and Consume

This act of creating is one of the qualities of an empowered music student. As Kathryn Finch and I discussed in our previous post, “The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student,” it is important that music students create as well as consume when in the music classroom. Luckily there are numerous ways this can happen. 

The most obvious thing is to have students create their own music. This can be done through a simple improvisation activity, or a more complex music composition unit. With improvisation, depending on the age of your students you may want to ease into this process gradually. Begin by having the students echo rhythmic or melodic patterns that you play. Then, using a specific rhythm or pitch set, have students respond to what you play (as a group) with something different. It will sound chaotic, but it gives students the chance to try something new in a low-risk situation. Once students are comfortable with this, begin having volunteers respond to your pattern individually. You can gradually increase the complexity of these exercises as it is appropriate for your students. 

Music composition is another excellent way for students to create. Personally, I feel as soon as students can read music, they are ready to write music! Composition projects can look like any number of things, again, depending on the age and ability of your students. This year I tried something new with my first-year instrumentalists and incorporated a design thinking process called the LAUNCH Cycle into our projects. Instead of beginning with a set of criteria for their compositions, students began by thinking about the purpose of their compositions, and how they could write something to fulfill that purpose. This document explains the details of the project: Music Composition Project – Using the LAUNCH Cycle.  Composition projects do not have to be this involved though; anything that gives students the opportunity to write music is worthwhile.

Now that digital media and 1:1 devices are so prevalent it is very easy to find tutorial videos, or “how-to” videos for just about anything. On more than one occasion I have assigned videos to students who needed reminders to watch at home, an additional explanation or are ready to learn more advanced concepts. This year I also had students create some of these videos! Having students think through the process of teaching others is powerful. For example, I had first-year string students create videos teaching how to hold a violin bow properly. Students were able to demonstrate their learning and show a deeper understanding of the skills. They enjoyed being the experts, and I had a means of formative assessment. Tools like Flipgrid make this process of video creation very easy, though I’m sure other tools could be used as well.

How many of us have posters in our classrooms, detailing musical notation, terms or other types of information? I would guess most teachers do. But how many of us have given students the opportunity to create these posters, or at least determine what is displayed and where? Probably not as many. If we are displaying things in the classroom to help students (information they will be consuming), shouldn’t the students have some say in what goes on the walls? This month I took a suggestion from Joy Kirr’s book, Shift This!, and asked for student volunteers to decorate one of my bulletin boards. I gave them complete control and had no idea what to expect – I imagined random pictures and music notes. I sure was wrong! Instead, the boys created an interactive board, containing definitions other students might struggle with, practice suggestions, and links to videos for more help! WOW! I gave them the opportunity to create something for our classroom, and they did a great job.

Finally, think about allowing students to create some of their own opportunities. Maybe one week instead of giving a specific practice assignment, encourage students to find performance opportunities for themselves. They could play for family members, neighbors, at church – or whatever creative venues they can come up with! Do you have a group of students who have mastered their concert pieces several weeks in advance? Try giving those students the opportunity to find and prepare a chamber piece on their own to also perform at the concert. Require the students to make all of the creative decisions regarding the performance of their piece. There are many more opportunities students could create, but hopefully, this sparks some ideas.

Next time you are planning a lesson, rehearsal, or unit, take a minute to think about what the students are consuming and what they are creating. Ideally, you should have a mix of both. Students can only create quality music if they have been exposed to and have consumed high-quality music.

“There’s an ongoing cycle of critical consuming, inspiration, and creative work.” John Spencer & A.J. Julinai, Empower

If you are not currently incorporating creative opportunities for your students, consider trying it. The effort spent is well worth it. When students create musical experiences, they own the process much more then if only consuming music. And this is what helps lead to empowered music students.


Links for Further Reading:

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student

How I Increased Voice and Choice in My Music Classes, and Why I’ll Never Look Back




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Five Ideas to Try After a Concert

5 Ideas to Try After a ConcertThis is the time of year where I start seeing posts on social media about what to do after the concert, what to do during testing, and even, what to do when your students aren’t allowed to play because of noise during testing! So, whether any of these scenarios resonate with you, or if you are looking for something different to try, here are five ideas that will motivate learners, tap into creativity, and help you move towards a more learner-centered environment.


Reflecting is an invaluable tool that we do not use enough – with our students or as teachers – but the fact is, it’s essential for a learner-centered environment. If reflecting is not already a part of your routine, following a concert or performance is a great time to try it. Students should reflect not only on their performance but also on their preparations leading up to it and how it will impact their future learning. This process of “thinking about thinking” is known as metacognition. It allows students to take their learning to the next level.

If your students are new to reflection, you might want to begin with sentence starters to as guidance. “I was good at_____.” “Next time I might_____.” “I still struggle with______.” You could also try providing students with graphic organizers such as a PMI chart: Plus, Minus, and Interesting. Students are instructed to fill in items for each category.  Remember – when reflecting, the process is as important as the product.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey

Student Leaders

For many teachers, especially those with ensembles, the majority of our rehearsal time is teacher directed. After a concert is a great time to try giving students the opportunity to stand in front of the ensemble. I have had students conduct our performance pieces, run warm-ups, teach new skills, or introduce lines from the method book. And they love it! Students should get the opportunity to have their voices heard, and allowing them time in front of the ensemble gives them a new appreciation for how an ensemble works outside of their sections.



The Makerspace movement has been finding its way into classrooms around the world, but how many music teachers have tried it? A Makerspace project is an excellent choice for a day when playing instruments is not an option. For those that are new to the Makerspace concept, it is primarily intended for students to create, invent, and learn. Some Makerspaces are very involved, including things like 3D printers, electronics, and computer software. Others are more simple and contain found objects and art supplies, such as cardboard tubes, rubber bands, string, etc. This was the type I created for my students for a Makerspace Instrument Challenge. Their task was to create an instrument that could produce a sound. They were given 5 minutes to look at the materials and plan their instruments, 1 minute to “shop” for materials, and 10 minutes to create. I enjoyed watching the students work, and their creativity was evident throughout the project. Here are the project details, feel free to make a copy: Makerspace Instrument Challenge. I guarantee you will love the results! Pair this with an exploration of sound or instruments families to make it more cohesive unit.


I love having students work on composition projects. Composing is an essential part of being a musician. It’s also another way to build creativity and give students ownership of their music making. There are many different ways to do this. Here’s an example of a composition project for beginning and intermediate string players: Kimble Strings: Composition. This year I took my composition project another direction and incorporated a Design Thinking strategy, the LAUNCH Cycle, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. The finished products had some similarities to previous years, but using the LAUNCH Cycle, students started the process with empathy and conclude by receiving peer feedback and making revisions based on that feedback. It is definitely something I will try again. This document explains the details of the project: Music Composition Project – Using the LAUNCH Cycle.

Genius Hour

“Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.” A.J. Juliani

To be completely honest, I have not tried this yet. But I plan on it soon – right after my concert! Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to work on something that interests them. Something they are passionate about, or something they wonder. In music, especially ensembles, students are usually working on music chosen by the director. With a genius hour project that is not the case. The students get to pick what they learn, research, and create. How can this work in music? With a little imagination and some planning. While this is probably the most complicated idea here, I think it could also be one of the most rewarding. Amy Rever, a middle school band director, has tried it with her students on more than one occasion and has great things to say on her blog, The Noisy Room Down the Hall. I think if you are ready to try something big, this is the perfect challenge!

I’d love to hear if you have done any of these things with your students, or if you decide to take the plunge and try one let me know how it goes! Don’t be afraid to try something new. Give the students choice, encourage them to be creative and take risks of their own! The results are worth it.


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Personalized Learning: Part 3, How it Works

I have posted a few times about my personalized learning goals for this year, and have received some questions about how it works within the band and orchestra world. I’ll try to explain how some of the day to day activities work within my classroom. You can access my previous posts here: Personalized Learning: Part 1 and Personalized Learning: Part 2.

Things are still going very well! By the end of the second quarter, 51% of the orchestra students met their goals (compared to only 27% in the first quarter), with 12% of those students actually exceeding their goals. 90% were able to show progress from the first quarter. While some might say that 51% isn’t a very good number, I am quite happy with it for halfway through the year. Considering the students are asked to be very independent learners, especially compared to the other aspects of their school experience, it’s great progress.

I have made a point to talk to students each class period to have them identify the skill(s) they are working on. This has helped them understand better that the learning targets are skills they need to master, not songs. Students have also started to look at feedback on videos that did not receive a passing score, to figure out what they need to fix. Once again in the second quarter, there were a small handful of students who made amazing progress! For me that is the best part of this project, seeing students who always do what you ask but nothing more, become inspired to push themselves beyond the status quo.

Here are a few tools and strategies we are using to make this all work:

Essential Elements Interactive

All students have school-issued iPads and we have installed the Essential Elements Interactive app, which corresponds to the lesson book, Essential Elements.  Within the EEi app students have access to recordings of all book songs, fingering charts, and more. The recordings can be played many ways, which the kids love: melody alone, melody and metronome, or the melody with a choice of 4-6 different accompaniments! Students can even choose to make the piece slower. Students who actually practice using EEi love it and are making great progress. The app also has the capability for students to record themselves playing along with the accompaniment and submit it to me, but since we use Canvas as our LMS that function isn’t necessary. The EEi app has been great for my purposes because it gives students something to reference when struggling with a specific skill, such as rhythms. The students also love being able to change the accompaniment, and I suspect often play pieces more times just to hear the various options.

Flexible Seating

After learning more about classroom design over the summer I decided to obtain some flexible seating options for my students. I talked about this in my first blog post in September. What I’ve discovered, is that students enjoy having a choice in where to practice! Many have settled into their favorite spots, and several seem to prefer standing, which is always fine with me. My biggest concern about giving students options of how to sit (on the floor, on a stool, with a pillow, etc.) was that there would be posture issues. The reality is, kids who have posture issues on a chair have posture issues on a stool or sitting on the floor! So while alternative seating options didn’t cure any posture problems, it didn’t create any new ones either. Those students continue to receive posture guidance from me throughout the class. During lesson time when students are practicing alone or with a partner, they appreciate having the option to find their own workspace within the room.

Recording Studio

IMG_2774I talked about the Recording Studio in my post about Flipgrid but students use it just as often to complete Learning Target recordings. The Recording Studio is a corner of my closet that gives students a quieter place to record their videos. During lessons, students are frequently working on all different things so the room can get loud. This helps to reduce some of the background noise and adds a bit of privacy to the recording process.


The Clothes Pin System

clothes pins

I’m not completely sure where I got this idea, but I have seen others do similar things with cups on student desks. Each student or group gets 3 clothespins: a green, yellow, and red. They clip the green clothespin to the top of their music stand. Students can switch to yellow if they have a non-crucial question, and switch to red if they cannot move forward without help. This keeps students from following me around the room and interrupting time helping others. It then allows me to focus on who needs help next. The best benefit is that often students will solve their own problems while waiting for me!

Many things with the project are still evolving, which is to be expected. For example, I have decided for the 3rd quarter, students who did not succeed in meeting their goals so far will need to come up with a detailed practice plan. Something to help hold them accountable. I’m sure there will be other tweaks and adjustments along the way. It’s a learning process for all of us!


To read more about Personalized Learning, check out these posts: 

Personalized Learning: Part 1

Personalized Learning: Part 2

Using Flipgrid in Instrumental Music

I get to hear from every student and it’s encouraging them to play their instruments outside of class.

I discovered Flipgrid over the summer during some online PD I was participating in and it was pretty much love at first sight! Throughout the summer I used it professionally for book chats and discussions with other teachers and it was great. The first grid I set up was actually not for school, but for my family reunion! Our family is spread out around the country and the last full reunion was twenty years ago. I set up a grid and asked everyone to record a video prior to the reunion, telling the group where they were, what they have been up to, and things like that. It was amazing! Videos were recorded by my 88-year old grandfather, 3-year old nephew, a service dog (obviously both with help!) and everyone in between. It was so much fun watching the videos and even better, at the reunion seeing people spark conversations based on what they had watched. Apparently, my grandfather is still, 6 months later, going back to watch videos 🙂

Flipgrid is obviously a powerful tool, This year I began using it with my 4th and 5th grade Band and Orchestra classes and they LOVE it! They ask almost daily if we can use Flipgrid. Here are a couple of the ways that I have been using it.

How-To VideosIMG_2788

This was one of the first things I did with Flipgrid, and it may be one of my favorites. The students simply have to create how-to videos based on a specific skill. I had my 5th-grade orchestra students work with partners (during class) to record bow hold tutorial videos. My 4th-grade band students created videos (at home) describing how to properly assemble and hold their instruments. The benefits to this: the students have to really think through the process in order to make an accurate video, and I get to see who understands the process and who needs more clarification.

Partner Work

IMG_2790There are many times where I will have students work with a partner in class to practice de-coding rhythms, come up with a do-re-mi pattern, or something similar. At the conclusion of the activity, a small number of pairs would share what they did with the full group. By using Flipgrid, every pair could record their video, giving everyone the opportunity to share-out to the group.

Playing Assessments

While I haven’t exactly used Flipgrid for playing assessments, it is definitely an option especially using the rubric tool. Instead, I’ve used it just to encourage students to play their instruments at home! For example, in October I set up a topic for Halloween Music and handed out a sheet with 4 different Halloween songs. We worked on one of the songs in class, and the others were optional. The students were then encouraged to add videos to the topic, playing the various Halloween songs. At first, most students recorded the one we had practiced. But as soon as one student played an optional song, more of them wanted to! The next thing you know, most students had learned additional Halloween songs, meaning they had practiced their instruments on their own. And, it gave me the opportunity to hear students playing individually. I call that a teacher-win 🙂

Student Portfolios

This year I wanted to experiment with year-long student portfolios. I had some various technology restrictions so Flipgrid seemed like a good option. Right now I have a grid set up for each student. At the beginning of each marking period students recorded a goal video and then responded to that video at the end of the marking period. Students also added a video containing a song of their choosing at the end of each marking period and have been encouraged to add other videos throughout the year. So far it’s working well, and I think it will be fun in June to go back and watch their progress. My next step is to find an easy way to share these portfolios with parents, which I hope to do in the next few weeks. My one suggestion if anyone tries this: use the “Duplicate Grid” feature – I discovered that about halfway through the process!


Collaboration might be one of the greatest things about Flipgrid so far; the ability to collaborate with others outside of our school. After the success of the Halloween Music grid, I decided to create one for Holiday Music. Again I distributed a packet of holiday songs and encouraged the students to practice them. Within the grid, I set up topics for band, orchestra, and other (piano, guitar, etc.) I then shared the grid with about 7 other teachers around the country. The result was awesome! 451 videos and over 80 hours of student engagement! The videos were great, and watching the students interact with each other, leaving positive feedback and encouragement, was priceless. And again, I didn’t teach my students the holiday music; they were inspired by watching other students to learn it on their own. I also still can’t get over the fact that two students recorded a video playing Jingle Bells on the Zither! How cool is that?!

Another collaboration I am very excited about starts in a few weeks. We will be working with another elementary school in Chicago. My 5th-grade students will be creating videos in Flipgrid to explain basic techniques in playing an instrument, such as posture, playing position, breathing, etc. The videos will be shared with a group of students beginning to learn the recorder. Our hope is the students will be able to interact through the videos, my students working to be good role models and leaders for the younger students. It should be fun! Follow @ATS_MrsDMusic and @Music_Room_253 to see more about our classes and watch this project unfold.

Recording StudioIMG_2774

I was recently inspired to set up a “Recording Studio” in my classroom, to give students a somewhat private and quieter space to record videos. Using a corner in my closet this is what I came up with. While it’s not perfect, it is nice for my shy students to have a private place to record their goal videos, and it also helps eliminate some of the background noise when 7 students are practicing different things and one wants to record a video. You can check out the blog post that inspired me here: “How to Build a Recording Studio.”

While there are many other ways Flipgrid could be used in instrumental music, this is what I’ve done so far. The students really enjoy it, and the benefits for me are huge: I get to hear from every student and it’s encouraging them to play their instruments outside of class. I’d love to hear from anyone else with great ideas for using Flipgrid in band and orchestra!


**Update: June 2018 – Flipgrid is now completely FREE for everyone! They have joined forces with Microsoft to bring all educators free use of all Flipgrid features. I highly recommend signing up for an account.

**Update: March 2018 – be sure to check out the awesome Flipgrid Explorer Series for Music in Our Schools Month! This series will include a place for students to learn about careers in music, talk about what they love about music and why it’s important, and even share videos performing music! It’s not to miss. Learn more about the series: Flipgrid Explorer Series: Music or go directly to the grid: Explorer Series: Music.  (password = music) While this series is now over, it’s still worth checking out some of the videos.

Using Flipgrid in Instrumental Music

I just finished this sketchnote as part of the #flipgridfever #sketchnotes challenge – it’s not fancy, but it was fun to make!


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Personalized Learning: Part 2

I began writing about my Personalized Learning plan back in October, shortly after it was introduced to the students. Now that the first quarter is over I’ve had a chance to evaluate the results and am starting to make some changes moving forward.

To quickly recap, during the first quarter, students were given a list of Learning Targets (skills) and were asked to set a goal of how many they would be able to show mastery of by the end of the quarter. To show mastery, students had to submit a video of themselves playing a song to demonstrate each skill. I suggested three songs that would work for each Learning Target, and also offered the option for students to choose their own song. In addition to the video, students also had to leave a written comment, explaining the skill that was mastered.  All videos and comments were to be turned in through Canvas, which is the new LMS my county has introduced. Students were given time during class and also were to use home practice time to complete the Learning Targets.


At the end of the quarter these are the results for my orchestra students:

  • 45% of the students thought they had met or exceeded their goals
  • 27% actually met their goal (meaning, the skill was correctly mastered and the comments were included)
  • 9% exceeded their goals
  • 30% did not have 1 video successfully completed

The thing that surprised me the most was the number of students who turned in a video and then NEVER went back to check the feedback to discover either the video was not correct or the comments were missing! Most thought that since the video was turned in the Learning Target was complete – even though I reminded them at the beginning of each class to check the feedback on any submitted videos. Many did not leave a comment, or did not leave an appropriate comment (they said something like, “I mastered playing Hot Cross Buns” instead of naming the skill, “I mastered playing songs with 3 notes”). I have not finished all of the calculations for the band students, but just glancing the percentages seem very similar.

There were several students who commented on the end of quarter evaluation that they enjoyed the freedom they had this quarter. Many seemed to appreciate having choices, which is exactly what I  hoped! Quite a few students also mentioned wishing they had more time to practice. I don’t know what the solution is for this. Maybe starting a lunch time practice club? Or something after school? I don’t know yet.

Things that made me smile: when asked if there was anything else they wanted to tell me, here were some heartwarming responses:

  • “I want her to know that I really like the new way she is doing things by letting people work at their own pace.”
  • “I have loved playing violin.”
  • “I enjoy playing with Mrs.Ducassoux because she pushes me to practice a lot so I can get better, and to love music as much as she does.”
  • “I would like her to know she will never know how thankful I am for this great experience.”

There were also some students who said they still feel lost, and need more help. Others who want more time working as a full group. Which is to be understood. Full group instruction is what they are used to, and what they are comfortable with.

My goals moving forward:

  • Be more deliberate about mini-lessons at the beginning of each class
  • Provide more opportunities for students to lead mini-lessons
  • Get students to understand that learning targets are skills, and not songs. Maybe during class have students verbalize the skill that is being practiced
  • Offer additional practice times during/before/after the school day
  • Conference with individuals more frequently to assess progress
  • Help students make and stick to a plan for completing their quarterly goals

So, I would say this project is a work in progress. Some things are going well, others need to be tweaked. But overall I think it’s on the right track. This is a huge change from the way I’ve done things in the past, and a huge change from the way I was taught. But George Couros reminded us in “The Innovator’s Mindset” to think about change this way:

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”

This has the potential to be something amazing. I’m excited about what it can do for my students! clark-tibbs-367075


To read more about Personalized Learning, check out these posts: 

Personalized Learning: Part 1

Personalized Learning: Part 3, How it Works