Updated August 2020
It’s time this post got an upgrade! I wrote about Flipgrid for the first time in January, 2018 and since that time the tool has gone through a number of amazing updates. I used Flipgrid for the first time during the summer of 2017 through an online PD program for book chats and discussions with teachers in the program. It was love at first sight! For those unfamiliar, Flipgrid is a video response platform used to amplify student voice. While it wasn’t originally intended for music classes, many music teachers around the world have embraced this exceptional tool.
The first grid I created was 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 created a grid and asked everyone to record a video prior to the reunion, telling the group where they were living, what they have been up to, and things like that. It was amazing! My 88-year-old grandfather recorded a video, along with my 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 still, years later, goes back to watch videos 🙂
The family reunion experience proved that Flipgrid is a powerful tool. I used it for a few years with my elementary band and orchestra students and use it now with my middle school music students. They all enjoy it! Here are a few suggestions for how you can use Flipgrid in instrumental music.
Sharing Musical Voices
Music is meant to be shared, and Flipgrid is the perfect tool to make that happen! I will frequently use Flipgrid as an informal way for students to share their music making. Encourage students to share videos playing their favorite songs, music surrounding a specific theme (we did John Williams week in the spring!) or just something goofy! Maybe you have student composers, or students who play secondary instruments like piano, guitar, or ukulele. Anything that gets students playing their instruments and sharing with others is a “win” in my book.
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. At the beginning of the year 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 must have a solid understanding of the process to make an accurate video, and I get to see who understands and who needs more clarification.
There are many times where I will have students work with a partner or small group in class to practice a new skill. In the past, I would have a few groups share what they did with the full ensemble, but there was never enough time to hear from every group. By using Flipgrid, instead groups can record a video of their work and share with the class this way.
Flipgrid is also a great tool for playing assessments. Most music teachers would love to hear students play assessments for them in person, but with time constraints, few of us have this luxury. With Flipgrid, students can record their playing assessments at home, recording as many takes as necessary to get it right. Teachers can then grade the playing tests when they have time. You can give feedback to students using an included rubric, written comments, or by video. One hint – you may want to moderate all videos when using Flipgrid for assessment purposes. This means only the teacher can view the video, it does not show up in the grid. Many students don’t want their tests visible to the entire class, which is understandable!
Consider using Flipgrid for student portfolios! There are two simple ways to do this: giving each student a topic, or creating a Mix Tape.
You can create a topic for each individual student and have students add videos to their topic throughout the school year or over several school years! Encourage students to reflect on each video they submit, discussing why they included the piece, why they are proud of it, or other similar topics. This puts the creation of the portfolio in the student’s hands, and encourages them to take ownership of the process. Hint: use the “Duplicate Topic” feature to make the creation process faster.
The other method requires more work for the teacher, but still isn’t complicated. You could create a Mixtape for each student compiled of all their video submissions from the year. Mixtapes can be shared with anyone, such as the students’ family or a scholarship committee.
This might be one of the greatest things about Flipgrid so far: the ability to connect and collaborate with others outside of our classrooms. Flipgrid is considered a “walled garden,” meaning, you determine who has access to the grid and videos. Because of this, it’s easy and safe to connect with other classes, musicians, and educators!
A great place to start is within your school district. Is there an ensemble you could connect with for peer mentorship or recruiting purposes? High school band students could create videos for middle school students, encouraging them to sign-up for high school band. Or middle school students could create videos for elementary school students, talking about why they love band and chose their particular instrument. Often we talk about the value in having an authentic audience, an audience other than classmates and the teacher, to motivate students. Using Flipgrid to connect your students with others outside of your classroom is a great example of an authentic audience.
Several times my students had the option to take part in a Holiday Music Flipgrid. I would distribute a packet of holiday songs and encourage the students to practice them if interested. Within Flipgrid, I set up topics for band, orchestra, and other instruments (piano, guitar, etc.), and then shared it with several music teachers around the country so their students could contribute as well. One year there were 451 videos contributed and over 80 hours of student engagement!
Watching the students interact with each other, leaving positive feedback and encouragement, was priceless. I didn’t have to spend class time teaching the holiday music; they learned it on their own. Most students practiced extra because the videos they watched inspired them. One year a student even played Jingle Bells on the Zither and then explained what the instrument was and where it came from. It was an awesome experience for everyone involved.
If you will have students record videos in class, consider adding a “Recording Studio” to your room. I used the corner of a closet for this purpose, and while it’s not perfect, it is nice for my shy students to have a private place to record their goal videos. It also helps eliminate some background noise, especially if seven students are practicing different things and one wants to record a video. You can check out the blog post that inspired my recording studio here: “How to Build a Recording Studio.”
Where to Begin?
Not sure where to begin? Download “5 Flipgrid Topics to Start the Year” – five easy topics to get you, and your students, started with Flipgrid!