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Four Awesome Project Ideas for Garageband

As an instructional coach, I often get called in to bat for teachers who need help coming up with a project or refining a rough idea. Occasionally, I get emails that begin with the following sentence; “Hey, I want my kids to use ________ in class on _________, have any ideas for a project?”

Some support providers may find this to be an annoyance or an attempt by a teacher to score an extra prep period, but I see it as a blank slate. I’m being given 45 minutes to do whatever I want with a tech tool and a room full of students? Sweet!

The most recent incarnation of this email came from a teacher who has all but a few of her kids in chorus, and as such when the rest of the class goes to band practice these 8 are left behind with nothing to do aside from stare longingly at the door and count the spots on the carpet. Although this isn’t the worst use of their time, the teacher, being a good teacher, thought something more academic and artsy might be better. So, she decided they were going to learn Garageband on the iPad.

If you’ve never used this app you’re missing out! It is truly amazing that this app comes free with every new iPhone and iPad. Even people who don’t know anything about music can get started right away by using the Smart Instruments and the Autoplay functions and generally students can figure out the rest pretty quickly on their own.

But preventing it from becoming random playtime is tougher and requires more planning then simply learning about the app. You want to give the students meaningful and authentic work, preferable linked to standards or other subjects.

Here are five suggestions that we are working on currently you may want to consider yourself;

1. Now That Sounds Like Character – (I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was the inspiration for this first idea) Students will use Garageband to create an original piece of music that could be the theme song to a book character. Beginning with a character study (CCSS ELA) students pull apart a character from the novel they are reading. They must think critically about the characters emotions, motivations, background, and actions and assign them descriptive words. They then spend time analyzing music and assigning it emotions as well through a guided inquiry process led by the teacher who asks questions like; What does sadness sound like? What kinds of emotions does this song evoke in you? How would you describe this music? Following that, the students use Garageband to create a two-minute piece of music that could be the characters’ personal soundtrack.

2. Move over Danny Elfman – Students will use Garageband to create an original soundtrack for one section of their novel. They will then read that selection, matching to the music as they go. Similar to the last idea, this project idea take a novel they are reading and asks students to analyze one passage, breaking it down to individual components so it can be matched to music (CCSS ELA, VAPA standards for drama) Students must first map out the arc of the passage, identifying components like rising action, conflict, dialoge, and other literary clues so they can understand how the author’s words illicit feelings. They then match those feelings to music and produce a soundtrack in GarageBand that they use to accompany their dramatic reading of the passage. This reading can be performed live or recorded into Garageband.

3. Sir Richard Attenborough – Students will use Garageband to create the musical background for a YouTube video showing animal behavior. This project requires a little extra work as the videos the students select will need to be downloaded and imported into iMovie (more on this in a future blog post) but the idea is that students learn about how music is used to enhance and accompany film footage. For this project we watched a mini-documentary about movie music composers and what they do. Students then get to search for a video of an animal on YouTube and use Garageband to use music to enhance the story. They are also allowed to add narration or dialogue. The narration can be used to discuss and describe an animal, its behavior or things about the habitat and living requirements the animal has (NGSS)

4. The 1/5th Project – Students will use Garageband to create a song around a single chord or note set created with a real instrument. If you have students how are already skilled musicians, you’ll love this next idea. You give each student an instrument (either real where they play the notes or from YouTube where someone demonstrated the instrument) Make it as exotic as possible. Students must they use the recording at their base and build a song around it using the other instrument in Garageband. Percussion instruments or toys like kazoos are especially helpful here as they add an element of chaos to the mix.

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