MiM Project: A Review

The thought of summer seems so long ago now that the school is in full swing.
I stop now to think back to the glorious days of summer.

This past summer was full of learning. I read books, blogs and checked out all of the wonderful sites my PLN had shared every day. Each day was packed with great discoveries.

So I started making a list of things I wanted to try this fall.

First project I wanted to start this year with my 8th graders came from @JaworskiMusic (Nick Jaworski) whom I’ve recently gotten to know. He has a fabulous blog about music education and teaching. One particular post, Music as Identity, caught my attention. Intentionally, I didn’t listen to a student project Nicholas had posted, but wanted to adapt this project for my students*. Thanks, Nick, for a great idea! This is how I remixed your lesson (now I can listen to your student’s project). * Nick’s students are High School students and mine are in Middle School.

Neon music sign
Image via Wikipedia

Music in Me Project

Make a 2-3 minute audio collage about the music you like and what you think it says about you.

This was a perfect way for me to learn several things about my students in the beginning of the year:

  • What role does music play in students’ lives?
  • What kind of music affects them or have meaning?
  • How will they express their thoughts in narrative writing?
  • How long were they going to take to edit music and audio recording in GarageBand/Audacity?

So with excitement, I explained the project to my students (given to them as well in the project handout). There were a lot of legit questions from them:

  1. Could we use songs with explicit words? Answer: Yes, as this was a project about them. I wanted them to own their project and create something they were going to feel good about. Each student were to bring their 4-5 selections of MP3s to upload into school iMacs. We also planned to get rid of explicit songs so that younger students wouldn’t access them.
  2. Do we have to start writing on Google Docs? – Answer: No. But eventually, what you write should be shared with me so that I can give some feedback or assess their progress and for easy access.
  3. Wait, what is an audio collage?Answer: Selections of music pieced together, edited by the students. The narration will either introduce the songs or be playing while the music is playing.
  4. I don’t know how to edit songs. – Answer: You will! Let’s get working so that you will learn.

So for next three weeks, students (we meet twice in 6-day rotation):

  • chose 4-5 songs they love and reflect who they are.
  • created their narratives on Google Docs. This made it so easy for me to instantaneously check their work and make comments and communicate with them.
  • learned to export MP3 files from their personal collections and import them onto school iTunes.
  • learned to use GarageBand to create and edit the project: trimming mp3s, fading in and out, controlling volume, balancing overall volume.
  • recorded their narrative and edit it to lay it over the edited music tracks. I use H2 Zoom recorder in my classroom. It’s the first generation of the Zoom recorders, but I love using it!

What I’m Learning: The Teacher’s View

Students were free to work on any part of the project during the class times so students needed to manage time well. When they started, it was a usual start: the motivated students started brainstorming, writing down ideas feverishly.  And then there was a group of students who sat around, doing very little. The momentum of this project was definitely set by the “busy” guys.

I was helping students recording their narratives and occasionally reminding students to work. Some students ended up not having much done (they wrote a couple of sentences on GoogleDocs) by the end of the first class. Why were they not being creative? Did they have too much freedom to explore and learn?

So much for that thought.

By the second and third class, I began to see something interesting. One by one, those not-much-producing students, began to show me what they were working on. After each class, these students went home and worked on their projects at home on their laptops. [N.B. Our school allows students to bring their own from home for school use.]  Because they didn’t use the class time, these students worked at home. They edited their narrative and recorded it on their own. Exploration went beyond classroom walls and über cool and creative projects ended up coming from these students.

Another interesting discovery was in students’ reflections. I found so much maturity in their voice in expressing the “whys”. Here are some examples of my students’ reflections:

Music reflects a lot about me because it’s what makes my personality. I listen to music whenever I’m on my computer. I listen to music when I am doing homework because it blocks out all other noises and it helps me to concentrate.
I can’t say music defines me, but I can say I love to listen to music.  It helps me concentrate when I do my homework.
Music means a lot to me because my life would be a lot less happier and nicer without it. I love the feeling you get when your favorite song just came on the radio and that rush of needing to belt out the words along with it! Music helps me gain more energy in the morning- it gets me excited for the day. Music makes the world have more pizazz, and is extremely entertaining.
Music is important to me in many ways. It brings me up when I’m down. It pumps me up and makes me feel like I can do anything.    Music is a must have.

It didn’t matter if the student was a girl or boy. For 98% of my students music mattered more than I had expected [one students did not like to listen to music or owned an iPod. We tweaked the project to something he can relate to. I’ll be honest – we struggled a long time to find this tweaked version, but in the end, the student did a fabulous job talking about the role of music]. I discovered how deeply my students were connected to music. I especially loved the way they expressed their identity tied to stories of family and friends. I was also surprised to hear playlists that consist extreme genres from classical to punk rock.

Technically speaking, students spent a lot of time editing and learning to use either GarageBand or Audacity. They learned a lot by making mistakes, taking chances, and asking questions. I really liked how many students helped other students when a question was being asked. Needless to say, our two rooms were never quiet (except for recording times).

Listen to some tracks from my students:

Moving Forward  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>

Students’ finished mp3s were loaded up to iTunes. Using SoundCloud, I got an embeddable player so that I can embed it onto the class Google Sites page. Students listened to each other’s collage and gave constructive feedback. Since they all took a long time make these projects, I also wanted to give them a personalized feedback and assessment. I filled out this form and gave each of my students a feed back. I wrote everything in detail except the final grade and asked each student what they learned from this project. Their responses included how excited they were to learn to use GarageBand to create their project. A few were annoyed at how hard they had to work using the application. Some were so surprised to hear what different musical tastes everyone had. A handful of students recommended that I should start next year’s 8th grade year with this project because they had so much fun.

I learned  so much about my students. I also learned that I need to encourage them to be creative by creating a creative space and time. I’m learning to be patient!

My students ARE passionate about music and life. Now what?

Here are some questions I’m thinking of answering in a future post:

What am I going to do with this discovery now that I know what huge role music has in their life? How can I channel this passion to help them to learn more about music and guitar (all students learn how to play)? What other ways can I connect with them and learn about what I need to teach them?

Stay tuned!

22 thoughts on “MiM Project: A Review

  1. This looks and sounds amazing!

    The Music as Identity project was my second unit when I taught high school and about a third of the way through in my college course. I agree with the idea that it would make a GREAT ice breaker – my students really enjoyed listening to all of the finished pieces. It also helps me to get a better understanding of each student – their music, script, and voice giving me some new insights.

    I’ll probably email you at some point to “talk shop”. I’m REALLY excited that you found this useful in the classroom and I’m equally excited to see how the Internet allows teachers to directly communicate their ideas with each other.

    Tell your students that their projects are incredible!

  2. Nick,
    I can’t get over how fun this project was for my students. It was so rewarding to listen to who they were through music.
    We celebrated as individuals and a community through this project – thank you for posting it & sharing it with the world.

    I look forward to many more conversations with you,


  3. Thanks for sharing this great unit! It fits perfectly into my curriculum and I can’t wait to do this at the beginning of the semester. I’m also looking forward to exploring SoundCloud. I’m curious to know how you taught them to use audacity- did you give them written directions, or explain everything verbally? Is there a tutorial you directed them to?

    1. When I’ve taught Audacity, I simply walk them through the steps. They only need to know a small handful of concepts before they can play on their own. Possibly Yoon has some materials, but letting the kids discover a lot of the tools on their own will create a sense of ownership.

    2. Thank you, Christin. I can’t wait to hear what you did with this lesson.
      As for Audacity, I’m like Nick – I let the students explore and find out about “how things work”. I did, however, provide this link: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Audacity_Wiki_Home_Page so that they were able to work at home. When they had questions in class, I was able to help them. (It was pretty much the same for GarageBand).
      I started using SoundCloud not too long ago. It’s a great way to share music.
      Thanks for visiting!

  4. This is great stuff! I am thinking about doing this in my High School Grade 11/12 vocal music classes.

    I have a question: in your post, you mention that you embedded Soundcloud files in your Google Sites page. I have a Google Sites page and unfortunately, I need a little guidance for embedding the files. How did you do it?

    1. Hi Eric,

      I’d be happy to happy to guide you. First sign up for SoundCloud and upload files. To get the embed code, click on “share” (left corner) and copy “embed code”. Now in Google Sites, go to desired page. In the “edit” mode, you can insert the embed code like this: Click on the HTML and paste the SoundCloud embed code before
      . That should do it!

      Please do let me know how your project turned out for you and your students.

      ~ Yoon

  5. I’m in the process of adapting this for use in my 8th grade. Did you play any examples for your students before you started/during the process? I want them to have a clear picture of what we’re aiming for… but I don’t want to influence them too much.

    1. Hi,

      I did not play any examples for my students for that very reason. I played excerpts of some of my favorite songs and talked about how I connect to the music to get them to think how their project will sound like in the end. I’m excited for you and your students to get into this project. Please share a link when you have finished it. I’d love to read your post.
      Thanks for visiting my blog!

  6. I thought that your explanation was very helpful and just downright fabulous! I am a High School Music Director in Chicago, Illinois on the very far southside. I just began working at my school in September and each day has been quite the challenge for me; however, when I found this project I just knew that my students would love it…at least that was my thoughts.

    We’ve been working on this project for a little while now and it’s taking quite a bit of time. I’m using this project to not only get to know my students better; however, to open many of them up, as so many of them all like the same types of music and are very closed minded to other genres of music.

    Now, from all that has been stated in your post, it seems to me like much of the work on your part was done online using such things as google docs, soundcloud, and more. Exactly what is soundcloud and what does the google doc allow you to really do? I’m not familiar with either of these things. Also, would you think that this works out better through posting instructions and all online for students to access at any time or simply going over everything in the classroom only?

    1. Hi Tavious,

      Thanks for reading the post!
      SoundCloud is a site that allows you to upload recording to share with an online audience. You will need to sign up for a free account to start uploading files. Completed student projects were uploaded online using SoundCloud so that I can use the playlist to be embedded on the class website.
      Google Doc is a Google version of Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages. When I create a document, I can share it with all of my students. When the students are working on their projects, I can give them feedbacks on their document. If technology is limited at your school, you can always use the traditional method. I think the tech that was used made things efficient for me.

      Best wishes for the rest of the school year!

    1. Hi Renovia,

      Great question.
      The particulars of this project will not work with streaming music. If the students are not willing to purchase songs,modify the project so that students talk about the music without including the music. Perhaps these students can focus more on the text rather then the music.
      I think the project will have different feel, but it can still be done and modified.
      If you are good with giving two separate assessments for added music students and text only students, I think it’ll work. You will end up with a good mix of reflection!

      Good luck!

      Thanks for reading,


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