Search This Blog

Friday, November 30, 2018

Checking for understanding: The Possibilities of SeeSaw

Right before school started I posted about my plans to use SeeSaw in my classroom for playing tests.  So far I think it has been beneficial for students to do playing tests using this technology.  I've learned a few things about implementing SeeSaw for playing tests:

1.  Younger students struggle more with getting online to complete assignments at home.  Most rely on parent phones or computer to do the assignments.  Because of this, it is essential to involve the parents when teaching students how to sign-up for SeeSaw.

2.  Plan on spending one entire class period to help students create their accounts.  I tried to send emails home to have students sign on, but most didn't do it.  It worked best to have them all sign up at school with my help.  Once students have their accounts, they can complete a quick assignment in SeeSaw to help them learn to navigate the program.  It is very user friendly and students haven't had trouble.

3.  Review the class settings.  The default setting is for students to see each other's work.  I opted to change my settings to make each student portfolio private....but I can see benefits from keeping it all open as well.

Now that I've gotten better acquainted with SeeSaw, I've gotten so many more ideas for ways to implement student activities and check for understanding.  There are MANY uses for SeeSaw in an orchestra classroom...playing tests are just the beginning!  I love that SeeSaw helps get students thinking and working OUTSIDE of class.  This technology helps me reach students on a whole new level.

Here are 14 possibilities for utilizing SeeSaw in a string orchestra class:

1.  Have students record themselves clapping a rhythm.
2.  Have students record themselves saying note-names to a passage of music.
3.  Peer review - allow students to comment on classmates videos.
4.  Playing tests - self evaluated or teacher evaluated
5.  Before/after practice assignment
6.  Label parts of the instrument
7.  Definitions/musical terms - vocab
8.  Critique - watch a video (performance) and answer questions
9.  Take of picture of your bow hold
10.  Tutorials - students teach how to ___________.
11.  Draw/label bowings to a passage
12.  Draw notes on the staff
13.  Getting to know you - post your favorite thing
14.  Draw how the music makes you feel.


Do you wish you could see all of this and experiment with how it would work for your students?  Well you can!  I made a SAMPLE ORCHESTRA class on SeeSaw and you can sign in as a student to my sample class and try out these activities.  Just go to   and click on are instructions - just type in the code and you're in!

Feel free to play with the assignments and you can even submit sample work....just be aware that other 'teacher-students' who sign in will be able to see your posts.

*NOTE - the code expires after 7 days.  If you are reading this post after Dec. 7, 2018 you can email me for a new code:

By the way, I don't work for SeeSaw....I'm just posting these ideas just for the benefit of my readers.  I think it's a great resource to implement technology and check for understanding as you teach important techniques and concepts.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

High School grading for Orchestra - practice record


I'm teaching high school this year.  My junior high program is huge with over 300 students...but many were dropping in between junior high and high school.  I decided to have another teacher take on part of my junior high program to free me up to teach at the high school to help strengthen the program and retain students.  So far it's been really fun and I enjoy the change.  I worried about having to switch between 2 schools, but it's been totally fine. 

The majority of my students grades at the high school level are based on playing tests which they send me through SeeSaw (  Last term I had a couple students who did not send me ANY playing tests until the day before the concert...and that drove me a little crazy because it defeats the whole purpose of the test!  Students need to master the measures I assign at the time I assign them - because their playing affects the entire group - the rehearsals and the performance.  It doesn't feel good to be dragging students along.  This term I decided to make new policy and stop accepting late playing tests.  The problem is I know some students will still miss one could potentially fail my class.  I decided there has to be some sort of a make up assignment.

Here's how I've structured it.  Playing tests are turned in on time.  Any playing test can be re-submitted for a higher score - as long as it was initially turned in on time.  A make up assignment can be completed if a playing test was missed, although it can only make up a fraction of the points that could have been earned by doing the playing test. 

This is my make-up assignment - a 5 page practice journal.   I'm hoping students realize that the playing test is easier...but I guess if they want to fill all this out and practice every day for fewer points...that works for me, too.  Enjoy.  :)