GarageBand in the US History Classroom

My full circle moment. Almost one year later.

Monica Burns from Class Tech Tips wrote an intriguing article about using GarageBand in the reading classroom in 2016 and posted it on Twitter. I blogged last July about how I'd like to use this with my Student Historians. That opportunity finally came and the result was profound, especially for one group of students.

My History classes have studied the Civil War the past two years by completing an iMovie. I created a twist, though, each group studied one year of the war and ranked three events of that year they feel most strongly impacted the end of the war. Students needed to use investigative and discovery skills to learn about the entire war, then the impact of their focus year. Groups were required to find three primary sources related to those events, one Mathew Brady photograph from that year, and a piece of Civil War-era music (not necessarily from their focus year).

The GarageBand article gave the project another direction. Teams were challenged to compose an original piece of music about the feelings their three event choices evoke. These composers were expected to cite themselves and name their composition in their Works Cited--how cool to see your name alongside National Archives documents in a Works Cited!

Students asked if the music had to sound historic or could it be modern. My answer: "Make a good decision." Students asked what kind of instruments they should use. My answer: "Make a good decision." One guess what my answer was when asked, "How long should the song be?" Students knew I'd never used GarageBand with students and didn't know exactly how much they could do with the app--their learning would guide us all. 

One student in particular was really noteworthy. He had been interested in other projects throughout the year but the musical aspect greatly appealed to him. I was astounded by the depth of his music piece and the reasoning behind the nuances in his composition. He understands the Civil War so much more deeply now, because of this addition to the project. He explained his vision to a group member, an excellent writer. She put words to his thoughts in the composition explanation (at the 1:38 mark in the video). An interesting note? The Civil War-era music piece, "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" at the end of the video, was a requirement of mine but I actually wished they hadn't included it! That piece doesn't lend itself to their work at all--lesson learned on my part. 

I get goosebumps every time I view this project. I will definitely use GarageBand in my project-based learning opportunities from now on (sparingly, so it is still intriguing to students by the end of the school year). 

Congratulations on a fantastic project, Student Historians!

Burns, Monica. "How-To Use GarageBand in the Reading Classroom." Class Tech Tips, 5 Nov. 2016, Accessed 10 June 2018.


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