Grade 5

Staff Wars app for iOS

Like many of you, I’m gearing up to go into full-scale planning mode for the next two weeks. Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reviewing and revising what I’ve done in past years and have gathered a lot of new ideas that I’m eager to try. The review process also reminds me of the lessons that were big hits with my classes, both with students (the fun factor) and myself (level of learning and assessment outcomes).

One of my student’s favorite learning activities is playing Staff Wars. This is a free app for iOS that is available through the App Store. I’ve used this with my 4th and 5th grade classes, but it could work with 3rd grade as well. Middle and high school students, as well as adults, can use this tool to improve their pitch reading skills on treble, bass and alto clefs. This clever app turns reading into a self-directed learning game! I’ve found it to be the perfect activity to leave in my sub plans. Very little, if any, teacher guidance is needed which is an important consideration in my county where chances of getting a sub with enough musical skills to teach my usual lesson plans are less than zero.

This past winter I decided to turn a “Staff Wars Day” into a tournament. I’m blessed with a set of 30 iPads assigned to my room for use in both music and technology classes so my students are 1:1 for this activity, but this can also be done up to a 1:4 ratio. The class is divided into groups of 4. Each student plays up to 8 rounds and records their scores, then averages them to find the winner. As the sheets are turned in, winner’s scores are compared to find the overall class champ.

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This could also be used as a formative assessment by putting each student’s score to a simple rubric. One of the highlights of my past teaching year was when I was preparing to introduce D on the recorder to my 4th grade classes. I had the exercise on the screen and was just beginning my usual new note lesson for the first class and was shocked when I had most of them blurt out “That’s a D!”. When I told them they were correct and asked them how they knew they said they had already learned that pitch from playing Staff Wars. Self-directed learning for the win!

My calendar is beginning to fill up already with dates that I’ll have to be out of my classroom for district training and conferences so this activity will certainly be in my Sub Tub bag of tricks. Wouldn’t you rather leave them with a useful, self-directed activity than another DVD? I know I do.

Download the PDF copy of Jedi Pitch Tournament, or make your own!