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Great American Sing-Along will be held Monday night

Farmington Elementary School students use a computer program to hone their singing skills.

Sometimes, teachers can learn a thing or two from kids. Like, for instance, how kids tend to enjoy anything - anything whatsoever - that resembles a video game. And when it comes to finding new teaching tools, that is a very valuable lesson for teachers.

So really, it should come as no surprise the Great American Sing Challenge's Sing-Along, the technology-driven vocal music program, has been greeted by enthusiasm by Farmington's third graders.

The Great American Sing Challenge is a new, national initiative in its second year. Farmington is a pilot location for the program, which means District 192 is one of only a handful of school districts around Minnesota to use it so far. The program has a singing coach software program, which prompts students to try to reach the right notes as they sing.

It's really not all that different from the vocals on a game of Rock Band. The students hold a microphone. The words and notes are presented on a computer screen, but the format is just like old-fashioned sheet music. The music starts and students have to sing.

The challenge, initially, is to hit all the notes and right words.

"They can see the notes on the Smart Board, see how they match. It's real-time, and it gives them a score when they're done. They love it," McNamara said.

McNamara and the other elementary teachers in the district started the program last fall. They introduced it to the third grade students in each building and showed them how it works. Then, each student took a turn to see how well he or she could do.

The GASC program tallies up each score. Then, over the course of the school year, kids were invited to work on their vocal skills on several occasions. McNamara even had a few students who wanted to skip recess to come into her classroom and practice.

Just a few weeks ago, all of the students took the challenge in class once again to see how much they had improved over the course of the year. While one student would sing into the microphone, the others would watch the results on the Smart Board, cheering for each of their classmates along the way.

The 30 students from each school who have the highest scores were then chosen to be part of a district-wide sing-along concert, planned for next Monday evening. Those 30 third graders in each of District 192's elementaries have been working on the same set of songs for the past week.

"It will be one big sing-along," McNamara said. "We'll put the music up on a PowerPoint, and the kids will lead the audience and just kind of celebrate singing."

The concert begins at 6:30 p.m., June 7, and will be held in the recital hall at Farmington High School. It's open to the public, too - especially those who like to sing.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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