The Students First Lesson on The XOs: Tam Tam Mini

Today was the first day we tried the XO-1s at Arrowhead School. Dorothy Jett and I had outlined a possible lesson when we met last week and I had prepared visuals for use with the class.  We did a lesson with Tam Tam Mini for a group of 18 second and third grade students.  There were 9 working computers so we had two students for each machine.

The students were very excited about getting to use the XOs for the first time. Many of them had seen them on TV and in magazine ads so they already knew a little bit about them. Mrs Jett had paired students from the 2 classes in a way she felt would work best, and, for the most part it did, even though they were really, really excited about what they were doing.

We began with a quick overview on opening the XO, turning it on and selecting an Activity from the Home screen.  Of course we selected Tam Tam Mini (Note: I had planned to cover closing an activity and turning off the XO at this point, but in the interest of time, decided to move that part of the lesson to the end).

After everyone had Tam Tam Mini open, we looked at the parts of the screen. I told them about the rhythm box and many knew what that was.  I also told them that would come in another lesson, that today we would concentrate on playing a couple of songs.

I told them how to choose an instrument and adjust the sound level.  For simplicity, I asked them to all choose the saxophone.  Then we tried to turn up the sound without a lot of luck.  There must be a way to get more sound out.  One XO refused to make any sound so I lent that pair of students my (G1G1) XO for the lesson.

Next we looked at where the notes are located on the keyboard. For this lesson we were going to stick with the notes on the first row (Z to ,) for both songs. This is probably a good idea with young children like these. A quick show of hands showed that 4 or 5  of them had already had piano lessons and knew the names of the musical notes.

Anticipating this, I had prepared a couple of resources to help all the students learn that the names of the keys were not the same as the musical names of the notes. One was a copy of the XO keyboard with the names of the notes also printed on them in the upper right hand corner of each key.  In addition, we had a resource adapted from one used in Latin America that showed the piano keyboard, the musical note names, and the names of the XO keys to play to get each note.  The object was not for them to learn all this today, but to have a start on it with something to refer to as they play music with the XOs in future lessons.

Then we passed out song sheets for our first song. “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”  This had the words to the song along with the note names and the names of the keys they would play to get the notes.  We started with the child on the “window” side of the room at each desk play first while the “door” people said the key names quietly.  After a few tries, the children traded roles and the door people played while the window people said the key names.  This worked alright, but since learning the key names wasn’t of much educational value, we tried something better in the next song.

The second song was “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  The resource for this one was the actual notes on the staff, named, with words and the names of the keys they would be playing included as well.  This time I asked the children who weren’t playing to sing the song as the others played.  This worked better, and from an ear training perspective had a lot more value.  (I wonder, how closely tuned to A440 is the XO? I will have to check it. These children are still young enough to benefit from singing a lot of songs in tune to build a good sense of pitch. Eight and under seems to be the magic age for this and these children were, mostly 7 and 8 year olds).

We were about out of time, so after all the children had had a chance to play (and sing) the song, we moved to how to close the Activity and turn off the XOs (also how to put to sleep). Then we closed them and the students got ready for recess.

Most of them were still very excited about the lesson and wanted to know how and when they could try them again.  Mrs Jett told the children they  would have times during the school day when they would have a chance to work individually, using headphones so they won’t disturb other students.  She will make the resources available when they do this.  They will also have a chance to try other instruments and sounds and, perhaps to even write their own songs.

I will be leaving Montana for California this weekend, but will remain in contact with Mrs Jett, helping create new lessons and resource materials.  This lesson is only a tiny beginning. It will probably take a couple of weeks for the students to feel comfortable with the materials in this lesson.  The second grade students will have more access to the XOs and can learn and mentor the third graders when the two classes are together.

Stay tuned for updates, progress reports, and new lessons and resources!

Note:  I will post the resources made for this lesson in the “Resources” section, probably this evening.  I will include all that I made, even those we did not use as others may find them useful.

5 thoughts on “The Students First Lesson on The XOs: Tam Tam Mini

  1. You ask, “I wonder, how closely tuned to A440 is the XO? I will have to check it.”

    I wonder if you could use the Measure activity (on a second XO) for this purpose.

  2. Awesome! I am going to be a devoted student of Tam Tam to all of you. Music on the XO with Sugar and …singing along too, is is an area I would love to work with. I hope we can begin a programme with the children at a project here in India and share/collaborate with your school.

  3. Have you created any more lessons? I’d love to get copies of any resources you have developed for the XO. I’ve signed up to follow your blog, but I know it can be hard to keep it updated.

    Janissa Balcomb
    Laptops to Lesotho Inc

  4. I am down to the final editing of a TamTamMini instruction ebook! It will be available free on the FLOSS manual site soon. I’ll let you know when it is ready. It has more lesson ideas I think you all will enjoy trying.

    I also checked the XO’s pitch accuracy with a clip-on electronic tuner. It is surprisingly well in tune. Some notes are right on, others seem to be a bit flat. It also varied some with the instrument chosen.

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