I arrive at school at 7.45. I spend the first part of the day making sure I am ready for the various activities ahead. At 8.30 I teach a one-to-one piano lesson for half an hour. We look at a two pieces together. I draw attention to the chords that makes up each bar of these basic I-IV-V tunes. At 9 o’clock I take a call from the office: one of the trumpet students has returned her trumpet because she is going to stop. I did not know about this. I look at some emails and see that the trumpet teacher is ill today. I go to several classrooms to let the trumpet students know that there won’t be any lessons today.
We start the lesson in a lively fashion. Last week I taught the class a simple song called Bala Pata Zum (by all accounts a song from Ghana, though I cannot give you a translation and I’m sure what we are singing here is a simplified version). It is simple, but combined with a different action for each word it becomes more of a whole-body challenge. I encourage everyone to face their Music Partner so that we can all help each other to get it right. Once we’ve run through it a few times I ask how we can make the song more challenging.
As the children come into the Music Room to sit down, one boy asks “What are we doing in Year 3?” The answer is that he will be doing lots of musical activities that he did last year but at a greater level of complexity and skill. I just tell him we are playing xylophones today.
It’s the first lesson of the year so I spend some time going over everyone’s names. I try to make it right around the class recalling each child’s name. I realise there are various singing games that could serve this function but a simple recall on Lesson 1 works best for me. Continue reading “Year 3 – First lesson of the year (with Xylophones)”
(The lesson takes place in a classroom that has suitably distanced tables. This leaves practically no room for the teacher to move around. Moving from the teacher’s desk to the whiteboard means battling through a series of A2 sheets hanging from a washing line as if in a jungle).
In Year 5 we are waiting for a large delivery of xylophones. There will soon be enough xylophones for one per pupil in each Year 5 class of thirty. This is thanks to a grant from a charity called Restore the Music. You can follow them on Twitter @RTMusicUK. While we wait for these instruments to arrive the lessons feature a mixture of various musical challenges, certain songs related to the Year 5 topic this term and general musicianship development. Today’s lesson went very well and I felt like sharing it with the world.
Working at my current school, Rhyl Primary in Camden, has meant making some changes to my music-teaching. For a start both Year 4 classes learn ukulele and all the Year 5 children learn keyboards. As well as this, because of the temporary nature of my original contract, I have not introduced any of the children to solfa because it seemed pointless considering that it would be unlikely to continue when I left. It’s been odd for me ignoring solfa because it has been integral to my teaching for the last seven years. You will see in the following account that I encourage the children to show the pitch with their hands but we do not work with the solfa names or handsigns.
On the 8th of November I took a train to Bradford because I wanted to meet up with primary music teacher Jimmy Rotherham* and see him at work in Feversham Primary Academy (‘fever’ rhymes with sever not as in fever). He has come to national and international prominence as the music teacher of a school where the headteacher pointed to the high-quality and frequent music lessons as the reason for a remarkable improvement in literacy outcomes. The school is in a deprived area of the city with a very high proportion of children who have English as a second language.
There have only been two articles written on this website over the last twelve months. This is because of the upheaval caused by being moved on from my music-teaching post at Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets in July of 2017.
By April 2017 my headteacher at that school had finally stopped hinting and told me that he would be replacing me with two tutors from the Colourstrings organisation to save the school money. This was a massive blow to me as I had spent the last four years building up the level of musicianship right across the school.
It’s the first music lesson of the Summer term for this year group. I need to make sure it’s fun and stimulating and challenging, just like every other music lesson! The class troop in after playtime and some children clearly don’t want to have to sit down after the intense excitement of running around in the noisy playground with their friends. The lesson will appeal to this natural desire to move their bodies and play.
Philosophy for Children (P4C), or some variation of it, is practised in over 60 countries around the world and has a history stretching back over 40 years. The underlying principle is for children and young people to experience rational and reasonable dialogue about things that matter to them and their teachers. All participants work together in a ‘community of enquiry’. The aim for each child is not to win an argument but to become clearer, more accurate, less self-contradictory and more aware of other arguments and values before reaching a conclusion.
From the P4C website
The class sit down on chairs in a large circle.
The class of thirty pour into the room and quickly take up their positions two-to-a-keyboard sat cross-legged on the ground. It’s 9.30 and there is an air of expectancy. Any teacher would recognise that this is a class ready for action! There is a brief moment of fuss because two children have decided to sit with different partners. This is quickly rectified and we’re ready to go.