As I reflect back over my pre visit placement week, I am thrilled how it went. My school is warm and welcoming and I am working with a teacher who has similar values to myself. I thoroughly enjoyed working with individuals and groups, and I taught 2 class lessons – both of which went well.
I was lucky enough to receive lots of encouragement, advice, and support on many aspects of my teaching so far, however the one piece of positive feedback that meant the most to me was:
You have a nice way with the children and they seem to respond to you well.
The reason that this is so important to me is my firm brief in the value of relationships. I feel that these are crucial and if positive relationships are not formed then a teacher cannot be truly successful. For me, relationships come before the learning. This is related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where feelings of safety and security, and feelings of belonging are essential before the individual can reach their full potential (for an overview of Maslow’s hierarchy see https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html).
Some of the ways in which I have tried to build relationships with the pupils over my first week include:
Learning and using their names quickly,
Circulating and making the effort to spend time interacting with every individual,
Smiling and being warm,
Finding out about their interests (through general conversation where appropriate as well as through my ‘getting to know you lesson’- see below),
Telling them a little about myself (again through my getting to know you lesson).
Some of these methods are recommended in this article which notes the importance of positive teacher-student relationships in terms of learning and behaviour management.
Getting to Know You
During my first placement, I didn’t teach a ‘getting to know you lesson’, and regretted it because I felt that I had missed an opportunity to find out a bit about what made the children tick. On this placement I hope to be able to use some of the interests of the children to engage them in their learning.
I began my lesson with a large box (which I had lovingly covered with a patchwork of wrapping paper scraps). Inside the box was a few different items which were clues to tell the class something about me, for example I had a rolling pin which suggested that I like to bake. The children were very quick to work out my clues, but appeared to enjoy the task none-the-less. I used shoulder partner talk and lolly-sticks to avoid shouting out and to avoid the same children putting their hands up.
After this activity I told the class that they were going to tell me a bit about themselves using ice creams! I demonstrated the activity on the board and set them to task. They all created wonderful ‘ice-creams’ with pictures and words on each scoop.
I was very pleased with how the activity turned out and also the enthusiasm that the children showed when completing their work! I had asked for a minimum of 3 scoops but some children completed many more, with one ice-cream ending up 20 scoops tall!
I have made a note of some of the interests, hobbies, and other information that the children shared in the hope that I can use them at a later date.
My lesson, as well as my efforts throughout the week, have allowed me to start to meet some of the Standards for Registration. These include:
1.2.1 I demonstrate openness, honesty, courage and wisdom.
1.3.2 I provide and ensure a safe and secure environment for all learners within a caring and compassionate ethos and with an understanding of wellbeing.
1.3.3 I demonstrate a commitment to motivating and inspiring learners, acknowledging their social and economic context, individuality and specific learning needs and taking into consideration barriers to learning.
I have spoken to a few teachers on my placement about this subject, and have found that some of them (even more experienced teachers) lack confidence and would prefer a specialist to lead this learning. I wondered whether this is a common feeling, and therefore have decided to open these questions up to a larger audience via social media. I created a simple survey with questions are based on those used in the Hallam study. These questions include:
How confident do you feel about teaching music?
How important is music to children’s learning?
Do you consider yourself to be musical? and
Do you think that music should be taught by a specialist?
I have never used this type of software, or conducted a survey in this way, so this will be an interesting learning experience for me. I hope that the responses will give me a greater understanding of how current primary teachers feel about the subject of music.
As I do not have experience with conducting a professional survey, I have ensured that all responses to my survey are completely anonymous and the results will not be posted, rather they will simply be used to inform my own professional understanding.
Hallam, S., Burnard, P., Robertson, A., Saleh, C., Davies, V., Rogers, L., and Kokatsaki, D. (2009) ‘Trainee primary-school teachers’ perceptions of their effectiveness in teaching music’ in Music Education Research, 11(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14613800902924508
I can’t believe that’s my first week of placement over already! What a brilliant week it has been!
Here are some of the experiences that I have been involved in:
During the Kodaly sessions, I saw p1 children learning about the foundation elements of music, including rhythm, pitch, and tempo. This learning happens in a fun, active, and play based way, which reminds me of the circle games that I might use with my pre-school children at nursery. An example of this was when children were learning about tempo: they made 2 trains (standing in a line with their hands on the person-in-front’s shoulders), with one being the fast train, and one being the slow train. As they moved around the room, each train had a chant:
Engine, engine, coloured green,
The fastest train I’ve ever seen!
Engine, engine, coloured black
going slowly down the track!
The children were also required to use the additional skill of walking their feet in time to the beat of their chant. This helped them to recognise that the tempo of their chant related to the speed that they were moving.
I feel that I can definitely bring this style of learning into my own teaching and look forward to using this in my Early Years placement.
These sessions allowed children to learn and practise different rhythms and patterns. They did this through call-and-response, a ‘Simon says’ type game, and drumming along to backing tracks.
I loved how these activities seemed so simple, however involved many different skills; listening, remembering, motor skills, and creating different sounds using the parts of the drum. Children had also learned about the history of these drums, speaking about where they were from and what they would have been used for in the past.
Children learned a few simple chords which allowed them to play along with some songs. They practised the fingering for these chords and looked at how to strum these in time with the song (which is linked to reading music). These lessons were also linked with learning that was taking place outside of music lessons, for example, some children had been learning about fairy tales and folklore, and therefore were learning the songs: 3 Billy Goats Gruff, and The Ugly Duckling.
I was very impressed at how well the children were able to create the chords (placing their fingers in the correct places on the strings and frets) and strum in time to the songs! Many children even managed to read the words and sing along at the same time. This activity is helping them to develop many skills, including those used in sight reading music.
Orchestra and Wind Band
I was a bit nervous about these classes, as I was asked to bring my clarinet along and play with the children. While I CAN play, I’ve never been hugely confident in my ability, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone. That being said, I’m really glad that I did, because having my instrument allowed me to make a connection with some pupils (fellow clarinet players) and I feel that it helped children to respect me as someone who ‘knows what they’re talking about’.
In these lessons, pupils were practising their fingering and formation of notes, as well as timing and being able to listen to those around them. One way which they did this was through a ‘Hocket‘ style activity, where children were split into 5 groups (of mixed instruments) and given one note each. The conductor would then point to the groups, indicating that it was their turn to play. In this way, the children could play some simple tunes (e.g. Mary had a little lamb), and some even had the chance to be the conductor and create their own tunes by pointing to the different groups.
This was such a simple activity, but was great fun. It also allowed the children to practise a note that they may not be confident with, without the added problem of changing between notes. I can see how this activity could be used in a future music lesson, as it could be used with any instruments – from chime bars, to xylophones, to recorders…
Rock Band is a fantastic project that I saw taking place with 2 p6 classes. It involved children learning instruments that may be used a band, such as guitars (electric, acoustic, and bass), drums, keyboards, and their singing voices. They had been learning music from different decades, starting with Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’, then The Beatles ‘Love me do’, and now moving on to Bob Marley ‘3 Little Birds’.
During a previous week, the classes had been videoed, allowing them to review their work and decide on 2 stars and a wish. The children were told that they would be making more videos so that they could set up their own ‘Rock School’ Youtube channel. This sparked a lot of excitement, and the children could hardly wait to start designing their channel logo.
I was really impressed with how enthusiastic and engaged the children were with this project. I think this this is partly because the children were given a choice in which instruments that they wanted to learn (which had led to some beginning formal music tuition in their chosen instrument). I also feel that these children were enjoying learning songs that they could recognise, rather than classical music, or music simply designed for learning.
I would love to be involved in a project like this in my future teaching career, however I would need the support of another teacher (or teachers) who had some musical ability in the keyboard and the drums as my own musical knowledge doesn’t stretch that far.
On Thursday, I saw 2 classes as they ran through their final rehearsals for their big show on Saturday – The Rite of Spring, which is taking place at the Caird Hall. These dances had themes connected with nature (the sun and global warming, and trees and deforestation). Every child had a part to play, with some taking on solos and more complex routines. Not being a dancer myself, it was great to see the variety of simple movements, and how these came together to create a lovely complete dance. I was also interested to see how the children’s own ideas were incorporated into the dance, giving them some ownership and pride over their work.
The dance teacher had a great rapport with the children, oozing enthusiasm and praise and I feel that this inspired the children to work harder as they wanted to impress him. He was also willing to dance along with the children – filling in for any who were absent, or just demonstrating new movements. This reminded me of the importance of putting my own self-consciousness to one side and being willing to get involved in the learning, as this can support the children.
I was hoping to attend the show this evening, but unfortunately will not be able to make it. However, from what I saw at the rehearsals, I know that it will be a wonderful event!
Oh, and I was also involved in the opening ceremony of the brand new Sidlaw View Primary School! The children put on a fantastic musical performance and it was wonderful to see such a range of talents.
As you can see, this week has been very busy!
I’ve had the chance to see lots of different aspects of the Aspire project, and work with many different children from p1 to p6, in a variety of different schools. This is a completely new way of working for me, and brings some challenges. One of these challenges is that it is difficult to get to know the children very well, especially as a music session may last for as little as 40 minutes, and that may be the only time during the week that I worked with a class. Despite this challenge I was impressed at the way that the Aspire teachers interacted with the pupils and had built positive relationships. This is something that I will continue to work on as my placement continues and hopefully my timetable will not change very much, meaning that I will be working with the same classes from week to week.
This week, I have also had the chance to speak to some of the teachers in the different schools. All teachers that I spoke to seem to have a positive view of the Aspire music project, and of the experiences that are offered to the children. One teacher reinforced the idea that many teachers do not feel confident to teach music (as discussed in my previous post) and stated that she was very pleased that the children had the opportunity to learn with the Aspire team who had the specialist knowledge that she did not.
Next week I hope to take on an even more active role in all of the music sessions. Now that I have an understanding of what goes on in each of the different lessons, I hope that I can help through team-teaching and acting as a support teacher for children who are struggling. I hope to also have the opportunity to lead some sessions, particularly the Kodaly classes.
I will also speak to the Aspire teachers about how they plan their lessons and links to the curriculum. I am interested in how the learning that takes place in these sessions could be linked into cross curricular learning, and how it can support other areas of the Curriculum for Excellence. I would also like to find out how (if?) the Aspire teachers record and assess the learning that takes place in their sessions.
None of us live in a bubble. This means that when I become a teacher, I must be prepared for the fact that my pupils will probably have access to the internet, social media and the news; and therefore will be exposed to the terrible and frightening incidents which take place globally.
This week, I came across AN ARTICLE (from the guardian) which talks about the way that primary teachers have broached the subject of the recent Paris attacks with their children. I was interested to find that both had used different approaches and methods, but the key messages and learning were the same.
The first teacher did not necessarily plan to bring the Paris attacks into her learning for the day; however when a child spoke about it, she recognized the opportunity to address some fears and, even more importantly, some misconceptions:
“I asked the children who they thought Isis were and why they had attacked France,” she says. “Sadly some children said they acted in this way because they were Muslims; that Paris was ‘just the start’ and that Isis was planning to poison our food and water.” (The Guardian, 19th Nov 2015)
It is really disturbing to find that children are struggling with such horrible ideas, and if these are not addressed then negative attitudes towards others may continue to grow into prejudice, discrimination and racism.
The article continues to talk about another teacher who wanted to cover the aspects that he felt to be essential, without being specific to the real-life incident. This teacher spent time with his children; learning about the various different religions and discovering what they are about:
Instead, they talked about the origins of children’s names and how many come from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They then discussed what these religions all represent: love and peace. “We talked about the value of respecting other people and respecting where they are from. We had a really positive discussion,” he says. (The Guardian, 19th Nov 2015)
I think that both of these teachers show integrity and strength by taking it upon themselves to bring the atrocities of the Paris attacks into their teaching in one way or another when it may have been easier to avoid the topic altogether. I know that I would be very nervous about saying something which could offend or upset. Knowing this has made me realize that it is critical that teachers are well informed and mindful of everything that they are telling the children.
Despite being located in England, the lessons of these teachers clearly uphold the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence. One of the four capacities of the curriculum is for children to become Responsible Citizens; involving an understanding and acceptance of the beliefs and cultures of others. The principles and practice section of the Religious and Moral Education section of the curriculum also states that:
Through developing awareness and appreciation of the value of each individual in a diverse society, religious and moral education engenders responsible attitudes to other people. This awareness and appreciation will assist in counteracting prejudice and intolerance as children and young people consider issues such as sectarianism and discrimination more broadly. (Education Scotland)
Overall, I have learned that if I want to be a good teacher, it is important that I can approach and discuss difficult topics. I must be able to consider the impact of my own and my pupil’s attitudes while being aware of the negative portrayal of others through sources such as the media or even sometimes from family. I will strive to create an open and honest classroom culture where children feel safe and able to ask questions and discuss their anxieties, but will also encourage acceptance and respect; reinforcing that everyone is an individual.