# A Couple of Highlights from Placement Week 2

This week has been another brilliant whirlwind!

One of the highlights was having the opportunity to watch and be a part of the Spring Concert on Wednesday evening. It was really great to see the talent and hard work of these young people as the various groups played a range of music – from classical pieces to contemporary pop.

Although I only played a very minor role (re-arranging chairs between sets – and doing it rather badly if I’m honest), I enjoyed being a part of the event.

During the week I have continued to be involved in Kodaly, African drumming, Samba band, Orchestra, Brass band, and Wind band. I have also been thinking about how I could use some of the methods and resources from these sessions in my own teaching. One activity which I particularly liked involved the written notation for rhythms (stick notation).

These notations can look like this (please excuse my poorly imitated versions):

or

In this activity, children were asked to play the rhythm on the flashcard, being careful not to play the rhythm of “don’t play this one back” (a familiar game). This involved the skills of reading and identifying the rhythms, as well as being able to play them.

After observing this lesson, I began thinking about the connections between music and maths. Musicians use maths all of the time when counting beats in a bar, and working out how long a note lasts for e.g. a minim or crotchet.

One possible activity on this topic could be to use the rhythm patterns (as shown above), and allowing the children to choose which rhythms they would use to fit into a bar. Bars could be varied in length, but would probably start with 4 beats.

For example, the children could create something like this:

This pattern would sound like this (played on my clarinet using just one repeated note):

An extension of this would be to create something more complicated also using semibreves, quavers and rests.

This activity can be seen on the following video (from around 0:04:30):

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-music-through-clapping

This activity could be extended as the children add the note heads to their rhythms, creating their own melodies.

Another way which music notation makes meaningful connections with maths is through fractions and times tables, i.e. if there are 4 beats in the bar, how can it be divided? How many lots of “tea” would fit or how many “coffee”s? I think that it’s important to apply maths in as many different ways as possible, so that children can grasp and understand it. Using music can help to add an element of fun to this learning (and maybe avoid the dreaded worksheets!)

# Conducting a little survey

Ever since reading Hallam et al. (2009) ‘I have been really interested in how confident primary teachers feel about teaching the subject.

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.

Reference

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

# What a Week!

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:

#### Kodaly

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!

Or

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.

#### African Drumming

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.

#### Ukulele

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

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.

#### Aspire Dance

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

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.

# Music for Learning

As I prepare for the beginning of my Learning from Life placement (tomorrow!) I’ve been doing some reading about music education and the value and impact it can have on children.

There have been many studies which have investigated the benefits of music education. Standley (2008) and Hallam (2010) report that well planned music activities can improve children’s language and reading skills, and Roden et al. (2012) found that musical experience can aid memory skills.

These studies appear within a wealth of other research. Here are 2 TED Talks which consider the impact of music on brain development:

I particularly enjoyed this TEDx Talk, where Richard Gill discusses the value of music education:

The key points that I took from this talk include:

• Music education should be introduced with our young children;
• This can take the form of  listening, focusing, and imitation, e.g. nursery rhymes;
• Music is not prescriptive, instead it evokes, suggests, and implies;
• Allows children to access a different way of thinking to the other curricular subjects;
• The act of singing can have links with the development of literacy;
• Music is worth teaching for it’s own sake;
• Every child should have access to properly taught music education, from a properly taught teacher.

The last point interested me, as I have also recently read an article which explores how trainee teachers feel about teaching music. This study was conducted in England, however I feel that the findings will also apply within Scotland. Hallam et al. (2009)  agree that children have the right to a high quality music education, however the research shows that many trainee teachers and NQT’s feel unequipped and unable to teach this subject effectively.

The study showed that teachers who were able to play one or two instruments were more confident in teaching music, however this was a smaller percentage, meaning that in many classes and schools, music education is being neglected. Among other suggestions of more training and CPD for teachers in this curricular area, it was proposed that the use of specialist teachers, whether working independently or alongside the class teacher, could have a positive impact. Relating back to what Richard Gill said above; children should be provided with their music education from a properly taught teacher.

I have not yet decided whether this ‘properly taught teacher’ needs to be a specialist, or whether it can simply be a primary teacher who embraces music in the same way as any other curricular area. There are many of us on my course who would admit that we are less confident teaching maths, science, ICT… however we wouldn’t dream of avoiding these subjects! Instead, we must recognise that it’s our responsibility to continually develop our own professional knowledge and skills.

I hope that my Learning from Life placement will allow me to develop my own confidence and skills in teaching music. Despite being able to play 2 instruments, I currently lack confidence in this subject,  perhaps because I am not fluent at reading musical notation. My visit day has already helped me to feel slightly more confident as I was able to see the level at which the children were working, and how this was linked with the ‘figurenotes’ approach. During my placement, I will have the opportunity to work with a variety of music specialists, where I can observe and learn some of their techniques and teaching methods. While working with the children, I will also be able to practice working with sheet music and notation. I hope that this will improve my ability to teach my future classes, allowing them to benefit from the highest quality of music education that I can offer. I also hope that my musical experience may allow me to support other students and even teachers who lack confidence in this area.

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning” – Plato

References:

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

Hallam, S. (2010) ‘The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people’ in International Journal of Music Education, 28(3). DOI: 10.1177/0255761410370658

Roden, I., Kreutz, G. and Bongard, S. (2012) ‘Effects of a school-based instrumental music program on verbal and visual memory in primary school children: a longitudinal study’ in Frontiers in Psychology, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00572

Standley J. (2008) ‘Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read?’ in Applications of Research in Music Education, 27(1). DOI: 10.1177/8755123308322270