As the nights draw in and Autumn is well and truly here Lisa Mayo, Head of Gloucestershire Music and the County’s Singing Champion reflects on some of her favourite seasonal music lessons and highlights some resources that might help to give you some inspiration for your own lessons and singing activities in the next half term…
I love Autumn and enjoy getting back into my woollies and boots and going for lovely long walks in the countryside witnessing all the beautiful changing colours of the leaves. Likewise in school, I found this time of year really inspiring for children and it seemed easier for them to be creative when composing and more emotive and reflective when listening to music.
With wonderful, imaginative and stimulating dates such as Halloween and Bonfire Night there is no better time to get children listening, composing and performing. I used to pop down to the ‘pound’ shops in town and deck my classroom out with cobwebs, light-up pumpkins and some creepy surprises that would keep the classes guessing and I had some of the best and most memorable lessons in my career! When you have fun with music then so will the children!
So I’ve put some ideas together as a mere lighting of the touch paper to maybe give you some inspiration for planning some fab and fun lessons of your own after half term! If you have some favourite seasonal lessons that you would be happy to share then we’d love to hear about them – so send them into me by email and we’ll share them on the Make Music Gloucestershire website.
Death is up there on most composers’ radars as a worthy inspiration. Saint-Saëns happened on the subject in the early 1870s, originally setting to music a strange, art-house poem by Henri Cazalis, which has the first line ‘Zig, zig, zig, death in cadence’. Originally it was for voice and piano but, thankfully, Saint-Saëns reworked it a couple of years later, substituting a violin for the voice and adding the full orchestra. When it was premiered at one of the Parisian Châtelet concerts (these took place in the Théâtre du Châtelet) it was immediately encored in full. Since then, it has remained one of Saint-Saëns’s most popular pieces, with television providing endless opportunities to hear it again in theme tunes.
There’s a whole narrative that unfolds in the piece, with the violin representing death himself and the story starting at midnight – hence the twelve chiming opening notes. So it was completely appropriate that the piece was chosen to open the Bafta-winning mystery crime series, from 1997 to 2013. It starred Alan Davies as the magician’s assistant who solves apparently supernatural mysteries using his knowledge of trickery.
If you type ‘lesson plans for Danse Macabre’ into any search engine you will find many resources, lesson plans, PowerPoints etc. that you can download for free or give you ideas for creating your own.
This is also a great piece for introducing children to graphic score, as they can start to respond to the music by finding shapes and symbols to help represent features such as changes in dynamics, texture and identifying structure and theme repetition and variation.
I used to love doing this lesson with Year 7 students (but you could easily do this piece with KS2 students as well) – here is a taster of how the lesson used to pan out!:
The students had to come into the classroom in silence, as I had the lights off and the classroom lit with my halloween fun lights (obviously PAT tested in advance!) and some spooky film music playing!
I would start to teach them a couple of spooky / fun songs at the beginning and then I would ask them to sit and listen to Danse Macabre whilst I told them the story. I tended to make up my own story based around the poem, as I felt this worked a little better! At the end I asked them ‘which their favourite parts of the piece were?’…’what instruments they could identify?’ (especially ‘which instrument plays the clock chimes at the start’ and ‘which instrument represents the cockerel at the end?’ etc.).
I would display the themes in notation on the board for the visual learners and to help develop their music reading skills. I would also play them the separate themes so they could familiarise themselves with the characteristics of each one in order for them to be able to identify them and tell them apart. This was a great opportunity to introduce terminology such as stepwise/leapy melodic lines; spiky/smooth rhythms and textures; accidentals and chromatic notes. We’d look at videos and pictures of the instrumentation (or have live demos if the instruments were available) that played the key themes and discussed the techniques involved and the parts of the orchestra they belonged to.
Then I used to spend time at the end of the lesson where we would clear the tables away and I would get them into separate groups to represent each theme. Then they would have to create a group tableau / freeze frame (creating an image conjured up from the poem) and then from a sitting position on the floor in their groups I would play the piece from the start and they would have to all work as a team in their groups to listen out for their theme and spring up into their freeze frame when the could hear their theme being played. It was quite a good method to see who was really confident with their understanding of the themes that they had been taught and who were still not quite sure! This group activity helps the less able to build in listening skills and confidence as well as developing those more able as group ‘conductors’. Some of the themes are quite similar so there is certainly an element of challenge there!
The Others (Film Soundtrack):
This is probably more appropriate for secondary age students, as it is quite creepy in parts(!) but it has wonderful instrumentation and techniques to get the pupils to try and identify, especially in the main theme of ‘The Others’ and ‘Wakey, Wakey’ i.e. bass clarinet, flute (in it’s lower range), cor anglais, tremolo strings, pedals etc. and has some more unusual keyboard and sting instruments to keep them guessing for a while! ‘They are Everywhere’ – has frantic orchestral textures and wonderful dissonant moments at the opening. Also the child humming the nursery rhyme in ‘Communion Dress’ is particularly creepy in true horror pastiche and this is followed by the huge swell of the roaring orchestra with more dissonance and polyphonic textures. You have been warned!
You can then introduce the pupils to some of the classic horror film musical concepts following the listening exercise:
- pedals (extreme pitch range i.e. bottom C and top C)
- chromatic melodic ostinati
- dynamic extremes
- unpredictable pulse / use of rests / unpredictable rhythms – to keep the listener on their toes and to build the tension
- changing nursery rhymes from major into minor or model tonality
- …and for once I used to let them include some ‘appropriate’ sound fx if they had included all the compositional basics!
Ask the pupils to compose their own short piece of horror film music by using some of these techniques. When they perform their pieces to each other their peers can use an agreed score rating to credit the techniques they have used from the list and then give a bonus mark for the ‘scare factor’!
The ‘Harry Potter’ film music is also a gem at this time of year, especially ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, which is a great melody to learn to play and a wonderful track to listen to with the magical celesta playing the theme in the opening!
There are lots of great resources out there to help Primary Teachers start singing more with their pupils. Singing doesn’t have to be given a designated ‘slot’ in the weekly timetable (although every school should have a fab singing club for the children to attend!), it should be integrated into their daily lives to enhance their academic experiences in every subject and help them to learn in a creative and motivating way. I wanted to highlight some of the resources on offer from Out of the Ark in this blog (although there are many other companies out there that also provide fantastic resources such as Sing Up, Singing Sherlock, Charanga etc.) and pass on some suggestions from them for some pieces which might be appropriate at this time of year.
I would love us to have some feedback from teachers in our county who have some suggestions about pieces that they sing with their children and have a great response from, as it can help others to be inspired and save time in searching for the ‘best’ songs to do in the next assembly…lesson…choir session. So please do pass on any of your ideas to me by email and we’ll start to share more and lessen the load for each other!
Song Bundles from Out of the Ark – Primary Singing Resources:
Are you looking for a selection of songs for your singing festivals or events? Perhaps you’d like a bundle of songs? Did you know that you can select songs from Out of the Ark’s various songbook titles? You can then even access selected songs via their Out of the Ark Music online account through the Words on Screen™ player – Singchronize®
Songs are available with:
- Printable music scores and lyric sheets
- Words on Screen™ element – interactive lyrics that synchronise with the vocal and backing tracks – making the songs easier to teach and learn.
- Downloadable MP3s
- Ability to stream or download the songs
- Ability to create an expandable library and playlists in your online account of single songs or titles.
- PLUS additional teaching notes for each song – where available.
If you’d like some more information about their song bundles do get in touch with Anna Edwards
A Few Fun Seasonal Songs:
|The Niki Davies Book Of Songs For Autumn And Winter||Pumpkin Head||· A great song, useful for looking at shapes and how to recognise them
· Perfect for younger ages
|Songs for EVERY Season||Conkers!||· A fun song which has become a firm favourite with children of all ages everywhere
· Celebrating the joy of conker collecting
Take a look at their blog post – Do you have what it takes to be a conker conqueror? http://www.outoftheark.co.uk/blog/do-you-have-what-it-takes-to-be-a-conker-conquerer/
|Songs for EVERY Season||Turn Back The Clocks|| • All the essential ingredients of Autumn rolled into a song
|A Combined Harvest||Picture Of Autumn|| • Full of lots of lovely Autumn vocabulary, a fabulous song to sing through the whole season
• Lots of scope for adding your own Autumn rhyming words to replace the verse lyrics
|The Niki Davies Calendar Of Songs||Crunching Through The Leaves|| · Perfect for Autumn, describing the sights and sounds of crunching leaves
• An excellent song to add untuned percussion to
Planning for Christmas Nativity / Concerts?
We’d love to hear about your plans for your musical Christmas events. Send us your photos, video or audio clips and let us share them on our Make Music Gloucestershire website so that we can start to show the rest of our county how wonderfully rich the singing is in our schools. So don’t be shy – be the first to get your school’s name ‘up in lights’ and share the achievements with your parents and pupils. Send any media along with a brief write up to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to post it on our website (please note: any media sent to us should have been checked for parental permissions in line with your school’s policy before sending it to us).
Have a wonderful Autumn and enjoy your festive music making in your schools!
A Newent school teacher who admits he was once the bane of his own teachers’ lives, has turned from poacher to gamekeeper. Now heading up the school’s ‘inclusion suite’, Paul Catten is using music interventions to help students to believe in themselves and re-engage with school. Anita Holford, who works for hub partner The Music Works, visited the school recently to find out more.
Paul started at Newent Community School in September 2014, moving from Monmouth Comprehensive School where he’d worked in a similar team. His first experience of using music was when he was asked to work with Tom*, a year 10 pupil who had been excluded. Tom was allowed back to school a couple of times a week for support sessions in English and Maths, but the real breakthrough came when Paul introduced him to making music using technology.
“I was running a Rap Club in my spare time at a youth centre not far from Monmouth in Ross-on-Wye. Tom’s behaviour was pretty bad, and I was trying to find something a bit different for him to do, so one day he came to work with me there. He didn’t want to do any MCing, but I quickly realised he had an interest in music, and he had some beats. So back at school, we started making music on a computer using a programme called Logic – basically an online studio where you can create your own music by mixing and editing sounds and samples.”
Paul would set Tom tasks each week, “things like, I want you to write me a song using loops, drum ‘n’ bass, but I want classical instruments involved in there.” Initially Tom would seem to complain and resist but Paul found that he always rose to the challenge, often going beyond what Paul had taught him, to teach himself what he needed to learn.
Paul persuaded Tom to accredit his learning using Arts Award, which he achieved to Bronze Level. As a result, he gained a place at college.
“He didn’t leave school with a lot,” Paul continues, “but he managed to get a place at Gloucestershire College doing music production, and got a distinction in his first year. He’s now working in a club doing their sound, so it’s all worked it out, and that’s what I wanted to bring to Newent when I got the job here.”
Introducing music technology at Newent’s inclusion unit
When he started his new role as SAFE (Safeguarding and Attendance for Education) Officer at Newent School, Paul mentioned the music intervention work he’d been doing in Monmouth. Although nothing happened initially, around 12 months in, he was asked to work with Sam, a year 7 student who was at risk of exclusion: constantly disrupting lessons, and using inappropriate behaviour and speech.
“His behaviour escalated quickly to the point where we were looking for a space at the Alternative Provision School for a while,” remembers Paul, “and the word ‘exclusion’ had been mentioned to his family.”
Nothing was seeming to work, so the school agreed to try a pilot scheme involving the Bronze Arts Award.
Paul worked with Sam for four months, initially gaining his trust and interest by talking about the music he listened to, and eventually starting to show him how to make his own using music technology. Just like his first ‘music student’ at Monmouth, this pupil thrived as a result.
“He sailed through the Arts Award,” says Paul. “Everyone was really happy. The new head called him in at the beginning of the year and gave him the certificate and told him ‘Well done’, and that meant a lot to him. He’s now doing his Silver Award and has chosen music as an option at GCSE.”
From poacher to gamekeeper: an unexpected path for Paul.
Paul understands more than most how it feels to be labelled as ‘badly behaved’. Like the students he now supports, he disliked school and rebelled.
“I was at John Kyrle High School in Ross-on-Wye, and as soon as punk came out everything went out of the window. I just didn’t care. I was 12 or 13 when I got into the Sex Pistols and the anarchist side of things, and I ended up leaving school with hardly any qualifications and getting a job in a factory in Ross.”
Music had always been his ‘thing’ but he hated music at school, and instead taught himself at home. At age 16, he became a roadie for a punk band in his spare time, and then formed his own heavy rock band, Medulla Nocte.
“We spent some time going around trying to sell some demos, playing to nobody, and eventually we started doing alright. We had our photo in Kerrang! Magazine, and were their single of the week. Then we split and I joined another band and played the very first Download Festival, opening on the main stage to 40,000 people. And we all still had dead end jobs and didn’t have enough money.”
Paul’s employers were supportive, letting him have unpaid time off so for a while he managed his two careers. “Then I started to get into some studio work when we were recording our songs. I was always the guy who was sitting by the producer in the studio, listening and learning.”
“It must have been around 2006 when I thought I want to learn more about this, so I took an Open University diploma in music. About a year before finishing it, I was offered voluntary redundancy from the factory so I took it, and decided to finish my degree”
It was getting in touch with Gloucestershire music charity, The Music Works – then called Gloucestershire Music Makers – that proved the turning point for Paul.
“I wrote to Mark Bick, who was running the charity at the time, saying I was doing a music degree, that I was able to fix instruments, do studio work etc. I went to see him and he offered me some casual work working with kids in the studio initially.”
One thing led to another and soon Paul was doing a range of freelance work – in the afterschool club at Whitecross School, giving drum lessons to young people with ADHD in the studio, as well as attending training courses and working with a range of young people “many who were really badly behaved,” remembers Paul. “But they’d really enjoy making music and I loved working with them. It was The Music Works which paid for me to become an Arts Award advisor and I’m reaping the benefits of that still. I’m totally indebted to Mark for all the help he gave me. I will never, ever forget that.”
Soon Paul took on a role as a youth worker at a youth centre in Ross-on-Wye – where he still works in the evenings to this day. There was a studio at the centre, and Paul started using music to get young people involved and coming back: setting up a rap club and using music as a behaviour intervention in a more informal way. This then led to Paul’s first Teaching Assistant job at Monmouth Comprehensive, followed by a promotion to Vocational Mentor, which is when he met Sam and his music mentoring work began.
Paul is convinced of music’s power to change students attitudes and behaviour. “When you work with these guys you see their patterns of behaviour, where they’re good and where they’re frankly a pain in the backside. And for many young people the arts, drama and music are where they’re at their best, and it improves their self-esteem to be able to achieve something.”
“One lad I’ve been working with here was disruptive, pushing people around – not as a bully, but not sure of boundaries, and making a lot of inappropriate comments – both racial and sexual – without even realising what he was saying.” Paul continues. “He was getting about six or seven demerits a week, and now he’s down to one.”
“When he’s doing music, he’s happy, he loves it, and he wants to keep his head together. He does stumble, but the maliciousness has gone. There’s never any inappropriate language anymore because we’ve worked on that. He now walks away from physical conflict too.”
The school is also now fully supportive of music as an intervention: “We’re only six to eight months into doing this really, and we’ve only just come out of the Pilot scheme, we have four students currently on Arts Award but it’s open ended – we’ve got an open door now.
If your school is interested in using music as an intervention, The Music Works can help. Our team are specialists in working with young people in challenging circumstances who face barriers in music, learning and life. Using one-to-one or small group music mentoring, they work with young people to engage them through music, build confidence, self-belief and motivation, and so empower them to improve their life chances. To find out more visit www.themusicworks.org.uk/school/at-risk.
* All young people’s names have been changed to protect their identities.
As the new term gets underway, Steve Legge, Gloucestershire Music’s Head of Instrumental and Vocal Tuition, shares some tips on teaching to develop the whole musician, not just instrumental skills. This is an edited version of an article that will be published in the British Trombone Society’s magazine.
How do you teach a young person to play the trombone? I could waffle for hours on the importance of buzzing, posture and which mouthpiece you should use. But what about developing the whole musician? Here are my top tips to ensure young people get the best start, irrespective of which instrument they play. They’re based on our approach to Whole Class Tuition in Gloucestershire, but can be applied to any learning situation.
1 Choose a tutor book that allows students to discover
I’ve found that the most useful tutor books are those that allow students to discover and learn for themselves, rather than dictate a rigid plan. They provide questions, activities and challenges that slowly unlock the skills and knowledge needed.
During the first five lessons of whole class tuition, I use backing tracks and flash cards to introduce the students to basic rhythmical symbols. At this stage I don’t bombard the students with the names of the rhythms (crotchets, minims etc.) but allow them time to feel, see and hear the rhythm.
If you are using a tutor book, make sure it stays closed for the first half of the lesson. Devise games and activities that build a picture of what you want the students to learn during the lesson. Students need to fully understand a new concept (rather than just show they can do it or play it) if they stand any chance of being able to help themselves whilst practicing at home.
2 Recap and reflect each lesson
Outstanding teaching isn’t about what students can ‘do’, but about how well they can communicate what they have learnt, and how they think they can improve.
At each lesson, remember to check what students remember from the previous one. Use this to work out if they need to recap on any specific areas needs to be achieved during the next lesson.
For example – you ask a group of students to play a C. They all oblige. This means they can ‘do’ the task but the teacher needs to now check their understanding. Can you sing the note to me? If I play three different notes can you tell me which one is the C? Can you draw the note on the stave and explain to me how it looks different to a D? Improvise a short tune using the notes Bb, C and D making C the loudest note each time you play. And so on…
3 Use tools and techniques that allow you to step back
A really simple but useful resource I’ve used for the last few years is a set of 30 postcards,developed with the help of staff from Gloucestershire Music and students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Each card has a simple task written on it, that they can work on in a group, while the tutor takes on more of a coaching or mentoring role, providing direction and advice but never dictating or provide the answers.
4 Reflect on and analyse your own teaching
Helping students to lead their own learning in your classes is something that may require a fair amount of reflection on your own part about how you teach. It’s easy to forget how often you’re giving students the answers rather than letting them discover them for themselves. One strategy I have found useful is to watch a video of a lesson I have given. I focus on how many times I could have asked a student a question or time to work it out for themselves, instead of me providing them with the solution. I usually spot half a dozen opportunities where I could have improved my own teaching practice. A little research into the different approaches of music educationalists like Froseth, Dalcroze, Susuki and Kodaly will give you ideas of how to develop different strategies.
It is worth looking into the definitions of Deep Learning and Shallow Learning, which I find is a reliable guide to remembering good teaching practice:
DEEP LEARNING occurs when a lesson is…..
- co – constructed – where the teacher leads the student to answers without providing the answer
- has greater involvement of learner
- is inquiry based
- is reflective and questioning
- is challenging
- has greater Independence for learner
- encourages intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards.
SHALLOW LEARNING occurs when a lesson is……
- delivered / done / taught
- controlled by the teacher
- based on remembering and replicating
- dependent on the teacher / expert
- has aspects of extrinsic motivation – refers to motivation that comes from outside an individual. The motivating factors are external, or outside, rewards such as money or grades. These rewards provide satisfaction and pleasure that the task itself may not provide.