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In Year 1 we have been on a Rainforest Adventure. The idea of this five week scheme is to get children’s imagination’s whirring but at the same time to have a structured approach and plenty of practice so we can illustrate a story with musical instruments.
I have found with the younger children that if we work in groups there are certain rules that make life a lot easier. Here are the rules for this topic:
- The teacher assigns the groups
- The groups never change personnel
- The children have a set routine to collect instruments
- This process is consistent and never changes in the five week scheme
The group layout is always the same. There are four largish groups in the corners of the rooms. Each corner has a music stand with the part of the story they are going to illustrate written down. Here are the cards for the first week:
The first objective is that the children have to understand what instruments they need to find. It’s a bit like a musical shopping list. This is very important because you can get children leaving school at the age of fourteen not knowing the difference between a xylophone and a glockenspiel if you have not actually taught the names of the instruments explicitly. I then tell the part of the rainforest story for the week and show the cards. I then read out who is in which group. I get them to sit together with legs crossed and arms folded in their group next to their stand. For the first two weeks I tell each child what instrument they are going to play and where it is. No-one moves until I say it is their turn to collect instruments. When the children know what they are going to get and where it is stored, I ask them to go group by group to collect their instruments and then sit down with instruments on the floor and hands on their heads by their stand. When everyone has an instrument and is sitting crossed legged on the floor with their hands on the heads I read the story. The children play in the correct places. I then ask them to move clockwise to the next group. We read the story four times so each group has a go at each of the stations. When the story is finished, group by group we pack away the instruments and when they are settled I read them the next part of the story so they have something to look forward to the next week.
This is highly structured for the first two weeks but in the third week I say “You should know which groups you are in now – go to your groups”. In the fourth week I nominate someone to be the captain and they organise who is getting what instrument. This is normally a bit of a disaster but children do need to learn to organise themselves so it is a mini-step towards self-organisation. The fifth week is a little bit different, it’s an opportunity to make up their own part of the story so we spend a lot longer in whole class discussion so we can think what happens next and what instruments that can be used to illustrate the story. I strongly believe that composition should come at the end of a scheme of work where children have had lots of practice performing and following set instructions. It’s only when children have experienced how we can find and play instruments and have learned how music can be structured that we can create our own with thought and intention. And with Year 1, I still have it quite teacher-directed so there is plenty of guidance.
Every week it gets a little bit more complicated, there are more instruments, different instruments, obscure ways to play objects but the structure is always the same. For a few stations, I explain certain ways you can play instruments to get an effect, such as stroking the glockenspiel like a cat from high to low to make the sound of a waterfall or using a four note repeated melody on hand-bells to evoke the sound of an ancient temple. The narrative structure is very strong with young children and they really do enjoy the idea of going on a rainforest adventure.
You might find the story below a little bit haphazard but it is designed with a beginning where we set the scene, a quest and many sets of difficulties that need to be overcome. There isn’t really an ending as the last lesson is the composition lesson. But I might create a sixth lesson in the future where we finish the story off. Below is the story I created and the resources. Feel free to use the resources:
We have auditions for concerts at our school. This is because we have a huge amount of children who wish to perform. I have just auditioned sixty-four children for thirty places and I thought I would write how we have done it, as it could be useful for other teachers in a similar situation. This is for our Key Stage 1 children.
First of all we have scheduled two concerts. One is a big concert in the hall where we have space for five performances. This is quite a big deal in my school and we select the best performers but on a variety of different instruments. We have some exceptional piano players at our school but the concert would be rather narrow if we only chose pianists. The other concert is a recital for twenty five children. Any more would make the recital go on for too long so we have to set a limit. I have selected only Year 2’s for the big concert but in the recital I have selected students from Year 2, Year 1 and from the Early Years so it reflects the whole of our infant school. We have students playing piano, violin, drums, guitar and singing in our recital.
The first thing I did was publicise that there will be auditions and I made a sign up sheet for parents to write down the name of their child, their class, and the instrument they were playing. These were all in five minute intervals after school. I printed these all out and displayed them so parents could sign up. I made two sheets, one for Tuesday and one for Thursday. However, there were not enough spaces and parents had started to write their names underneath so I made another for Friday.
The following week we did the auditions. To eliminate bias, I hosted the auditions with a colleague so we could make a collective decision. I put a table out, some water for us, two pens and ten blank sheets stapled together so we could make notes. Here is a template:
The children came and performed and we had a brief chat after each one and just jotted down some comments and which concert, if any we thought that child would be best to perform at.
After the auditions we got together to make a final list of the children who were performing. Luckily we agreed on all of the children that we chose. I then made a list of these children ready for the next step – to tell them collectively. I dread this moment, the children are so young and it is a harsh lesson to learn that not everyone can be successful all the time. Even though they are very young I think it is important to tell them first. The following day I gathered everyone who auditioned in the Music room and said how proud I was of everyone for auditioning. I gave them all five team points each. I said we only had spaces for thirty children but sixty-four auditioned. We did a bit of maths and the children agreed that not everyone could play so we had to make a choice. I said there will be plenty more opportunities to play in the future if you didn’t get chosen this time. I then told them who was going to play and what instrument they would be playing as some had auditioned on multiple instruments. I then gave everyone a sticker before they went back to class from registration. They all took it in their stride, there was no crying and they all seemed genuinely pleased for their friends who were going to be playing even if they hadn’t be chosen on this occasion.
The next step was to tell the parents. I printed out our decisions and put it on a stand outside the Music room. We thought about sending out a letter but we really don’t want to make too much of a meal of this auditioning process so we just left it at that.
The next step is to create a program for the concert. I made a Google Form and sent it out with an accompanying letter electronically with the name of the child, class, instrument, name of piece, composer and their instrumental teacher name. In a week or so I will collate all the information and make the program for our recital.
I am not 100% happy with our auditioning process, I have asked advice off colleagues and the SLT and this is the best we can currently come up with. If anyone has any ideas how we can make the process fairer, less administratively burdensome or just better in general, please write in the comments below.