The structure of my lessons is always the same. This means the children know exactly what to expect.
0 to 5 Minutes. The Beginning.
The lesson starts with the children taking their shoes off at the door before coming in. Then they sit in their place on the carpet. I put on a short 3 minute Youtube video of the Instrument of the Week. We then talk about the instrument for a few minutes and put it in the correct family on the wall.
5 to 10 Minutes. Aural Time.
We have 5 minutes of aural skills. I play on the piano and the children sing back what I play. They use the Curwen hand signs and sing using the fixed doh Kodaly system. I start by singing three notes which they repeat back. After a while I stop singing and just play notes on the piano which they sing back. We then do some rhythms every lesson. The children clap them back using the Kodaly ‘taas’ and ‘tees’ but sometimes I will mix these up with minibeast rhythms for variety. This is whole class work and there is no differentiation.
10 to 20 Minutes. Song Time.
We sing a song with the Kodaly handsigns on the board. The children then have to work out which song it is (I always start with a familiar song). We will then sing another 1 or 2 songs and one will always be new. We always sing at least 3 songs per lesson. One will be a partner song, clapping game or a round.
30-45 Minutes. Instrument Time.
We play a variety of games using instruments and I try to use Orff techniques as much as possible. We perform as much music as we can. This work is differentiated into easy and hard. The easy work will be ostinati or simple rhythms. The hard music will be much harder with melodies written in staff notation. Our children can cope with this. In Year 2 we have some children playing Grade 5 piano music. Sometimes I will get the children to do some composition work in groups but this is not often, possibly once or twice a term. The focus is on performing for Key Stage 1. There are plenty more oportunities for composition in the following 7 years of their musical education.
45-50 Minutes. Listening Time.
After packing away instruments we have a time where we listen to four sounds and work out what instrument they are. This way the children can identify over 40 instruments from the sound alone by the time they leave Year 2.
50-55 Minutes. Performance Time.
One pupil will play a piece of music they have prepared for the rest of the class to listen to. I tell them when they are playing a month in advance. There are 33 weeks of lessons in our school year. In my class I have 24 children and everyone plays something after Week 4. We listen in silence to the performer and then clap enthusiastically. I then take the register and the children line up at the door as I call their name.
To exit the room they have to individually play a tune I set, clap a rhythm or sing something. This is differentiated. It is related to the lesson content and helps me work out if they have understood the lesson. If the children cannot do it correctly, they go to the back of the line to have another go. Yes, the same ones keep going back all the time but they do it with a smile and understand that we do this so that noone gets left behind.
When they leave the room they put their shoes on and go back to their class.
This means that my lessons are normally about 80-100% teacher directed. I know this is relatively controversial but I will go into my reasons why in future posts.
This is a jammed pack lesson for 55 minutes but much of what we do is repeated week after week. Why repeat so much? Because that’s how little kids learn. I do not believe that discovery learning is effective with this age, they need good modelling and direct instruction. If anyone complains about this I direct them to John Hattie’s meta-analysis work on teaching techniques and effect sizes and ask them to inform me which technique is the most effective (clue: one is proven to be 5 times more effective and it’s not discovery learning). Children only master material if they have done it at least three times over three weeks. As music lessons are weekly, the repetition is even more important. There is little point doing anything only once. I always keep revisiting material too as they quickly forget.
This is what we do for children in Year 1 and Year 2. Early Years is different and I will write about that another time.