Instrument of the Week 3 – Trumpet

I haven’t updated Instrument of the Week for a while so there will be a few updates.  In Week 3 we did the trumpet.  I showed them this:

It’s quite a good video as young children love to see other children playing music as they really think if they can do it so can they. I introduced the word “brass” so the children could identify the instrument family.  The children knew the song and started singing it half way through which was great – after I talked a little bit about the trumpet we sang “Old MacDonald”.  We talked about valves and “buzzing” to make a sound – a good excuse to make some funny noises!  I also used the word “accompaniment” and asked the children if they could identify the instrument that the teacher was playing with the child. We had some good guesses with “guitar” and “piano” but in the end I had to tell them it was a harp and show them a picture from a Google image search.

Just to clarify – Instrument of the Week is a pre-lesson starter so the children can walk in to music.  It is time that the teacher can talk to a class teacher if there is something about the class that they need to know.  If there is a child who is distressed or needs to be talked to then it gives time for the teacher to deal with it, in the knowledge that the other children are doing something constructive.  If the lesson is one where one lesson backs on into another then it gives the teacher some time to put the room straight or their thoughts straight before embarking on a new class.  The music is not more than a few minutes long and it is a good routine so the children can find their carpet spots and transition their minds into music-lesson mode.  And finally it helps with my objective that by the end of Year 2 all pupils will know 40 instruments off by heart from sight and sound.

Carpet Spaces – update

Carpet spaces have worked.  The children are so much happier now they know exactly where to sit in a lesson.  There are no arguments and every child has their own personal space. Children who would wind each other up now have distance.  After a singing game or instrumental activity they now know exactly where to go back to sitting within 10 seconds rather than 2 minutes.  I can see exactly what every child is doing, what they can do and what they are struggling with.  The children know you can’t avert the gaze of the teacher and any misbehaviour is caught  and dealt with immediately.  They can all see the white-board and I know who is concentrating and who is in la-la land.

I’m happy with circle spots too if you are unhappy with the notion of three rows of children all looking forward.  But will I ever go back to no set space?  Never again.

Frustrations for Music Teachers at Christmas

In the good ole’ days, Christmas was easy.  Everyone knew the songs you did and the Christmas show was invariably the same.  All you needed was a piano and some tea towels.  Now it is a lot more complicated and there are certain things you can and cannot do.

  1. You cannot sing traditional songs – “Away in a Manger” is banned as it mentions the “Little Lord Jesus”.  One head said we could sing it if we changed the word “Lord” to “child”.  “While shepherd’s watched” is meaningless because they are not watching anything any more.
  2. You cannot mention Jesus – he is banned in many schools unless they are faith schools.  You can mention Santa as much as you like.
  3. All music must be recorded in three formats – 1) normal speed with vocals, 2) normal speed without vocals and 3) slow speed for rehearsal.  This has to be recorded as you would exactly play it on the piano on the concert day.  A robot would be much more beneficial than a trained music teacher.
  4. The songs for Christmas will not be chosen by a music teacher but by someone who knows nothing about music.  This person will then instruct the music teacher exactly what they have to play based on a 12 second audio recording from YouTube.  This is no joke, this really did happen.
  5. The music will have to be re-scored for the purposes required in point 3, the key changed so the children can attempt to sing it, new words created so they scan properly and the whole thing reduced in difficulty as they are originally written for professional pop or opera singers.

What are the implications of this?

  1. A shared common experience between generations has now been eradicated
  2. It de-professionalises trained music teachers
  3. All those resources and songbooks built over many years might as well be thrown away

I have nothing against good quality non-religious Christmas concerts.  It’s just depressing that most of the alternatives are pretty devoid of content.  If you do want to do a non-traditional Christmas show I would recommend many of the publications by “Out of the Ark” rather than relying on Youtube.

A Friend’s Room

A friend of mine who is also a music teacher has his room set up like this:


I love the stands and how the beaters are laid neatly on the instruments.  This is set up for 12 players and then the rest will play untuned percussion or singing.  Would love to do this myself but will have to wait a few years to save up.

Carpet Spaces

I have made seating plans for all my Y1 and Y2 classes.  It’s worked really well today.  Basically I have surrounded our most distracted children with focused learners so they have noone to feed off.  Let’s see how the rest of the week goes. 

Royal Wedding at the bottom of the Cupboard

I have managed to chuck needless paper and useless resources today.  This reminded me of one of the worst schools I have ever taught in.  This school had no instruments, no schemes of work and had been led by the same person for 30 years.  How on earth the school kept her on defies belief.  Anyway, I was teaching there for about 8 months and I got told off for trying to sort through a cupboard searching vainly for some instruments.  I just simply did not believe there were no instruments in the music department.  But it was true, there were no instruments, just cupboards full of rubbish that noone had bothered to sort through.  In amongst the crisp packets and coke cans I found a book about Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue for their “wedding” from Neighbours and also I found a wedding book about Prince Charles and Lady Diana from the early 80’s.  This was in 2007. 

I left soon after but the last time I looked she was still at the school and had been promoted four times.  Every job she did was a disaster.  Why do some schools keep promoting people who do such bad jobs?  I just don’t get it.

Mini Drum Kit


This is a mini drum kit for use with KS1 pupils.  It is pretty good quality but cheap.  The company that makes them is called Mr. Drumm.  We have some very good drum kit students at school.  My aim is to give them some supervised practice time and make sure that at least one pupil in every class can play the drums.  We start school early and so Drum Club will be at 7am.  Great way to wake up in the morning!