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: