Next school year the Such Fun! programme wants to focus on developing a curriculum that integrates music education and English for one of our primary schools.
In July I got to follow two professional development courses at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Both lasted five days. The first one was Creative Music for Primary Teachers by Mary Curran, which was helt in the morning. In the afternoon I went to Musical Play by Helen Blackmore.
Where the first one focussed on introducing primary pupils to classical music and to music making in the classroom, the second was focussing on singing, mostly with (pre-)primary pupils: an excellent combination! I came home with a lot of new songs and great ideas to get our classes to do percussion and other music sessions together.
I made a little compilation of Mary Curran’s course:
10 things I’ve learned that I will definitely integrate in my music teaching:
- Clapping or tapping the beat before I start singing the song and using the first note of the song whilst singing: “Are you ready, off we go…”
- How to always use the same way of starting and stopping (parts of) the orchestra. Never stand still, but walk towards the group of pupils you are referring to. Make a ‘camera rolling’ gesture to children who need to continue playing when you need to stop the rest of the orchestra. It is as simple as putting your hand up and going; 4-3-2-1- STOP!
- How to introduce the pentatonic scale (five notes per octave instead of the heptatonic scale of 7 notes per octave) by watching this Youtube video: https://www.ted.com/talks/bobby_mcferrin_hacks_your_brain_with_music
- How to focus on the way you sit when you sing and play music. You do it when you sing yourself, but need to ask it from your pupils as well: sit up straight and as if a string were pulling your head.
- How to avoid placing instruments in front of every pupil and have them start at some point, but gradually keep adding (percussion) instruments whilst the whole group is clapping the beat. ‘Pass the drum’ starts off with 3 pupils playing and in no time you have your whole class playing together in a great percussion jam session!
- Ways of making pupils understand what the concepts of high and low are. Not just by using your voice but your whole body (colourful scarves) for example and by having them zoom like bumble bees or like elevators going to different floors, humming higher and higher. Fast and slow are also concepts that need to be taught from the youngest age!
- I’ve always been a fan of using songs in my story telling, but looking at every scene of a story or opera, picking the right instruments and composing yourself, has added an extra layer to that.
- The multiple songs I’ve learned.
- I love writing lyrics for our English lessons, but usually use existing (pop-)songs. It was very exciting to compose your own song as well, and recording programmes like Logic, audacity, garageband and Anytune really help with that.
- Explaining beat keeping by referring to pupils’ heart beat. Your heart beat keeps you going and in music we need to keep the beat going as well!
It has been a fabulous week and I want to thank Helen Blackmore and Mary Curran as well as all the amazing Irish (and English, Catalan and South-African) colleagues I’ve met during the course. It was a great pleasure to meet you and work with you all and I can hardly wait to meet again or set up an inspiring music eTwinning project with some of you!