I can’t quite believe that it’s almost a year since I wrote a post!
So what’s new?
We haven’t changed our curriculum map significantly: the only thing that’s going to be really new next year is a Stormzy/Mozart project at the start of Year 9. I’ll write about this more in due course (once I’ve sorted it out!) but it will involve exploring some Mozart and some Stormzy through performing, and then getting students to make comparisons between them. We’ll look at the idea of structure, repetition and variety, harmony and melody, and unpick as much as we can how the pieces are put together. We’ll also look at their different historical/cultural contexts. Then students will be asked to describe the merits of each using correct ‘mad t-shirt’ musical terminology. Anyway, more to come on that one once we’ve a) planned it properly and b) done it with students.
The one big thing we’re pushing next year is behaviour and attitudes. We are struggling a bit with this on a school-wide level, and feel that we need to be more explicit about what our expectations are. In music and drama, we have noticed an increasing tendency for students to regard our subjects as play rather than work, and we want to nip this in the bud too. These are the things we have decided to do:
- Have a set of specific expectations that are common to music and drama so that we can create routines that are common across the performing arts
- Increase the learning demands that we place on our KS3 students
- Keep referring back to why we are doing what we’re doing: essentially doing a bit of PR for ourselves to try and counteract EBacc mentalities
I know this is absolutely not rocket science, and pretty much every school has their own version of these. We just wanted to have our own versions of the generic school ones, where the ‘what is disruptive behaviour’ is balanced with the expectations, so that we can be really specific when giving praise or sanctions. We have found students increasingly likely to question absolutely everything. Hopefully this might help. Clearly, having these on the walls is just the first step – we actually need to refer to them and use them to help us create good routines – but we are looking forward to having a cohesive approach across the two departments.
Increasing the learning demands
We don’t want to decrease the amount of time we spend on practical engagement with music in our lessons. However, we do want to be more demanding of students and what we require them to learn. To give an example, we have been frustrated by students who still haven’t learned basic essential knowledge, such as the difference between a note and a chord, or the difference between a flat and a minor, by the end of Year 7 – not through any learning difficulty but out of laziness or reluctance to treat this knowledge as important.
We intend to do this by
- having a series of knowledge organisers for KS3 (we already use them extensively at KS4 and 5), which are used in lessons and as the basis for retrieval practice homework
- just having these is not enough by itself – we intend to refer to these in lessons all the time
- using Plickers for really quick, low-stakes testing, frequently. This will be on top of more formal quizzes set for homework using Show My Homework. It will enable us to keep closer tabs on students who aren’t engaging with the content effectively, and give us more ammunition with which to tackle this
Doing our own PR
Again, this is something that we have planned alongside our drama colleagues, and they have direct equivalents of these posters for their studios in the same format for a cohesive message. As before, we are planning on referring to these constantly – just having them on the wall is not going to be enough. We really want to focus on pointing out the benefits of what we’re doing in our lessons in a relentless kind of way!
We also want to bring Mad t-shirt more closely into our lessons, at the same time as making a real feature of very deliberately broadening students’ musical horizons. The later knowledge organisers incorporate relevant Mad t-shirt terms, and a set of wider listening ‘Do Now’ activities will introduce students to a new piece of music each week. These are based on a set of 30 pieces of music drawn up in a very enjoyable department meeting, and is our list of pieces we really want our students to hear. You may well disagree with our choices – that is entirely your prerogative – but the point is that we want to make the point to our students that there is a whole load of music out there, and we want to show them some of it. Cultural capital if you like. Ultimately students don’t know what they don’t know.
The slides will be up on the board with the music playing as students come in (we have a large site, and no movement time between lessons, so they tend to arrive in dribs and drabs, and our corridor is small enough for us not to want them all congregating outside). Each one has some specific questions to go with the video, and a focus on one of the Mad t-shirt dimensions. The title and composer is always shown, as is the year of composition, so we can begin to build up a sense of historical context.
You will notice that I have added some pages to the blog, with a lot of these resources for you to have and use if you would like. Where possible I’ve put them in an editable format so you can tweak and adapt.