KS3 – another revamp!

Every year we tweak our KS3 curriculum. Every year I think it gets better, and we move closer to something that is really musical and really works, for everyone. Various things have been influencing my thinking in the last few weeks:

  • Some of my students still don’t know where to find the notes on the keyboard. Clearly I need to have more efficient ways of reinforcing this: this made me think that actually, we’re trying to cover too much, and not reinforcing these basic (and rather useful) things
  • One of my colleagues did a great lesson where she made a video explaining major and minor chords that students watched for homework. In the lesson, they had a choice of songs to play, some with easy chords, some with harder ones such as F# major. All were songs they knew, and the application of the knowledge was direct, time-efficient and differentiated. It made me think we needed to do more of this: firstly making videos to explain key concepts (that students can watch again as reference, either in lessons or in their own time), and then using this knowledge directly to do something practical
  • Some of my students have shown that they still are confused by beamed notes: a question such as ‘how many notes are there?’, although it might seem ridiculously obvious, does not always elicit a correct answer. I must need to do something differently if my students think this is one note, despite my best efforts (see my last blog post on the Peer to Peer network here)pairquavers

I have been doing some (unassessed) playing of a range of songs with my classes, and some students have asked to take pictures of the materials so they can practise in their own time. We need to find better ways for all materials to be available to students out of lessons. Plus, I want students to be much more aware of all the brilliant music video tutorials, websites and apps there are out there, to motivate them to pursue their own musical interests. As a knock-on from this, I want them all to have a better understanding of how to play chord boxes and tab
We have a PD day every June devoted to departmental planning (always one of our favourite days). We decided to start from scratch and think about exactly what we wanted our students to be able to do. Here is our collection of post-its:

post its2

We then talked further, and organised our thoughts via a Padlet, coming up with a rough overview of KS3, including what to keep from our current SoW:

I could go on indefinitely about all of this, but I want to keep it brief. So, in summary:

  • We want to reinforce basic skills more frequently, including doing more singing (we find that if there’s an entirely instrumental project, it’s hard to get the singing back). So, more quick starters and chants etc. for things like the notes of the keyboard. More frequent playing of just about every type of chord
  • More performing and less composing, actually… we need that time to reinforce the skills. There will be frequent creative bits, though, deciding how to arrange songs, improvising and so on – as well as some more meaty composition topics. We just decided we didn’t want to flog retrogrades/phase shifting to death any more!
  • We are moving our antiquated VLE onto Sharepoint from September. We hope this will be more conducive for sharing lesson resources, instructional videos, recordings of work in progress, and so on.
  • We are going to be using Soundation with our Year 9s
  • We want to cover at least one of the BBC Ten Pieces with each year group, but we’ll wait to see what the BBC resources on these are like before deciding exactly what, how and when. We want this to be as fully integrated into everything else as possible, however
  • The emphasis will be on getting students to a point where they are able to pursue their own musical preferences independently. They will know enough about playing chords, reading notation, tab and chord boxes, to be able to find stuff on the internet and do good, musical, things with it


  1. I so agree with your thoughts on teaching the basics well. We’ve seen exactly the same thing – students wanting to run before they can walk! I think we need to move away from thinking the “basics” need to be taught in a boring, “chalk-and-talk” way. I like the idea of videoing tutorials that students can access in their own time… Phew, you’ve given me a lot to think about! Thanks, Jane!


  2. Heya Jane, I hope you are doing well! Cool blog 🙂 I wanted to post a note to say hello and that you really inspired me when I was at school. You gave me confidence, motivated me to get involved in music at school, and as a result I had so much fun and got to travel to some great places. Thanks for making these years so awesome! I have only realised how much of an influence you had, over the last few years, and the impact that it had on me and who I am. I can’t thank you enough!
    Alice Ward-Francis (former student from hayes)


    1. Hi Alice – how lovely to hear from you! And thank you so much for your kind words, I’m really touched. I do hope everything is going well for you – what are you up to these days? And Ben too?


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