Maybe it is that time of year when people are applying for jobs or maybe SLT are just being particuarly hard on music teachers, but I am reading lots of requests for ideas for lesson observations and interviews.
So I thought I would share a lesson that I gave when Ofsted last visited my school. It might be helpful and it worked really well for me.
Some background information
- It was a Year 11 GCSE class and the inspector stayed for a large amount of the lesson.
- They had recently completed a mock exam and I hadn’t been through it because we were in coursework season, but for this lesson, because I was being observed, I decided to go through the paper.
- I did not provide a lesson plan and there was nothing written on the board whatsoever.
- I was obviously out to impress, but I didn’t do anything strange, different or unexpected for the class.
- It was a few years ago.
- This would work really well for a 30 minute interview observation.
Now. I am a firm beleiver in making sure that when you are observed you show what you can do. But what I don’t like to do is simply put on a show for the observer that throws the students off. My aim with this particular lesson was to pick up on the mock exam, show off my strengths and ensure that students left the lessons with some fresh ideas and an understanding of where they went wrong in the exam. This lesson would also work if you wanted to teach some theory to a class and incorporate singing.
So yes, I used singing to teach theory and I guess in essence the aim of the lesson was:
“To pick up on issues raised in a recent mock exam using singing”.
When I marked the mock it was clear that they were having issues with two fairly simple areas – Tonality & Cadences. Both of these can pick up several marks in a listening test and so I wanted to make sure I went over them clearly.
So my approach was to use singing to go over both of these concepts. I explained to the class that in the exam several of them had lost “silly marks” with these simple concepts. I started with some singing exercises, just singing the first five notes of a scale. I started Major, but then I moved to Minor and then to Pentatonic. Through singing they started to hear and feel the differences between these different tonalities. We then moved on to intervals and focsusses on that 5-1 interval that is so crucial for cadences. They weren’t all the best singers, but they could sing enough to really learn from this. I kept referring back to the exam and the GCSE.
I then sang a Beatles song with them – I can’t even remember which one, but it was one that showed cadences clearly. Oh I remember, it was a song that was actually in the exam, so they had heard an extract of it like 5 times and so vaguely knew it! Another link to the exam paper. The inspector was seen mouthing the lyrics, I enjoyed that.
I was then able to mention melodic shape etc. and the lesson really grew from there. There was an element of the organic about it, and yet it was strucuted, engaging and progress was made. It was evident that students were learning and I was clearly picking up on previous learning and assessment. The lesson was fun, engaging, relevant to GCSE and packed full of key terms and questioning.
What I remember very clearly from the feedback was that the lesson was descriebd as “highly musical” and full of “what music lessons should contain”. This was pleasing to hear as sometimes we can make our lessons distinctly unmusical. Not only did the lesson focus on musical terminoloy at GCSE, but the students were actually singing the terms and learning by doing.
So if you have an observation or interview coming up, why not take some key terms and get them singing them. Scales and Intervals are great and you can teach them so much with such simple tools. Then find a song to sing and ask them to comment on the notes and the intervals after they have sung it. Students love to sing and they can learn so much from singing intervals. Getting them to really think about tuning when singing the first five notes of a major and minor scale is really useful. It worked for me in that ofsted lesson and the students really enjoyed themselves. I know it isn’t the most innovative idea, but it worked.
And if you don’t feel comfortable with singing then just go for it! Students will appreciate you just being fun and vulnerable about it, but go in with confidence. If you don’t play piano then get a backing track, or ideally get a student to play. At an interveiw a class will want to see that you are engaging and that you use music to teach.
Jsut some thoughts on this Friday morning and I hope that some of this might be helpful to you. Singing is such a powerful tool and there is really no need to take anything, type anything or hand anything out!