Edexcel – Defying Gravity

If you are anything like me then you have probably been trying to think of innovative and exciting ways to teach the new set works. The thing is that sometimes you just have to get down to it don’t you, and time is always against us! So here are a few things I have tried with Defying Gravity that whilst simple are proving to be effective.

1. A3 Score – I decided to photocopy each page of the score and enlarge it to A3. I then split my class into groups of 3 or 4 and they focussed on just one page. They were tasked with identifying key features, annotating the score and using highlighters and colours to make the page come to life.

2. Pupil generated questions – There isn’t exactly a wealth of questions in the textbooks and so I decided to get students to come up with questions for their sheet. They wrote these down on the back and then swapped with other groups and had to answer each others questions. This was a simple task but really helped to solidify their knowledge of their sheet and then the sheet of another group.

3. Focus on the Finale – I found that the best angle to take with this piece is to consider all of the features that make it perfect for a dramatic finale. It gets the students thinking about musical features, how they are used and their impact on the piece. I found that they started to listen to it very differently once they started to consider its goal or aim in the musical as a whole.

4. Spot the feature – I think it is really good to challenge students to find the feature on a page. It not only gets them thinking quickly but it also creates a good sense of challenge in the lesson as students want to “win” and find the feature first. One of the key challenges for students is that they will get used to a score that is annotated and covered in highlighter, but then in the exam they will just get an extract of an unmarked score. So the more they can spot features and remember where things are in a piece the better.

5. Musical Feature Lyrics – My next plan for this piece is to get students to change the lyrics on their sheet to lyrics that describe what is happening on the music. I saw a similar thing done with Haydn 104 and I urge you to watch the video below as it is a lot of fun. I thought it might be fun to get them singing about the features of the piece using the melody of the song. It might not work of course but if it does I will post lyrics and recordings on here, now watch this:


6. Go and see it – My plan is to take my class to see the show and use it as a chance to get them out of the classroom and hopefully they will be inspired. I book my tickets through See Group Sales and I always find them really easy to use. It is an obvious thing to do a trip, but hopefully this will just encourage you to actually do it with this show. Wicked is a fantastic musical and really inspiring for the students. I can’t wait to go, I just need to now fill in all that dreaded paperwork.

So, just a few thoughts on Defying Gravity. I couldn’t really come up with anything too exciting, but I have realised that simple, but effective tasks and group work still does the trick. I have enjoyed seeing the students really analysing the music and now they all have a colour photocopy of all of the sheets. This will be a really useful document for their own revision.

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