When it comes to revision lessons, there is nothing better than doing lots of listening! The thing is, we don’t always have the time at this point in the year to create listening questions formally. Typing up worksheets can take a long time and I for one always find that it isn’t worth it.
The thing is we live in the 21st century and so we have so much music at our fingertips on services such as Apple Music. So here is my approach.
Today I wanted to do some film music listening as I find it a really useful genre to engage students. So instead of thinking through lots of questions in advance I simply went into the lesson with the agenda of discussing and unpacking film music with the class in front of me. Now you might say that is a cop out and I should be planning for hours. But the thing is I have been planning this lesson for years. All my years of listening to music have prepared me for a more “risky” and yet wholly satisfying lesson.
So I started with Doctor Zhivago, the main opening titles theme. I asked students firstly about the mood – I got them to suggest adjectives. Then I asked them, well how is this mood created and I forced them to use musical terms. From these initial questions I was able to work out what they knew and what they were picking up on. This led on to a discussion about tonality and how major and minor can almost exist together. Anyway.
From this point on we then hopped between films because I was able to search for basically anything and play extracts to them. Okay I know my film music. But as music teachers we need to embrace this kind of responsive slightly on the spot learning. The thing is you are able to instantly respond to questions with listening examples and of course you can also play things on piano. Discussion led on to how film composers create such open sounding textures and so we looked at bare fifths etc.
So I would honestly take the risk and dare to have lessons where listening is the focus. I would add that my students know how listening works and so they use the elements or areas of study as a guide. They also know that I will pick on anyone not just the keen hands up students. I find that rich discussion comes out of lessons such as this.
Film music is great. Embrace it and use it. I managed to touch on other genres in our discussions and I really feel students left with some key listening skills and knowledge. It was also fun and engaging.
Just some thoughts!