GCSE Performing

We are now on the new 9-1 specs for GCSE and despite several changes, performance is still a crucial part of the course. All exam boards include performing, and whilst the parameters and criteria are different, the fundamental principle is there. Performing is part of the GCSE and students need to be aware of that. When I run my options evening at school I make it clear that students will need to be able to perform on an instrument or sing. But I don’t necessarily talk too much about what level that will need to be. The thing is, all students are different and come with different target grades. A student who has a target grade of 9 will obviously need to be aiming for a higher “grade” performance than a student with a target of 4. I then ask parents to meet with me or email me if they want to talk about the specifics of their son/daughter. I think it is important for recruitment that we remove barriers and help the individual rather than saying that everyone who opts for music needs to be Grade 5 or whatever. We want students to feel they can achieve. If of course their target grade is 9 and they can’t sing or play and hate performing then that isn’t great –  but that is rare.

Once you have your GCSE class and you have informed them that will all be performing I  would like to think that these hints and tips will help you out along the way.

  1. Year 10 should be performing a formal “in class” performance by the end of September or early October. But this doesn’t need to be formally assessed or even recorded. This performance will inform you as to where they are at and build their confidence.
  2. Give students plenty of notice about when a performance will be – put the date in the diary and let parents know.
  3. Make sure that students bring sheet music to the performance. I ask them to submit their sheet music a week before and I expect the sheet music to include markings. A neat and tidy score with no pencil markings is now not accepted by me as it shows a lack of rehearsal.
  4. Where possible, undertake performances in front of the class. Make this the standard and support those who find it hard. What you want to create is an environment & culture where students support each other, inspire each other and encourage each other.
  5. If you do record the performance, make sure students have access to this recording so that they can see exactly why they got the mark they got. I use our online learning environment to share the files with students and parents.
  6. Give them a copy of the mark scheme so that they know how to improve. Every single performance, no matter how good, can improve in some way. Make sure that students come up with clear objectives next time.
  7. Where possible, do the performance session in one go, even if this means starting at lunch, or running into a break time. It is good for you the teacher and for the students, to hear everyone at the same time.
  8. Where possible, organise a rehearsal lesson a week before the performance. This gives you time to rehearse with students if you are accompanying them. But you can also walk around and just see what everyone is playing and highlight any issues ahead of the performance. I find that it starts to install a bit of discipline into the students.
  9. Make performances fun and enjoyable and encourage celebration and a good atmosphere. Celebrate successes and don’t point out mistakes in front of the class.
  10. Don’t just stick to class performances. Organise at least one formal performance each year that is specifically for GCSE students. This can be small scale and I often use our drama studio to stage this event. Students then have a small audience and I find it helps them to really take their performing seriously.

Ten things for you to consider and to maybe inform your planning for the year ahead. You need to put dates in the diary for both class performances and also more public ones. Aim to create a positive culture of performing in your school. And most of all remember that as a classroom teacher you are responsible for performing. Students may have peri lessons but you as the teacher need to take a real interest in these. work with instrumental and vocal teachers and get students to share your feedback with their teacher. Performing can really help to boost grades and also boost confidence. And if you handle it well, it can help to receipt more students to study music.

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