GCSE A-Level Key Stage 3

Setting Great Work

Chances are you are in a similar situation to me and you are setting work for students to complete at home due to Covid, illness or some other situation. You may also be setting work for a cover teacher if you are unable to teach for similar reasons. When I first started teaching I used to dread setting cover work as I found it so hard. You have to think about the students and what they have and also the potential teacher covering the lesson. Where possible I like to contact a cover teacher in advance, but that isn’t always possible.

This term I have found myself setting work a great deal and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and tips for this. There is so much out there that we can use and I am finding it easier and more enjoyable than ever. Setting Great Work is now more possible than ever and I hope these ideas are useful.

Online Learning Platforms

There are several online learning platforms out there, Google Classroom & Microsoft Teams to name just two. What I love is the ability to set work on Teams. Not only can I easily communicate with the students, but I can set really good work with links, documents, videos and assignments.

I really do recommend setting work in this way and one of the features I am enjoying with Teams is using a Form to set questions. Forms are easy to use, and there are of course lots of platforms that offer this service. Not only can you set short answer question, but you can also set longer answer questions.

I find the students really like completing work online and if you haven’t used Teams or the equivalent then I do recommend it. I am sure that your school has something, so do explore its uses. And if you need any help with Teams in particular, then please do get in touch as I know it quite well now!

Focus on Sound

I know it isn’t Free, but it is really good and not at all expensive. Well I guess that depends on your budget, but I love working with Focus on Sound. I think the lessons that are on there are fantastic and you can set these for students to complete. You can also create your own lessons and tests and these can self mark.

The great thing that I have realised recently is that not only can I use the lessons for my exam board, but also other boards. This helps with Wider Listening and gives students other pieces of music to study. It is really worth getting in touch with MusicFirst to get a quote and a demo. If you have any questions then please do get in touch. I will give you the scoop on the software and help you with anything you might need. I must say that they are also very supported and I know that Matt Allen will be more than happy to help out.


When it comes to setting practical work for students at home, Bandlab is great and it is free. I have set up classes and got students making work at home. This is a great extension to our classwork and I find that the students really do enjoy working with it. I am aware that there are issues and concerns with Bandlab at times, but there is a lot to enjoy considering it is free.


Soundtrap is an amazing online DAW and whilst it isn’t free, it is really amazing. There is so much you can do with it and you can really collaborate with your students. It has podcasting facilities as well as amazing sequencing potential. If you can stretch to this then I would! Future DJs are working closely with Soundtrap and I know that MusicFirst also offer a package. I love the thought of students creating and exploring music at home or in school when I am not there.

Steinberg Cubase & Dorico

Steinberg have so much to offer us and I love working with their software in class. It is a great idea to encourage students to look into having this software at home where possible. There are free options as well as affordable downloads. Make parents aware of these options as they may well be happy to invest in something that will get their kids learning. Check out the Steinberg website for more information. Notation software that is free will really help students to keep composing whilst they are at home.

Cover Work

One of the main things I like to do when setting work for a cover lesson is ensure that students are going to be engaged. I don’t want the cover teacher to have a nightmare and I also want the students to have a nice lesson even if I am not there. Recently I have found that learning videos for them to watch and then questions to complete online is really useful. Finding great YouTube videos for them to watch is a really good way to keep them engaged and working. And then a Microsoft Form with questions is really useful too. A couple of Videos I have enjoyed recently are:

A Brief History of Rock & Roll

The same song in different emotions – Jacob Collier

Clapping Music

I am sure you have loads of videos that you use and I think it is amazing to get students watching music. For GCSE & A-Level I always think it is good for them to watch orchestras & bands performing the pieces they are studying.

Leaving students with great music to Listen to is also a great lesson and this can all be done online and using YouTube. Just make sure that you give them things to Deliberately listen out for in the music.

Ten Tips for setting Home Learning Work

  1. Set work that will take up the right amount of time. If students are off for two weeks then set a mini-project. If it is just one day then set something that is easier to complete when thrown in with other subjects.
  2. Give students lots to watch and listen to as this is a great way to spend time when working from home.
  3. Make sure that you know what your students have access to at home.
  4. Involve parents by copying them in to emails and explaining clearly where work is set.
  5. Find ways to have work self-mark so that it isn’t an extra burden on you.
  6. Record a short video to help explain what students need to do – it doesn’t need to be an Oscar winning movie, and it could just be audio.
  7. Save some things that you might use in class, for example a cool website or online tool that could be saved for the next time you need cover.
  8. If students are missing a series of lessons then make sure they have access to the overview and the resources that they need .
  9. Set ideas in motion before the need arises – if students are already members of a Bandlab or Soundtrap group then they can get working straight away.
  10. Work out what online resources, tools and subscriptions you can afford and then embed them in your curriculum. This way, learning from home or cover work is an extension of class work.

Setting Work

Setting work can certainly be a pain, but I am sure it is something that is here to stay. I think it is important that make the work as musical as possible and something that students will enjoy. Making music online, watching videos and tackling questions in an interactive way, are all great ways to deliver content. When a cover teacher is taking your lesson you want to make the lesson easy for them – they always enjoy it when students have headphones on and get working. Leaving a cover teacher with 30 Ukuleles and some chords sheets might not be the nicest thing to do!

I hope that you have access to some of the above and I do really recommend finding learning platforms and online DAWs that work for you. If money is tight, then there are lots of free options. And if you have any questions, thoughts or ideas then please get in touch or leave comments below!

And for more ideas I would check out some blogs I wrote earlier on in 2020 when the Corona Virus first hit us. These pages contain a number of ideas that would be great for Home Learning or cover work.

Happy teaching!

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