GCSE A-Level Key Stage 3 CPD

Learning in Lockdown: Focus on Sound

In this new series I am going to consider some of the ways that I approach Learning in Lockdown. I will be covering a range of online software offerings as well as looking at some techniques. I recently blogged some Tips for Teaching Online that will hopefully have given teachers some support. In this series I am shifting the focus on to students and how we can give them options for learning at home. I also have a blog Series on Composing at Home as well as some pages from March 2020 that looked at Home Learning during the Corona Virus Pandemic.

Learning in Lockdown isn’t easy for students, but I think we can support them by offering them tools and resources. But I appreciate that not every student will have access to a computer or the like. I also appreciate that every situation is different. These ideas will therefore hopefully be helpful as a starting point and I would love to hear more about what you are doing. Please share any comments or ideas below and feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Focus on Sound Pro

Focus on Sound Pro is a fantastic tool for Learning in Lockdown. I have been using it for a number of years now and when Lockdown 1.0 came along I was ready with something to offer. For more information about Focus on Sound click here. But possibly the best thing to do is email Richard Payne at Music First who will be able to help you with any questions.

I will say that I don’t work for Music First I simply use their stuff and think it is great! So I thought it best I share some thoughts with you.

Setting lessons in FoS

We will all be required to set work for students to complete online and we will all use different platforms. I use Microsoft Teams and I am aware that you can integrate FoS into Teams. Whilst I don’t integrate into Teams, I still set work on Focus on Sound and then link to it in Teams. This approach is helpful as I then use one platform, Teams, to set work and run live lessons.

What I love about FoS is that you can set lessons that you either create yourself or using pre-made lessons. There are loads of great lessons available and I particularly like the ones made and shared by other teachers. It really is a fantastic library of lessons and there are tests associated with the lessons that students can complete online.

Revision in FoS

Whilst we don’t have exams this year, FoS is a fantastic tool for revision. Students can use it freely to access key terms, revise set works and explore instruments. What I think is fantastic is that Focus on Sound is always there for those students who just want to go the extra mile and do some extra work. I find that students all learn at a different pace when at home – although that is often the same in the classroom. FoS is great because it is always there and can be accessed on a phone, tablet or PC.

My favourite feature is where students can look up instruments or key terms and hear examples of them. When I am teaching in school I will often play example at the piano. But when students are Learning in Lockdown they will benefit from hearing music in action.

So much to explore within FoS that students will never be short of something to do!


There is nothing better than setting work that self-marks and therefore gives feedback to students. FoS comes with a shared library of tests that can be improved to your school and then set for your students. But you can also create custom tests to assign to classes and these are fantastic. I love being able to create a lesson and then test students on that lesson. My favourite type of tests on FoS are the listening tests where students assign answers to a specific moment in the music. They drag answers in and the listening is all included in the test. This is a great way to get students listening and engaged and they are easy to make. But I will say the library is great and growing all the time. Teachers from around the world are making tests and sharing them regularly.

Fantastic Listening tests that really help to engage students

Wider Listening

Wider listening is a huge part of what we do as music teachers. Learning in Lockdown is a great opportunity to get students listening to a wider range of music and FoS is really useful. Every exam board has their own set works and therefore by jumping to another exam board on FoS students can embrace new pieces. They can then read about them and complete tests. I guess what I am saying is that FoS allows us to see other set works and students can then easily explore them. When I am setting work for my classes I will always look at the other boards to see if there are pieces I can link to.

Exploring & Planning

Sometimes we can waste time creating resources that have already been made for us. Whilst I am aware that FoS isn’t free, I think it is reasonably priced for what is on offer. Also it is a small price to pay for the time it can save and the support it can offer our students. I would say explore what is on offer within FoS and make sure that you are utilising it fully. There are so many lessons, resources, tests and examples that students really can learn all they need.

What will take some planning is the setting of lessons and tests. When you set a lesson or test then you will need to check the results within your school area to see if there are any longer answers that you need to mark. Whilst the short answers are self-marking, where students give a longer response you will need to read it and give feedback. FoS provide a model answer and it is great that you can then read the students work and give your comments.

What Next?

This blog is designed to briefly introduce you to Focus on Sound Pro. I am however not the expert on every aspect and so here are the details of two Webinars that Music First are running that I know I will be logging on to:

Wed 13th January 2021 – How MusicFirst can support teaching and learning during lockdown hosted by Jim Frankel
Click Here to Sign Up for this Webinar

Thursday 14th January 2021 – Getting the best out of Focus on Sound PRO hosted by Richard Payne and Matt Allen
Click Here to Sign up for Webinar

I love working with this software and my students really enjoy using it. There is so much there that I feel I am only at the tip of the iceberg. But during this Lockdown period I know that I will use it more and more. I hope that you have found this is a useful introduction and do get in touch if you have any questions. I am a teacher though, not a salesman, so I can maybe help with how I use it in teaching more than hoe to get it set up!

Thanks for reading and I hope that you have a great term.


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