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Music, Performing Arts and Rosenshine: Engage students in weekly and monthly review

Catherine Barker

13 June 2019
  • How well do you balance the use of your time with the students with regards to input, practice and review? Is it proportionate?
  • Do your homework tasks encourage students to review prior learning?
  • How do you make use of summative assessment points to review knowledge and skills?

Research tells us that daily review is best for mitigating the drop off in retention of new knowledge and skills but classroom music and performing arts lessons are unlikely to take place more than once a week! To support good weekly and monthly review, students should have the opportunity to revisit knowledge, by making links across similar styles. A common thread over a term, for example with rhythm (syncopation and/or polyrhythm) can be reinforced and presented multiple times through West African Drumming, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, Samba, Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ etc. The key concept of ‘off beat’ comes up again and again in this music and can be reframed each time.

Another area where review is of huge value is with singing (this could easily merit a series of blogs alone!). Regular singing develops musicianship, as we internalise sound during our practice. Regular singing mitigates any negative impact of voice break during puberty (for both boys and girls). Regular, low-stakes singing builds confidence in singing. And – if you stop singing for extended amounts of time – it becomes much harder to get KS3 students to sing. There are great resources out there to support with this – this article and unit of work from singing experts, Sing Up, are a great starting point. There is never a reason not to sing: simple call and response phrases can be used to demonstrate, internalise or reinforce musical processes.

Homework tasks can reinforce review – knowledge organisers for a learning cycle are increasingly popular, listing the ‘non-negotiables’ needed to approach the curriculum. Regular quizzing of this content is used in schools to check knowledge retention, but teachers must take care that this doesn’t interrupt quality practical music making, which leads to long term skill acquisition. And, it’s worth being cautious about the content in the knowledge organiser. A simple list of the interrelated dimensions of music listed every single term isn’t progressive. For many students this simply too easy: tempo, fast and slow, dynamics, loud and soft etc.

A more nuanced approach, such as an example of a page of score that is labelled, is a much more musical exercise. If you want them know that a semitone is a half step, give an example in notation. This can even be hyperlinked to audio examples. Information on instruments should be supported with images and orchestral layout, again with audio examples. Different types of staging, or stage directions, in drama should be accompanied by schematics. Labelled diagrams are essential – you wouldn’t expect a student to learn the digestive system in biology without a diagram. The same stands in the arts.

Previously in the series on Rosenshine in Music and the Performing Arts, we have advocated for the use of audio and video in supporting questioning. Making use of performances from previous summative assessment points can elicit meaningful review: pausing and replaying footage, students can reflect on their own progress in performance and build on prior attainment.

Share how you engage students in weekly and monthly review – tweet @United_Music1 with your ideas

AND: we want to hear from you. The next in the series will spotlight examples of great practice, demonstrating how the Rosenshine Principles of Instruction are used day in, day out, in our classrooms. Email: with your examples, and carry on the conversation on Twitter @United_Music1