- When asking questions or setting tasks, do you ensure appropriate prior learning has taken place to ensure students are well equipped to be able to respond with success?
- Do you anticipate mistakes that may be made and share these with the students before setting a task?
- If asked, what percentage of your students would report that they feel confident in music/drama/dance?
- At GCSE/A level, do you allow students to work to their strengths in the ways in which they undertake the coursework?
Think about a typical Year 10 lesson, probably last thing in the school day, at the end of a busy week. The group are beginning to cover the curriculum content on popular music, as part of the GCSE areas of study. Music is playing as students enter the room (good) and you ask a question: who is playing this? (bad). There is very little chance that all students will be able to answer this question! As they are only beginning to approach this course content, think carefully about the ordering of ‘cold-call’ questions: What instruments can you hear? Which one is part of the rhythm section? How many guitars are there? How many singers? Is the melody simple or more complex? At this point, you might be able to make a decision on who the artist is, but more importantly you have modelled the thought process needed in a musical listening exam, and you are enabling every student to be successful through your questioning technique.
It is a difficult balance to make between limiting creativity and ensuring high success in a task: can you identify common errors made by students that you could pre-empt next time you are teaching the same skill?
When teaching is pitched perfectly, students should be challenged, but feel confident that they can achieve. This is key to retaining student numbers in exam groups, too.
We know that careful scaffolds and models are really effective learning tools. And, if a student was composing a piece in Rondo Form, we’d expect their music to follow a clear plan; the structural plan is authentic to musical practice and provides an enticingly formulaic approach for a novice student composer. Surely, using this type of model will enable all students to succeed? However, more flexible approaches to composition and performance will, more often than not, allow students to achieve the best quality coursework. Whole class approaches may not cater for everyone’s skill set and will therefore limit some students’ potential achievement; this is frequently noted in examiner reports. A better solution is to ensure that students complete short composition tasks throughout the first year of their course, linked to the course content – the short tasks that have been most successful then become a starting point for their own compositions. Or, allow students to compose their Rondo for their own instrument – you may be surprised by what they can create.
Share how you obtain a high success rate – tweet @United_Music1 with your ideas