- Are you a musician/actor/dancer in the room? (Do you perform on your principal instrument/sing/compose/improvise/act/dance alongside your students?)
- How often do you use worked examples (following the process you are asking students to do and ‘thinking out loud’) as part of your explanation?
- During the teaching of both performance and composition, are there times when you undertake collaborative work as a whole class to model ways to approach working creatively in a group?
- Do you share examples of good quality work that students in previous years have created in response to the same task you are initiating? Or, do you use expert students in lessons to support with demonstrations?
In many ways, teaching music, drama or dance is one of the best jobs in the world. For those who really love their artistic discipline, they are able to spend pretty much all day immersed in performance and creative work and are sharing this passion for their subject with hundreds of young people who pass through the door during the week. This passion is most tangible and infectious when it is delivered in an expert way: in music, a guitarist demonstrating chord patterns on their guitar; a singer modelling melodic shape with their voice; a drummer playing alongside student performances; or a sax player improvising using the blues scale. If you can pick up your instrument in the classroom, do. Modelling the level of participation you seek from the students must come from musical leadership at the front of the classroom.
Although students are growing up in a world where music is readily available (YouTube, Spotify etc), students may have limited experience of live music and relatable examples of musical practice. It’s critical that you provide this: talk less, play more.
English teachers often do ‘walking talking exams’ with their classes where the teacher completes the exam and thinks out loud as they are doing it. This is so relevant to teaching in music and the performing arts – applied in a music listening exam we can help students to choose what to listen for during each hearing of the extract and how to drill down into the layers of sound. Whilst teaching choreography in dance, we can articulate the process during demonstration, for example when developing planned improvisations “First off, I would plan a memorable opening gesture (demo this) then I might add to it (demo again with addition) and then repeat (demo with repetition). Actually, I think I’ll use two related gestures/movements (demonstrate and describe with the movement) and add these to the initial phrase (demo again). Similarly, talking through practise technique can be very powerful, demonstrating the ongoing critical engagement and refining process that is needed.
In music, a carefully planned session of collaborative composition or performance provides students with a model of how to work in groups to achieve these things and a really satisfying outcome drawn together from their ideas. This ‘workshop’ approach is common in the profession, and is a necessary step to providing quality models for students.
It’s important to for music teachers to note: some fortunate classroom practitioners are comfortable with multiple instruments and singing, and demonstrate their skills naturally with students. If you aren’t in this group, it’s worth recognising this in your practice as something to invest time and energy into developing. Join a choir/samba band/orchestra, do a MOOC, find time to do piano practice… All of these things will help you to put yourself in the shoes of the learner and, at the same time, build your musical confidence. Of these options, joining an ensemble of some sort will be the hardest but will give you the best reward.
For all music and performing arts teachers, keeping our own passions and talents alive will give us more authenticity and allow us to be true role models in the classroom.
Share how you provide models in Music and the Performing Arts – tweet @United_Music1 with your ideas