A review of my music teaching this year

One of the best things about teaching is that the summer holidays gives you a chance to reflect how your year has gone and the opportunity to make improvements the following year. It is a real luxury that we get the time and space to do this.

I felt  dissatisfied and downbeat about how my school year ended. Things were not helped by a last week Ofsted visit – and no, they didn’t want to talk to me or even pop their head round the door when I was teaching!

It really brought home to me how isolated the job of primary school music coordinator is. Now I have wonderful colleagues who are supportive of the work I do but the ridiculous pressure they are under means that I am increasingly isolated. Twitter has been fantastically helpful in helping me overcome this isolation and I am grateful to the many twitter music pals who have have helped and inspired me through out the year.

Anyway, below is a round up of some of my highlights. I don’t do this merely to blow my own kazoo but to help me gain a sense of perspective and to plan for next year.

Things that went well:

The lessons.

The children made music. Every week. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was average and sometimes it was so dreadful that we had to stop and start again. The children had lots of opportunities to explore the elements (or inter related dimensions if you prefer) through the music they made. We started with our bodies and voices. We actively worked hard to internalise the music. We learnt new skills and practised them. We struggled with finding the words to discuss timbre. I struggled with the balance between whole class work and individual improvisation. Sometimes I was too controlling. When I was brave and gave year 6 full ownership it paid off big time and resulted in extraordinarily good compositions. I didn’t find a very good balance between making music and notation. When we made graphic scores the kids wanted to ignore them. When we were learning the recorder the fine motor skills, dexterity and breath control meant that the reading of the notes from the stave came last. When I just concentrated on stick notion and got kids to compose simple rhythms they were able to read and write them accurately. Their reportoire increased massively. At the end of the year children had amazingly good recall of songs and music we have made throughout the year. Their recall of lyrics was much better than mine. We listened. We composed. We performed.

Sing up Webinar

St Teresa’s was transformed into a TV studio for the day and we transmitted a live broadcast to schools across the country. Two children from each KS2 class formed a choir that was given a live masterclass by professional vocal coach Gitika Partington. Our children drew national praise for their singing and behaviour. The webinar was organised by the national education charity Sing Up and it was the first time they have ever hosted a live webinar with children. The webinar featuring our school is still available to view on the Sing Up website

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Staff Christmas song

The staff gave a wonderful rendition of “Walking in a Winter Wonder Land” and made a Christmas video. The children were greatly thrilled and the video has had 1,229 times. It got a mention in both Times Ed & Education Guardian

Concert by Balwyn High School, Melbourne, Australia

Balwyn High are an award winning high school that give a European tour every 2 years. They were keen to visit a UK primary school and having look at our school music blog they decided we would be the perfect candidates! I invited neighbouring schools to come along. It was a stunning concert, many of the adults in the hall were moved to tears by the quality of the music and the international friendships that were made.

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After school music clubs

This year numbers were lower but our children began to show real progress with our oldest students being prepared for grade 1 exams. Two of our yr 5 students are showing great promise with the violin and have been nominated for the Mayors Fund which will guarantee them free tuition and mentoring for the next 4 years.

Our guitar players took part in a special guitar recital which was very well supported by our parents.

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Royal Albert Hall

Year 5 performed at the Royal Albert Hall with Merton Music Foundation. This was hugely successful and very popular with both parents and pupils alike.

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Channel 4 donation of violins.

The school received 18 free violins from Channel 4 as a result of an application I put in to the TV programme “Don’t Stop The Music”. Some of these have already been lent out to our year 5 students. This year every child in yr 5 received tuition in the violin for 10 weeks. Since this project has finished 7 children have opted to continue with after school music lessons.

St Teresa’s Music Matters Blog.

The blog has gone from strength to strength. It is heavily used by our children whilst at the same time gathering an international audience. It averages 2000 visits a month. Children made short stop go animation films to match short clips of Chopin. These films were posted on the blog and attracted lots of visitors. Please see http://stteresasmusic.academyblogger.co.uk/

Year 6 Song writing project.

This years songwriting project resulted in some excellent songs. We chose 4 songs to take to Crown Lane Studio to record. The owner, Phil Merriman arranged for student session musicians to contribute to the recordings. This was an incredible experience for the children. I have had extremely positive feedback from secondary school teachers – several of whom have pointed out that one of the songs in particular is of a high GCSE standard! have a listen to the songs here

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My own CPD:

This mainly came from twitter! I am really grateful to

Alison Daubney

John Finney

Martin Fautley

Shelley Ambury

David Ashworth

Gary Spruce

Sing Up

Musical Futures

Anna Gower

Ben Sellers

John Kelleher

John Merriman

Merton Music Foundation

and everyone who organised the TeachMeets I went to.

Things that didn’t go so well:

BBC Ten pieces project

My year 4’s had a great time going to the cinema to watch and we did some music making based on a few of the pieces but it never really took off. Am going to have another look at this as I plan to use the DVD again with year 4. Maybe it is a resource more suited to class teachers? Will give it another shot next year

Pre school sing a long

This is such a good idea that I am determined to MAKE it work! The problem I had was uniting the different groups! I got lots of enthusiasm from EY parents and kids when we did action songs, from teaching staff and office staff when we did Abba and from year 6 when we sang their composition but I couldn’t please all the people all the time! Maybe I just need to give it more time to evolve?

Using scratch to compose music

I was unable to use the ICT suite for a single week so i don’t feel so bad about this one! Unless i get some technical support and a designated session in the ICT suite this will never happen. I am going to deop scratch and investigate sonic pi for next year.

Aims for next year:

1. Create better relationships with parents .

I never get a chance to talk to parents. I am going to ask if I can go to the “meet your class teacher’ meeting that each year groups hold.  I am going to ask parents to contribute their musical memories on the blog

2. Investigate the possibility of working with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

This is something a colleague at our hub has suggested. Watch this space!

3. Use sonic pi

Wishing music teachers everywhere a wonder summer holiday!

4. Create the perfect assessment model 

Yeah right!!!! Please tell me you didn’t fall for that one? It will take wiser and more experienced teachers than me to crack!

Happy summer holidays to music teachers everywhere!

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7 thoughts on “A review of my music teaching this year

  1. Great to read this, Jackie, as a fellow Primary Music Teacher and I am so glad that I’m not the only one who has the whole gamut of great/average/dreadful lessons!! My Y3’s loved working on music inspired by the BBC Ten Pieces – it made me (a little!) more adventurous with creative music – it’s worth giving it another shot next year (I hadn’t thought about it myself, but maybe I will give it another go as well). As for the pre school – what a great idea! But you will never please all of the people all of the time as I have discovered with my Parents’ Choir and I also think it takes a long time for these things to evolve – I’m trying a wide range in the hope of broadening horizons and that all singers will find some music all the way that they enjoy and that lifts their soul! Keep up the good work!!

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  2. I also enjoyed reading your blog and it’s so good to hear about what went well and not so well. I did the Ten Pieces project with my Y5s and 6s and we used the whole of the spring term exploring the pieces, with a different piece each week and a variety of creative responses but all with a music focus. I think it might have been better to concentrate on fewer pieces over several weeks though. We had a composition workshop with a composer from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with the whole of Y6 based on Mars and then continued to develop the piece in school. We then had 32 children perform their piece with the mini BSO at a local concert hall, which was a fantastic experience for the children.
    We also had Ofsted and they didn’t come and see any music. Makes me feel like they see the subject as worthless.
    I loved your Y6 songs. My songwriting units never go particularly well, but it’s not an area that I feel very confident in.

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  3. Great blog. I have just finished my first full year as a music specialist and it is really good to read about the similar challenges you have faced and things that have worked. Trying to meet the different musical learning needs of children from Early Years to Year 6 in creative and relevant ways is both the best and most demanding part of my job. I’ve found giving year 6 creative freedom has worked well and I will be pinching some of your ideas for songwriting and working with secondary students. We used the BBC Ten Pieces as a focus for listening and appraising but I’d like to use them this year to inspire compositions as others have done. Not sure how to go about this so it would be useful to read more about your BSO workshop. I had Ofsted in the spring term and my lesson was the first lesson the lead inspector came into thanks in part to my head teacher who wanted him to see the investment we have made in music this year. They also sat in on hymn practice and asked the children about music. I’m glad to say music even got a positive mention in the final report! Thanks for the blog!

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