Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Music - Open the Door to Music: Resources - Secondary

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Music - Open the Door to Music: Resources - Secondary

Article excerpt

Don't just tell pupils what to do, use modelling to show them how.

Sometimes teachers do the oddest things. I had a colleague who once stood for several seconds at the door to the music department, waiting for it to open, only to remember that it wasn't automatic. Then there was a university reference I once read: "This boy is destined to go through life pushing on a door marked pull." Certainly we have all been there: behaving as though we have lost our marbles.

I wonder if we ever take the same approach to music teaching. Do we expect doors to open by themselves in pupil learning? Or do we show pupils how to turn the handle and enter the building? Instead of just telling pupils about aspects of music, modelling aims to show them. It is similar to demonstrating, although modelling seeks to show pupils a whole process.

It centres on music-making - and the more of this there is in music lessons, the better. The lights go on, barriers to learning are broken down and pupils move forward. I used modelling recently with a class that was on the chatty side. Instead of an in-depth oratory of the details of musical form, I tried to model some examples in music. "This could be a first section," I said, improvising an idea at the piano. "This could be the second," I added, playing a contrasting set of chords, tonalities and melodic phrases. Without stopping, I blended this back into the opening: "Oh look, it's the first bit again." Somehow this seemed better than creating a ternary form diagram on the board and explaining its intricacies.

The instructions to the class? "Now go and do the same, only better." Compositions do not float down fully formed. They take time to develop and build. Musical modelling can bring the flattest concept into three- dimensional life and it can be extended to enrich many areas of teaching. Demonstrating ways to develop ideas in a one-to-one context could help your pupils off the composition starting blocks. Your exaggerated lack of dynamics and mechanical playing can help them to realise they need to find something to say in performing. "How to write the world's best essay" in your role-played scenario can make sense of written A-level analysis. Pupils may never understand this without you showing them.

Modelling isn't just a good idea: it gives the language of musical communication meaning. If music is a language in which I'm still working at fluency, at least I'm out of the phrase book.

Anthony Anderson is head of performing arts, a coach, a mentor and an outstanding facilitator at Beauchamp College in Leicestershire

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