Happy to report that the strategies are working…

Today was a calmer day with the Lower Primaries. As is my first main strategy, I didn’t introduce any new material this week (to give the newest children the chance to feel familiar with what we are doing, and build confidence), although I did play around with the order of tasks.

We started with our call-and-response song Dham dham dham. I sang it, and they echoed what I sang in response. Because they know the song, they tend to start singing along with me. However, I gradually got them to stop doing this (with a series of pantomime ‘shock-horror-indignation’ reactions that I’m sure would embarass me horribly if I were to see myself, but to which the children respond with a smile and renewed effort) and soon the structure of the song was well in place. Then I invited other children to sing the lead part, and they did this very convincingly and confidently, which tells me that they fully understand the structure of the song. Good! We have learned it well, and they are still having fun with it.

It is very endearing to hear their version of the words. I learned them from an English transliteration – possibly what I sing makes no sense to a Hindi speaker (if it is Hindi we are singing – in fact I don’t know) – and they have learned them from me. It is interesting how some of their choices of consonants or vowel sounds are consistent across the class, but differ to what I am singing.

Then, once again I asked them to sit in the chairs while Mel and I brought out the instruments and placed them in a long line.

My small moment of genius today was to call on Tzu to play Twinkle Twinkle to the class on the xylophone. (Remember a couple of weeks ago I reported him playing this during one of our random glockenspiel sessions, and taking us all by surprise?) Tzu took on this role very happily, and it led to us using Twinkle Twinkle as the basis for our playing today. After the count-in, everyone played the rhythm of the words in unison, stopping together at the end of each phrase, and at the end of the song. They then changed instruments, moving one place along the row.

The tactics are working. The class was calmer today. They were calmer around the instruments. They were more focused in their listening. They took pride and care in stopping and starting together in time with the song. And with Tzu playing the tune so accurately on the xylophone, we have been able to set a new benchmark for some of the students to aspire towards. For some, learning and remembering a recognisable tune like Twinkle will be beyond them, but for others, it will be a highly attractive challenge. Having someone to copy makes it seem more achievable.

I won’t be at school next week (taking a week’s leave to go see family in Brisbane and do a yoga retreat in Byron Bay!) but for the week after that I plan to make some small mats to take in with me – another visual cue for them to work out how to position themselves in the space.

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