Language School projects, Term 3

I started back at the Language School this week. Every term, I try to invent a composition project with each class that relates to a topic that will be under investigation in their classroom work. It turns out that all three classes – Lower, Middle and Upper Primary – are all doing Transport this term. So… three projects inspired by transport? Here are my early thoughts:

Lower Primary

Once again, we have a very competent, functional class here, who have lots of ability, and good focus. I didn’t try to start any themed work with them; rather, I just took them through a number of ‘foundation’ activities, in order to get a better sense of how they are in music. I’ll keep you posted on how their transport theme will play out – probably a chant based on road safety, as I did last term at Pelican PS.

Middle Primary

We listed all the different ways the students travel to school – train, tram, bus, car, walking, even bicycle. Then we experimented with a vocal percussion piece of ‘train sounds’. I have quite a few new students in this class, including a lively, easily distracted boy – Volodya from Russia, who is very cool and keeps breaking out into break-dancing (and comments on everything, but EVERYTHING I say!) Hmmm…. will need to get all of that creative energy channeled in a positive direction, quick-smart. Also in the class is Oscar, the very bright Liberian boy who started midway through last term, who can drum and beatbox with gallons of style and skill, and who I suspect will get bored with the slowness of the others in the class very, very quickly. With these two students in mind in particular, I think we will put together a hip-hop, beatboxing chant/song/dance about public transport, maybe utilising train station names, street names, tram and bus numbers, and so on.

Upper Primary

About half the Upper Primary class is new too. Our take on transport here will be to focus on all the different modes of transport people used to leave their country of origin and travel to Australia. For some, the story will be simple – a matter of getting on the aeroplane and flying to Australia. For others, it is a lot more complex, with transit points en route, second countries, journeys by bus across deserts, and so on. We are also going to learn to sing the song People Get Ready, because I like it, and because it has some great vocabulary about travel in it, such as baggage, ticket, on board, picking up passengers, and so on.

We did a great jam session in the Upper Primary class. I divided up the instruments into Drums, Xylophones/Glockenspiels, and Percussion. The latter was a cabasa, vibraslap, guiro, and stick drum. Here is what we did:

  • Set up a cycle of 4 with the Percussion. Each chose a number (they chose 2, 3 and 4, so I chose 1), and played their instrument on that number.
  • I asked the Xyl/Glock group to choose a note each. There were 5 players, so we ended up with 5 pitches – ABGFB. I got them to play it, it eventually settled into a ta ta ti-ti ta rhythm, which fitted well. (This is an example of of trusting thier innate musicianship – if I give things time to settle, they usually settle they way I’d like them to, in a rhythmic framework we can build on).
  • I got the drummers to improvise a little all together; one person played a version of ta ti-ti ti-ti ta, so I asked the rest of them to listen especially to her, and play her rhythm. Again, it started to settle into a reasonaly solid, reliable sense of 4/4.
  • After ten minutes jamming together in these groups (putting the groups together, separating out the layers, bringing people in and out), I got them all to swap instruments. Wonderfully, they had been playing fiarly close attention when each of the parts got set up, so all were ready to learn the new part, and learned them quickly. Ten minutes later, we swapped again. It was a great First Lesson for the term, as it gave them some very positive hands-on experiences with the instruments we have, and gave me a chance to observe all the new students at work, and see their strengths and potential.

1 comment so far

  1. […] following week I started a new year at the Melbourne English Language School, my fifth year as an artist-in-residence there. The idea is to create music projects with each class […]

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