Building the Education Revolution

I think most of the schools in Australia are undergoing building renovations at the moment, thanks to the Building the Education Revolution funding from the Australian Government. That’s all very well, but for me, it has meant the loss of a music room (invariably in the part of the school that is getting overhauled, eg. the multipurpose room, or the hall), and having to teach music in the classrooms.

This is happening at both my schools. Things at MELS aren’t so bad, but at Pelican Primary School the new schedule and classroom space is much more crowded, and I now have to work out lesson ideas and lesson plans that I can do in classrooms that are filled with desks and chairs, and without access to the range of percussion instruments I am used to.

Some of my ideas so far:

  • I’ve negotiated extra computer lab time for the 5/6 class, so we are going to focus on music technology while the building work is on. We are starting with an online audio editing tool I’ve discovered, called Myna. For teachers wanting a very user-friendly introduction to music software for their students, and who have a fast broadband connection, this tool is definitely worth a look. At our first lesson, the students were immediately and enthusiastically engaged. We set up a class account and they started saving their work. At our second session (today) the internet was down for some reason, which was a reminder that online tools aren’t always reliable for classroom work when you only have one short session a week. We plan to try out Audacity as well.
  • The 4/5 class said they were keen to do a musical of some kind. I thought at first we might write one ourselves, but now I’m thinking they’d probably really like to work with one that has already been written. Any suggestions of good classroom musicals, around 25 mins in length, with songs that can be accompanied by guitar or keyboard?
  • The 3/4 classes are going to learn recorder. I wanted to do ukuleles but the school doesn’t have any money to buy enough for a class set. We already had enough recorders in the school for two class sets.
  • The 1/2 classes are doing some jazz and scat singing (inspired by my Big Jam experiences). They loved writing their own scat lines today! Next week we’ll start on lyrics for a children’s blues. Maybe they’ll sing about waking up late, getting to school, homework, etc. And I plan to dig out some classic recordings of scat singing by Louise Armstrong and others to share with them.
  • The preps are working on the idea of graphic scores. I want to encourage them to play in response to symbols – which at this early stage are pictures of particular instruments. I stick the pictures up on the wall and point to them one by one (reading left to right) and they play at the right time. The next stage will be to get them to do this in small groups without me conducting/pointing. Then we might be able to work with symbols that they draw for themselves.

So we are getting there. Last week I felt incredibly fed up with the arrangements but this week everything felt a lot more positive and calm. I imagine the teachers have been feeling very unsettled with moves and classroom changes (they are all now crowded into one building instead of being spaciously spread across two), and I expect that this second week has given people a bit more time to work out how to make the new spaces work best for them.

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