Teaching Music – Practical Strategies for KS3 – LATEST REVIEW!

Review by Jackie Schneider, Primary School Music Teacher, St Teresa’s Primary School

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading “Teaching Music” and have been pleasantly surprised by how much of the material is appropriate to key stage 2.

I’m not really sure how to describe the format. Book is just plain wrong so I am going with describing it as  a resource or materials. I downloaded it easily enough to my iPad. The colour coding of the chapters is very helpful & the tool that let’s you glide effortlessly through the pages is much easier than moving around on my kindle. Although I generally prefer to read from paper I quickly got used to reading on my iPad.

I loved the video clips  & the ability to download worksheets as PDFs. This is a real strength & the ability to switch between book & video clips should not be underestimated!

I enjoyed Jane Werry’s chapter 1 – off to a flying start. The chapter title really did apply to the book. It is written in a friendly common sense tone which is easy to read. The videos are great – much easier to understand a warm up game by watching rather than reading complex instructions. This chapter has lots that applies equally to the primary school music lesson. Highlights for me include

  • class context sheet. I have used this as the basis to create a primary class sheet and am in the process of sharing with my primary colleagues.
  • the Socratic circle – this is a very useful technique and led to really perceptive & helpful observations from the children which I feel confident will inform their future group work behaviours.
  • pictorial assessment of the elements. I can’t believe I hadn’t already thought of this! A great simple idea which shows in a glance children’s conceptual understanding of the dimensions. I am going to look at repeating this each year to show to the children their development of their understanding year on year.

I found David Ashworth’s chapter on performance useful – I was especially pleased to see him concede that there is a place for ukuleles in the classroom albeit with a few caveats! Personally I’d have found some simple arrangements for classroom percussion instruments helpful but this is probably not needed for KS3 teachers. The improvisation chapter was a real eye opener. There are lots of ideas here that I had not come across and will definitely be giving a go. I love the ‘cloud of sound’ ideas and can’t wait to try it out. Whilst I don’t have have the number of instrumentalists that a KS3 class probably has I can see we could easily use GarageBand to record some chord progressions for us to use our class room percussion instruments to improvise over the top. I will definitely try out using a strong visual image as a starting point for composition. This chapter has given me food for thought & I will be returning to it again.

The singing chapter has some great tips and warm up ideas beyond the traditional warm up usually to be found. Again the video clips were incredibly useful & much easier to follow than written instructions. I shall be using this chapter with my choir and in our singing assemblies

The chapter on songwriting contains a series of carefully thought out worksheets which would be great to use with some yr 5 & 6 classes. I did have a go at taking a couple of John Kelleher’s ideas as a starting point with my year 6 classes. We struggled a bit with creating metaphors but I think if I persisted with this approach it would bear dividends. I am planning to have a go at the 4 chord progression worksheet in the next half term. I had not come across “inspiration” software to create mind maps which David Ashworth demonstrates in the next chapter but I plan to use this alongside John Kelleher’s songwriting materials.

I was very taken with the music projects chapter. I am definitively going to try some of these out with my classes. I think that activity 2, 3, & 31 respectively “know! guess ask”, “odd one out” &”musical identity’ will be brilliant with my key stage 1 classes and will definitely be appearing on my school blog.

The final chapter engaging with the classical tradition was also of interest. This can be a potentially scary area for non specialist primary teachers but I think Richard Knight demystifies it and gives some excellent starting points. I shall be definitely using the Pachelbels canon idea and the Dubz video clip to inspire my year 5s to recreate the canon vocally & they create their own raps to go over the top of it. I am also going to use the class arrangement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

I was pleased to see Jonathon Westrup’s appendix on special needs as this can be easily overlooked. I’d like to have seen some strategies & ideas for including children with autism in the class music lesson.

I’d urge Rhinegold Education to extend this resource to primary schools. There is already so much that applies. With a few extra chapters on early years, ideas for running singing assembles and how to get the most out of whole class instrumental projects (wider opps) I think you would have a wonderful resource for primary schools too!

I now plan to teach some of the ideas I have mentioned in this review to my classes at St Teresa’s Primary School. if you want to follow our progress and see how we get on you very are welcome to follow our blog ” St Teresa’s Music Matters”.

This is a fantastic resource that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in teaching music.

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