Inquiring in Year 9 Music

I have just finished a unit of inquiry with my Year 9 Music students, and I’m so proud of what the students were able to achieve. I won’t talk about everything we did, but I will share with you what we achieved in the last two weeks and their assessment task.

The students were all given a melodic instrument that they had never played before in order to provide a more level playing field in the classroom. I also introduced the students to a range of percussion instruments, and then I showed them a clip from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ and told them to create a composition for it using the instruments we had explored but didn’t know fully how to use.

We laid the percussion instruments out on tables in front of the movie screen and went through a range of different phases…

– everyone playing everything at once (not really paying attention to the film)

– everyone playing everything at once a little more carefully (paying attention to the film)

– everyone experimenting with dynamics (volume levels) while paying attention to the film.

– deciding when and when not to play

– thinking about and creating layers of sound

– discussing how we can verbally communicate what sound we want

– discussing how we can visually communicate what sound we want through a graphic score.

– discussing how a composer can add meaning to visuals and what it must be like working with the director or producer of a film.

– creating a graphic score

– choosing which musicians from class we want to perform our composition and why

– modifying our ideas for our composition

– performing our final composition

I feel like we have very thoroughly investigated how musicians communicate, now to perfect the unit of work for the next lot of grade 9’s!

 

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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3 Responses to Inquiring in Year 9 Music

  1. Hello Alison, this sounds like such an inspiring project and very thorough approach. Thank you for sharing it. I hope I get to borrow some ideas from here in a future project. How long did the unit of inquiry last (ie. how many teaching occasions, over what length of time/frequency)? And did you find that the prompts for student discussion that you’ve given above were effective for getting dialoguing flowing and responses bouncing back and forth with this age group? How many in the class? Btw, did you see this article that came out a few months back? It might be of interest: http://musicaustralia.org.au/2014/11/why-music-education-should-lead-all-education-in-the-21st-century/

    • Thanks for the encouragement Gillian! The students come in with such varying levels of musical experience and this unit allows for engagement of all student at all levels. I try and develop every unit to spend two weeks on new skills, new information, two weeks on them finding out more information and sharing information that gets them engaged, two weeks finalising their product and giving guidance, and two weeks to present and reflect.

      How long did the unit of inquiry last (ie. how many teaching occasions, over what length of time/frequency)?
      – 8 weeks- 2 lessons per week of 1.5 hour length = so about 20-24 hours teaching.

      And did you find that the prompts for student discussion that you’ve given above were effective for getting dialogue flowing and responses bouncing back and forth with this age group? How many in the class?

      – Only 7 in the class, 5 low level English, 1 very low level English. This semester I have 6 students, 5 good English, 1 very low level. No more, unless I had an assistant. I think I could handle doing this with up to twenty students. I have perfect behaviour from these students, always, so I’m at a great advantage. Except, they need a lot of prompting to speak about what they’re doing. This semester my new group of music students are great at discussing what we’re doing, but I’ve been going to a “Teaching English in the Mainstream” course in the evenings and this has helped how I structure language in the classroom to help elicit better responses. My school teaches the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme and this unit was developed to meet the expectations of that programme.

      Btw, did you see this article that came out a few months back?

      Yes! I met James Humberstone on twitter through a friend who is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and then he introduced me to another twitterer, Samuel Wright, who he worked with in Sydney. Samuel and I then met at a conference at his new school in Korea, and we regularly share resources and ideas with each other.

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