10 resources for teaching music

Classical pianist James Rhodes wants to celebrate music in schools with an instrument amnesty. Photograph: Channel 4

Classical pianist James Rhodes wants to celebrate music in schools with an instrument amnesty.
Photograph: Channel 4

Classical pianist James Rhodes argues that music education in this country has been ‘decimated’. Want to encourage music learning in your school? Here are 10 useful resources

In a new series on Channel 4 world-renowned classical pianist James Rhodes asks families in Britain to donate old musical instruments left languishing in cupboards to those who need them. Rhodes says music education in the UK has been “decimated”, bemoaning the fact that learning an instrument is now seen as a luxury.

In 2011, the government launched a national plan to give children of all backgrounds the chance to learn an instrument. Despite this, a 2013 Ofsted report showed quality music education was reaching just a minority of pupils.

Music has a positive impact on discipline and confidence, says Rhodes. He adds that for it to disappear from the majority of state schools is appalling.

To celebrate music in schools, here is a list of useful resources for teachers. This is not a definitive guide – so feel free to add to it. Share your favourite resources in the comments and tell us your thoughts on the state of music education.

Five resources for primary students
1) Literacy through singing. The Jolly Music and the EYFS learning goals resource is a fun way to teach music to kids. Based on the principles of Hungarian composer and music educator Zoltán Kodály, it encourages the learning of a variety of subjects, including maths, through singing. The resource is structured to build up children’s listening, reading and music writing skills.

2) Teach pentatonic scales. Here’s one of The Guardian’s own resources: an interactive whiteboard activity which introduces students to pentatonic music (music made up of five notes). You can listen to the songs to hear what the melody sounds like and click on each note to find out which one it is.

3) Show films to teach children about soundtracks. This resource focuses on how music is used in popular children’s films and how thoughts and feelings are conveyed through music; you can see the films for free if you are a member of Into Film.

4) 10 tips on leading a singing session. Sing Up offers its expert advice on leading a singing session in class, with additional tips for SEN and key stage 2 children. One tip, for instance, is to make sure children are not sitting on the floor when they sing because this means they strain their necks. It’s better to have them standing up with shoulders wide apart. There is also a handy guide which contains advice for making a ‘shaker’ instrument.

5) Explore grammar through music. Why not combine English learning with music. Download resources like the Apostrophe song, whose lyrics teach the correct use apostrophes. The song begins: “An apostrophe can be used to shorten two words/This is called contraction/This is called contraction”.

Five resources for secondary students
1) Get students excited about disco.
This powerpoint by Elly Barnes uses the soundtrack from the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert to explore elements of disco music, allowing learners to find a definition of transgender. Barnes has devoted her career to helping LGBT students in schools and fighting against discrimination. Find more information and resources School’s Out The Classroom.

2) Teach Jazz. This jazz composition book for GCSE students is perfect for building the different elements of jazz music to create a composition. A page of the book is left blank for pupils to fill in or copy down riffs that have been covered in class.

3) Debate what makes a hit. Use this article from The Day to explore what makes a hit song. It looks at Pharrell Williams’s song Happy and why it was
so popular. What does it take to make a catchy tune that you can’t stop singing?
Get children excited about music by debating this in class.

4) Make music accessible for deaf children. The National Deaf Children’s Society has developed a good resource to help teachers that want to make sure deaf children and young people also join in music lessons. In the resource an example is given of Lucy who has been working with deaf pupils for nearly two years. She always faces students so that her body language and hand gestures can add meaning to what she says.

5) Teach about how music can impact on your mind. This magazine from the Wellcome Trust might be useful when teaching music in school. You can explore how music can impact on mind and body and also teach about technical terms such as tone, octave and harmony. There are some interesting interviews with people who have very different experiences of music to reflect their personal perceptions of music’s wider role in society.

Lisa Spiller (The Guardian) / September 2, 2014

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