Classroom Workshopping is GREAT!

The beginning of today’s music lesson was one of the best starts to a lesson I’ve ever had.

Anyone who has attended a Musical Futures CPD day will have explored the classroom workshopping project, moving from warm-ups to rhythmic improvisation which is then transferred to instruments to create a ‘groove’ from which a large-group composition can be created.

At Monk’s Walk we worked really hard to find ways to include this approach into every topic we taught. It took some time and a lot of practice (another blog on this will follow!) but it would seem from feedback to Musical Futures that this is the approach that teachers feel least confident in embedding into their lessons. If they use it at all then it tends to just be as it is laid out in the teacher pack or as they have experienced on the training, but it doesn’t go any further than that.

So what can we do to give teachers the confidence to act as composers and arrangers in the classroom with 30 noisy children all holding an instrument?!

Last year we invited Robert Wells, musician, composer and classroom workshopping expert into school to work with year 7 and 8 students. Year 8 explored jazz and blues while year 7 learned how to alter the chords they have learned to play the song Passenger to create a completely new composition.

If anyone is in doubt of the value of classroom workshopping to the students, scroll down to read their feedback from Rob’s lessons. Student voice was crucial in helping us to decide the next steps for this project and whether we had pitched it at the right level for the students involved.

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“Instead of playing straight boring c’s we jazzed it up and we put a different speed to it.”

“I played the bass guitar for the first time, and I enjoyed it. It was a bit complicated at first, but when I got used to it I was glad I had volunteered as otherwise I would have played a percussion instrument which I wouldn’t have particularly wanted to as I played the cymbal on the drums a couple of lessons ago. I thought the teacher was good as well.”

“I think the lesson today was quite fun because it was a change from what we normally do.”

“My favourite aspect was working together in a whole class-I like this better as when I work in groups (I feel) I don’t reach my full potential. I also liked the start where they slowly introduced us into what we were going to do for the majority of the lesson.”

“In today’s lesson, the visitor was great fun and really helped me understand different rhythms and beats. Once we had got on the instruments, I played the keyboard and really enjoyed playing the blues on it. I think I could have improved today by making my part more complex by improving each hand by adding different rhythms.”

“This week, everyone joined into a massive band. We all took part. Some people sung, played guitar, drums, piano, beat boxing or tambourine. It was very enjoyable. The people who came in to help in music lessons really helped us to stay in time. I think everyone was pleased with what they were doing.”

“I think we ought to have him (Or someone similar) at the end/start, of each piece.”

“I like the warm up because how we played games. I thought it was a fantastic how we had the same notes but changes the order. It made me think what you could do with a song.”

“I think I do really well on my drums but good isn’t enough I have to practice more and maybe on the next lesson after half term I’ll get everything right.”

“The lesson was really fun and I enjoyed picking out a few notes and making a bigger song.”

“We played our instruments and near the end of the lesson we took out some notes and only played the first and third chord but to my surprise I personally liked it better than the full version and found it easier. Over all it was a good lesson.”

“Instead of doing the Passenger in little bands we did it all together as a class. It sounded really great.”

“I liked this lesson because we had the freedom to make a song in our own style!”

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If you are interested in attending the new course for practical ideas for classroom workshopping to use in your classroom at KS3 or KS4, bookmark the Musical Futures professional development page and register interest in the new Composing and Improvising Professional Development days. These have a focus on the new GCSE specs and how workshopping can be used to deliver these through practical lessons.

In the meantime why not like the new Musical Futures UK page on Facebook for updates and more information.

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