There are many solutions to a problem like this. As said in the previous post, a teacher who has not developed their own in-tune singing can probably speak – therefore they can chant – therefore they can access and teach rhythms. Wow! That’s half of music teaching already – so there’s no reason to shy off! If you really struggle to sing in front of your class, compensate by making your practical rhythm work the best you can – SO much can be accomplished with pulse and rhythm work alone.
One way for your children to access in-tune singing teaching if you feel you can’t, is for another teacher to teach your class the songs initially and for your musically able children to pick up on them and be the teachers under your direction for these activities. Also there is so much simple RECORDING EQUIPMENT around these days to use in the classroom so you can RECORD another teacher initially teaching you a song or another class singing the same song and this can be used as a prompt for your musically able children before they lead or for your children to sing along to until they know it. Though it is IDEAL for the in-tune element of the lesson to come from you as the teacher, it doesn’t HAVE to – therefore, all this music teaching is possible, even for non-specialists.
Another option is for the ACTIVE MUSIC DVDs to be played on your interactive whiteboard for the children to sing along to – I know many schools who do this – in both lessons and assemblies. Once the children have had enough prompting in this way, they will be able to sing these songs and play these games independently – which is the idea!
Music is not rocket science – you don’t need to be a specialist. It can be learnt in steps alongside the children – I always say if you can speak, you can chant and if you can chant you can create rhythms, and then you are HALF-WAY THERE!
I once ran a course and there was a man there who came to me at the end and said ‘I have been teaching for 25 years and I never thought I could teach music – NOW I KNOW THAT I CAN’
Active Music is the ‘CAN-DO’ approach to classroom music teaching, enabling ALL NON-SPECIALISTS TO TEACH MUSIC.
In the ‘aims’ and the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 content of the 2014 Music National Curriculum it talks about the ‘inter-related dimensions of music’. This basically means the elements of practical musicianship.
- PULSE: They seem to have missed off PULSE for some reason, which I consider the first building block – the child needs to be able to feel and express the PULSE in a piece of music as a foundation to their musical understanding. PULSE is like a regular heartbeat running steadily through the music.
- PITCH: The next is PITCH which is the melody and the way the notes change from low to high and vice versa.
- RHYTHM: For some reason they use the word ‘duration’ but they basically mean RHYTHM (which is a much more exciting word!) If you were singing a song, the rhythm would follow the pattern of the words. If you sing a song and clap the words, your clapping would be different to the PULSE. This analogy can be taken as a starting point and later applied to music with no words.
- DYNAMICS: Loud and soft
- TEMPO: Fast and slow
- TIMBRE: The type of sound – whisper/hum/sing/talk (examples with the voice) or tinkly/hard/soft (examples with instruments
- TEXTURE: Layers of sound
- STRUCTURE: The way the music is laid out –e.g. 4 notes in a bar, 4 bars in a phrase etc (a bit like how words, sentences and paragraphs are put together in writing)
- APPROPRIATE MUSICAL NOTATIONS: I’m not sure what they mean by ‘appropriate’ but I would imagine anything that you can use to read music from, whether they be made up symbols to be read in a particular order, stick notation, solfa symbols or traditional stave notation…
In fact, the only element of musical skills that has changed from the previous National Curriculum that I can see, is the addition of ‘stave notation’ in the Key Stage 2 requirements. For most children in a primary classroom, this would be the beginning stages of reading music and nothing to be too daunted by.
So that’s the ‘inter-related dimensions of music explained – no different from musical skills found anywhere!!! National Curriculum guidelines may change but musical skills do not!
When you are teaching Kodaly, the practical musicianship comes first, whatever the National Curriculum says. When following the basic principles, your teaching will always start with experiencing the pulse, and songs with simple rhythm and pitch ingredients. When the children have lots of experience of these songs and games, certain ones will be chosen as ‘teaching songs’ and will be used to teach specific rhythm and pitch elements.
The Kodaly concept follows a step-by-step logical and progressive sequence to teaching music. It begins with the use of the voice and is based almost entirely on practical musicianship skills. About 80% of the Music National Curriculum requires practical musicianship skills. Brilliant!
The National Curriculum basically says:
Learn to sing!
Create and compose music on their own and with others
Use the ‘inter-related dimensions of music’ – pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, structure and ‘appropriate’ musical notations.
Recall sounds with increasing aural memory
Use and understand staff and other musical notations
All this and so much more is all found, brilliantly put together, in the Kodaly concept of Music Education. I highly recommend visiting the British Kodaly Academy website (BKA) and checking out their amazing courses and resources.