How to see active learning taking place in every music lesson!

When I was first told by an inspector that she wanted to see PROOF that EVERY child was PROGRESSING in their musical skills in EVERY music lesson, I wanted to turn the tables back on her and ask her to demonstrate! I was fairly new in the school. I taught over 200 children and only saw each class for half an hour a week. I barely knew the children’s names let alone exactly where they were in their musical progress. However, being polite, I took on board what she said but secretly put the thought in a corner of my mind where I considered it was pretty much impossible.

cropped-hoop.jpgHowever, I soon realised there was a brilliant way to visibly SEE progress taking place within a child’s learning – you can’t track individual progress in total detail in this way but you can definitely see highly motivated children owning their own musical progress.

If you take a chant or a song that the children already know, you can then focus on the actual musical skills they are developing through it.

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09I put the children in groups and give them lists to chart their own progress.  They need to achieve the first task and be seen doing it well in order to be allowed to move on to the next task! An example is this:

I had a year 1 class and took a chant they knew backwards and inside out – I made sure all the children fully knew this chant so none of their learning time would go on trying to remember it and all their attention would be on the associated musical skills.

I put them in mixed ability groups of about 6 in each group – so each group had one or two musically able children who could develop their skills by conducting and by also supporting the children who weren’t so musically adept. With each task they needed to start and finish at the same time. The list of tasks went like this.

  1. Chant
  2. Chant and clap the pulse
  3. Chant and clap the rhythm
  4. THINK and clap the rhythm
  5. Chant and PLAY the rhythm on claves
  6. THINK and PLAY the rhythm on claves

With each task, the musical skills were becoming more complex. If you want to go further with older children you can add:

7. Chant while half tap the pulse and half tap the rhythm                                                         8.  Walk the pulse and clap the rhythm                                                                                     9.  Walk the rhythm and clap the pulse                                                                                 10.  Tap the pulse on one knee and the rhythm on the other

There are always ways to take skills to the next level in order to take able children further!

You can definitely see active learning taking place with this model. The children can only move on when ALL of the group have achieved their task but this is great for relationships, encouragement and also patience! It helps them to work out how to help each other. They are all highly motivated to achieve the next level and they have to PROVE they have reached one level before moving on to the next by performing them to you or another teacher in the room. They own their own learning and they are highly motivated to get to the instrument stage if they can.

3619055This way of teaching encourages working together and learning patience, especially if there are one or two children who really need help to stay on task. I find it encouraging to see my children being so kind and enthusiastic with each other while also being fully engaged in the learning progress!

If you’d like more ideas like these or to see the children doing these activities, please visit and sign up for a free trial. You can download 40 lesson plans for free and have full access to over 600 videos for 10 whole days. Enjoy!

To learn a little more about Active Music Digital, please watch the video below.

If you have any questions for me, please email Sally at



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