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Teacher and Musician Challenge 3

Teacher and Musician Challenge 3 - one warmup

This Teacher and Musician Challenge aims to get you thinking about differentiation through the quality of musical response.  We will often hear of teachers talk about ‘differentiation by task’ and ‘differentiation by outcome’ with the former seeming to be perceived as being somehow superior to the latter.  I’ve never been entirely convinced by this but I think that this is especially true where music is concerned – the outcome of music making has many, many layers of nuance, making differentiation by outcome an entirely sensible choice.

The challenge: one warmup

The challenge itself is simple.  Choose one warmup that will be used with every single class.  It should be something that is simple enough in nature to be accurately realised by even your youngest and least able pupils.  Don’t worry about layering it up with variations along the lines of ‘all/most/some’ or any other approach to differentiation that might usually fit on a lesson plan.  If you’re struggling to choose something, then it’s worth looking at the variety of options on the Musical Futures website.

Of course, you would hope that your Year 11s would be able to engage with this warmup on a deeper level than your Year 7s.  This is where the differentiation by quality of musical response comes in.  Where pupils are able, the focus should be on making subtle adjustments to the way in which the pupils perform so that the response is ‘more musical’.  This could be things like ensuring that certain notes are played staccato or that there’s a very precise ralentando at the end of the warmup.  Try to replicate the same attention to detail that a concert hall musician would give to their performance.  Is the intonation perfect?  Is the rhythm so accurate that a class of thirty pupils clapping a rhythm sounds as precise as one person clapping on their own?  It’s a warmup and, presumably, a straightforward phrase, so you can get away with this level of precision for a few minutes at the start of the lesson.

The benefits to your teaching

Whenever I took the time to try ‘One Warmup’ with my classes for a day, I would find that I brought much of that attention to detail into the rest of the lesson.  My differentiation became better on a day-to-day basis but, equally, my ability improve pupils’ musical responses improved because I wasn’t thinking about simply giving them something harder to play or moving them onto new material.  It raised my expectations of pupils and, in turn, it raised their expectations of themselves.

The benefits to your pupils

This approach gives two main benefits to pupils.  First, it improves their independent learning skills since they understand that music is about more than just playing the right notes at the right time; it’s about the way that you play those notes.  The second bonus is that helps to expand their musical vocabulary.  If you’re being fussy about the articulation of their performance, then they will quickly gain a deeper understanding of the terms staccato and legato.  They will understand what is sounds like and how to achieve that specific sound.  In short, it should make pupils better musicians.

Share your story

As always, I’d love to hear about how you get on with the Teacher and Musician challenge, so feel free to tweet with the hashtag #TandMchallenge  This is a particularly great challenge for sharing audio recordings, so fire up your SoundCloud or AudioBoom apps and share the best of your One Warmup work.