Locating the lesson in context
Lessons do not exist in isolation, and it is important to place the lesson in context.
Most schemes of work have a unit structure, with themes running through all the lessons in the unit. It is important that the learning objectives for an individual lesson are located within the broader context of the whole unit so that the purpose of the learning is clear.
The first lesson of a unit
The first lesson of any unit provides you with the following opportunities.
To engage pupils in the key features of the style, genre or tradition to be explored. This might:
introduce all the pupils to and directly involve them in a practical experience of the style, genre or tradition. This might be achieved by teaching a whole-class performance of a song, setting small groups the challenge of experimenting with and selecting musical ideas from a bank of starting points in response to a visual stimulus, or adding a body-percussion street dance to the accompaniment of an ICT-based backing track;
describe the music to be explored through active modelling and listening. This might involve you modelling key features of pop song ballads by playing and singing live different examples, using a visiting music specialist to lead a workshop, or by playing a video, CD-ROM, using ICT and then using questioning and explaining techniques to draw out the key features of the music.
To find out what your pupils already know about the subject, and to help them recall work that they have done in previous years on similar topics.
Even if pupils do not have significant experience of the music to be studied, they will almost certainly know about contextual information that can be brought to bear on their learning. For instance, pupils might not know much about the music of Japan, but they may know about or recognise many features of Japanese society and culture that can inform their understanding. Unit 3: Creative teaching and learning in music describes example strategies (such as ‘Odd one out’) that can be powerful ways of eliciting this prior knowledge.
The process of exploring prior knowledge makes a link between pupils’ own lives and the learning about a particular musical style, genre or tradition. This helps to establish the relevance of this music to a pupil in 21st-century England, and to the individual pupils’ personal experiences. It also helps pupils to empathise with the aesthetic function of the music being studied, and to develop their own, personal understanding of the context.
A likely outcome of this introductory work is that the richness of the music’s context will become apparent. Some pupils, for instance, may know a piece of music from its use in a television advert, while other pupils will know it as an example of Romantic music from the Western classical tradition. While it is important to articulate this range of contexts, it will be important to establish with pupils the specific context you wish to explore as the unit progresses. This will enable the pupils to focus on the particular type of musical thinking that will be developed through the unit.
Go back to where this topic is first introduced: