"Sir, why are we doing this?" The question echoes around my head as well as the classroom. The pupils have all stopped their work and everyone is listening. It is make-or-break time. "Erm ... because it's ... er ... in your exam ...?" Bells ring and lights flash. And that's happening in my head, too. The task was a lesson-filler and I have been rumbled. I can see respect leaking out of the room. So what went wrong?
Clear objectives are vital to any lesson. But this is especially true in the music classroom. Integrating the key processes of performing, composing and listening into a coherent scheme of work requires careful thought - and certainly doesn't happen by chance. Without clear objectives, we may as well give up.
I know that many teachers don't see determining objectives as heart-warming. It can seem like box-ticking, a retrospective task, and even something that gets in the way of teaching. But without objectives, musical activity can be unfocused and mean there is no scope for creative teaching. Pupils will become observers, not participants. Objectives should drive the learning. They should inspire us as teachers and they should help pupils to understand how learning links together and what they have achieved.
So what do objectives look like in the music classroom? I've not yet visited a school where the blues is not taught. But although this can be inspiring, it can also be a recipe for a term's planning vacuum. So here is my offering for lesson one. Knowledge: What is the basic chord pattern and scale for blues music? Understanding: How could you use the blues scale in improvisation? Skills: Can you put these together in performance?
These objectives are not perfect. They could be better and my pupils will soon tell me how. But they are a road map showing the path to be travelled. They will give the lesson purpose and direction - always a good start.
When they are motivated, pupils will want to take the lesson further. "How could I make this music even better, Sir?"
And by this point I'm smiling.
Anthony Anderson is subject leader for music and an advanced skills teacher at Beauchamp College, Leicestershire
Explore the National Strategy for Music's approach to lesson objectives.
Check out Gary Spruce's chapter "An integrated approach to lesson planning" in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School, edited by Chris Philpott and Spruce, published by Routledge.
IN THE FORUMS
The pros and cons of starting and running a staff choir.