Play it again

Roger Crocker offers tips for music

In a four-part revision special, TESTeacher shares your best strategies and techniques for helping students succeed

When I asked my daughter what was the best way to revise for GCSE music, her reply was not what I had expected. Apparently, she placed great store in working with someone else. This made me think that the best ideas are often the ones under one's nose. Revision for music is unusual in that only appraisinglistening and the integrated assignment are similar to other subjects. Revision is often too abstract for many students, but especially so in music. Teachers and parents have to be more in on the act. Here are some starting points.

Apparently, the average student forgets 70 per cent of what is learned over two years. In fact, most of it goes in the first hour. General principles remain with us longer, but details rapidly disappear. So do something on a regular basis in that case.

Diane Berry, director of music at Graveney School, Tooting, South London, where many students follow accelerated courses for GCSE and ASA2 in music, believes in weekly lunchtime classes with past papers so that after a short time, students "could almost write their own", she says.

Students in the strongly ICT focused music department of Fallibroome School, Macclesfield, are encouraged to "listen to their own favourite music with their GCSE hat on", says head of music, Mark Payne.

If you associate a tune with say, an ostinato from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, a riff from a 1970s disco piece and a loop from a modern techno or club dance re-mix, this will immediately jog the memory. This is an example from GCSE Bitesize.

Students could create their own web pages together. See Big Jessie's GCSE Music Revision site for inspiration.

Nicola Pocock, head of music at Elliott School, Putney, West London, believes she has made something of a breakthrough by involving parents in their children's learning. They assist by playing Classic FM or something suitable, and once a day students are encouraged to ask themselves questions on the music, remembering the adage "listen, listen, listen".

John Skinner, director of music at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College suggests that the best revision is when students contextualise what they are hearing. Using videoDVD, he says, is an effective way of bringing the composer to life and understandingthe music. Teachers have spent endless hours creating a huge number of databanks, collecting compilation discs and tapes, and using video to illustrate areas of study and provide extension activities. Another old adage "a little and often" pays handsome rewards here.

Roger Crocker is development officer for music with Wandsworth LEA

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