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Shoot and a score


I have been teaching a unit based around film scores to my Year 8 classes, a topic that is approachable and relevant to today's pupils, and promotes learning, positive attitudes and enjoyment in music lessons.

The learning objectives include tonality, while also reinforcing the musical elements covered in Year 7 and moving towards GCSE by visiting the hallmarks of various film-music genres, including science fiction, horror, adventure and westerns.

Lesson one starts with a quick quiz identifying the films associated with 10 famous theme tunes. This leads to a discussion about the importance of music in films in terms of setting the scene, introducing characters and emphasising the genre.

Later lessons go on to explore different styles, such as horror. Music from Halloween and The Exorcist is played and pupils identify the features used to create the specific mood. These are then used in a mini composition to create a short film theme or an underscore for a scene.

Once the different genres have been studied, I choose a section of film approximately five minutes long. We watch the film and create a storyboard to chop the scene up into smaller sections (six in all) using hand-drawn pictures to represent each part.

Over the next few lessons, we analyse and compose music for each section using particular musical features discussed in class. There are many opportunities for feedback and peer assessment in these later lessons as pupils perform their work in progress. The final lessons involve each group recording their work using a stopwatch and then these recordings are played back over the silent film and assessed by myself and the rest of the class.

Ali Sutcliffe is head of music at The Commonweal School in Swindon.

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