Jon O'Connor looks at a music resource that makes easy work of lessons for specialist and non-specialist teachers
MUSIC EXPRESS. Book, CD and CD-Rom Aamp;C Black pound;19.99. www.acblack.com musicexpress
This multimedia package for Years 4 to 6 is very much "the here and now" of primary music teaching. It works well because the publication team draws on several areas of expertise. Firstly, the technical quality of the product is exceptionally good, with sharp visual presentation, ease of use and practicality.
Underpinning the series is the crucial commitment to musical quality, musical range and musical enjoyment.
Musical concepts and skills are continually developed and revisited using exciting material from the widest possible range of traditions. The pitch of the material is good, too.
The high standard of composition and recorded sound quality will appeal to street-wise children with well developed musical tastes.
Teachers' own needs and levels of confidence are catered for. Alongside good workshop material, which is accessible to all, the publishers have no problem with providing performance part-sheets for more confident musicians.
The writing is good, adapting the tactics of the national literacy and numeracy strategies to provide direct and clear pedagogy for effective learning. Primary best practice is acknowledged, combining different curriculum threads. There is a notable focus on personal and social development, which is of crucial importance at key stage 2.
Music Express also exploits the potential of ICT. Non-specialist music teachers will find the CD-Rom format helpful. The use of video-clips and sound samples to model techniques is a realistic option in almost any classroom with a PC and there is even greater potential for those lucky learners using interactive whiteboards.
The CD-Rom allows the teacher to select and print files from a resource bank of pictures, worksheets and music samples. The icing on the cake, however, is a comprehensive scheme of work matched to that of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's, with fully designed medium-term planning and lesson plans. If that's not enough, the dedicated Music Express website includes an ideas bank, a discussion forum and the fun of live networking and development. It also provides 36 lessons in six half-term units. You could easily pick and mix units without losing continuity from year to year.
Many of the activities in Music Express involve classroom percussion instruments. Specific instruments are frequently mentioned, although teachers are encouraged to use whatever they have.
Music Express is a vibrant counterpoint to the more dry and dusty elements of our curriculum. It is rare to find material pulling together contemporary good practice and technologies so effectively.