Thunderous applause;Beat the inspector

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Registered inspector Bill Laar explains why this stormy music lesson didn't miss a beat when Ofsted came to call

This lesson in musical composition for Years 3 and 4 received the highest grading from Ofsted because:l The teacher (a non-specialist who does not play an instrument) clearly loved and was highly informed about the subject, believed in the importance of music in children's education, knew, in detail the programmes of study at Key Stages 1 and 2, and was supported by the school's comprehensive scheme of work.

* The exemplary lesson plan was designed to tackle a wide range of challenging objectives; it took account of pupils' previous experience, provided opportunity for them to listen, compose, perform and evaluate in whole-class, group and individual contexts; built on the skills rehearsed in the opening; and finally set out intentions for future work.

* The provision and organisation of resources were impeccable; instruments immediately to hand and the recording of the 'Storm' passage from the 4th movement of Beethoven's PastoralSymphony, and of group pieces for later reference, were of high quality.

* Planning was brilliantly translated into the classroom lesson. Significant features included: - a decisive introduction that briefly reminded children of recent learning and involved them from the outset; - an exhilarating pace, immediately established and maintained, together with a sense of purpose and of important business to be done, created by the way in which children were "kept on their toes" and brought in to contribute without any break of rhythm; praise given where deserved, but equally, inaccuracies identified and corrected; - effective use of organisational strategies and methods was shown in the transition from individual, to group and class activities; - sensitive, challenging, encouraging use of questions.

* From the start, the class - challenging, lively pupils in a disadvantaged urban area - responded enthusiastically and seriously, listened carefully and reflectively, and made a genuine attempt to evaluate and improve performance. Their progress was evident.

Further development

Musical skills have to be built up. As pupils develop, their compositions will become less abstract. Melody and rhythm will begin to emerge. At this point they will want to tape their work. In later lessons, they will be encouraged to find ways to "write down" their music as well. They will be introduced, eventually, to formal notation.

Lesson Plan Y3-Y4

Objectives: To give children the experience of pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre and texture: to compose in response to a variety of stimuli, rehearse and present their own performance.

Differentiation will be by outcome. All pupils should be able to carry out the activities. Results depend on ability and experience.

* The introductory activity focuses on a musical element that will be used in the main lesson. This comprises clapping patterns in 44 time and singing high and low notes in 44 rhythm patterns, sometimes echoing the teacher's singing. Activities will focus on: duration, tempo, performing musical patterns by ear, pitch, and controlling vocal sounds.

* The main lesson will be devoted to composition and performance.

* Stimulus will be: (i) sound effects of stormy weather; (ii) The 'Storm' passage. Pupils will listen to recorded sound effects, then the 'Storm' passage. They will suggest how the orchestra creates the impression of thunder and rain, how this compares with the sound effects. They will work in groups, with tuned and untuned percussion instruments, to compose storm music. They will plan the piece, decide about loud and quiet passages, select appropriate instruments, try different ways of playing them, decide who will play at different times and how the piece will begin and end.

* They will be given a few minutes for composition. Groups will perform each composition in succession. Pupils will discuss whether it sounds the same in each playing, whether effects are achieved, which part works best, how it can be improved and whether it has a start and ending.

* The process will then be repeated; there should be marked improvement following pupils' assessment and evaluation of their own, and each other's,composition.

* The lesson will end with the children listening again to the 'Storm' passage.

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