Tried and Tested - Musical tastes

Subject: Music

Lesson: Student-led listening

Ages: Key stages 3 and 4

Supplied by Anthony Anderson, head of music and advanced skills teacher at Beauchamp College in Leicestershire

1. What is it?

This is an idea that works well as an induction or taster lesson, when you might be meeting a GCSE group for the first time. It focuses on looking at pupils' own musical tastes as a springboard to further discussion. It can also be used with a younger age range to introduce the idea of evaluating music, or it can fit in as the first lesson of a prescribed course.

2. Who is it aimed at?

GCSE music pupils, although it can be adapted for other ages and contexts with a bit of thought. Take the risk and face the challenge for a rewarding session of music-making.

3. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

This lesson will enable pupils to have the confidence to share thoughts and ideas right from the outset of a new course. It will also begin the process of learning to evaluate critically the music they listen to. This will be the basis of future work and help to establish a performance and composition platform.

4. What happens in the lesson?

Share three extracts of contrasting pieces you enjoy and ask pupils to pinpoint a feature of the music they like. See if they agree, but don't discuss it further. Now encourage them to share one of their favourite tracks. Some will have iPods and MP3s, so let two or three plug them in. Take all comers and styles. Ask them to work in pairs and jot down two musical reasons why they like or dislike a track. Ask them to name musical features or instruments they can hear. If time allows, choose a track and see if pupils can work towards a basic practical realisation of it.

5. How do you know it has been successful?

If your new class entered looking timid and leave buzzing with the music they have talked about, then it's been a success. If they entered rowdy and difficult to control and leave having shared opinions and ideas, it's been a success. If they entered looking bored and indifferent and leave with a new sense of focus, it's been a success.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

This is a great way to enable pupils to be engaged from the moment they enter your classroom. It also establishes the tone for the pupilteacher relationship throughout the course. You are both on a musical journey and both still learning. It also helps them to understand that formal and informal music-making - and thinking through how they work - need not be divorced from each other.

7. Give us three top tips

1. Ban phrases such as "it's boring" or "it's alright" in their evaluation. Instead, really try to get to the heart of their responses.

2. When assessing the success of the lesson, use careful, focused questioning. Ask "What did you learn about music today?" and "Tell me why you think that." The responses will help you to set useful future learning objectives.

3. Help pupils to understand that you really do want to see their iPods and hear their music - usually they will be told the opposite.

8. Useful resources is a great place to find ideas and resources from other music practitioners and a great place to share yours. There are forums, sections on secondary and primary, music research and more. It is widely used and changes daily. If you try this idea, or have suggestions on how to improve it, this is a great community with which to share it.

iTunes and other music download sites are great for exploring new styles of music and for obtaining tracks for this lesson.

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