At the end of last term, I received a “Thank You” card from an elementary level pupil, which expressed that most joy-inducing of pupil responses: “I’m excited about next year!” It really motivated me to discover new things about the music I teach and play and rediscover things I take for granted after a lifetime immersed in music. I’m so happy to share the excitement of the beginner and awed by the responsibility to ensure that the journey matches expectations!
The first thing I have to bear in mind is that lessons aren’t about what and how I want to teach, rather, what and how the pupil wants to learn. That’s fairly easy to ascertain by presenting the adult with choices of repertoire and trying different approaches to see how they respond. I think it’s more difficult, though, to get ‘under the skin’ of children. The latter do not have too many preconceptions about their tuition, they are reluctant to tell a teacher if things are not to their liking, and they have had limited exposure to the range of musical genres. Yet music is not a distinct body of knowledge to be parcelled up in portions digestible by the young, but a world which each experiences in a uniquely personal way.
How can we relive the discoveries of our own musical journeys and open the door on new experiences for our pupils? With that in mind, a few of the things I’m going to work on are
- introducing pupils to new genres and styles through ‘quick study’ pieces, using arrangements that make few demands on the current level of technical development, through pupil/teacher duets and listening activities.
- exploring scales through simple improvisation activities, taking a small chunk of the mode at a time.
- where appropriate, linking pieces to more developed works of similar character on listening sites, also the same piece in different arragements.
- focusing on the central role of rhythm in melodic structure and character and exploring this in improvisation.
- as younger pupils seem to spend a lot of time on YouTube and similar sites, I will be encouraging them to share their favourite links with me, so that I can build on their discoveries.
My search for strategies to enhance pupil experience goes on and, meanwhile, I’m now excited about this new academic year! 🙂