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Raising the bar!

Discussion in 'Music' started by kstring24, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. Hello all,
    I took over a music department in September where
    the kids have had virtually no music teaching for 3 years due to long
    term, on/off absence. I'm trying to get 60 year 10s through a BTEC
    performance unit and the standard so far has been pretty poor, I'm not
    confident I can give most performances as pass as yet. It's also been
    hard as the majority are still quite disengaged, despite my best
    efforts! The school itself is in special measures and behaviour is a big
    problem. I have tried to get recordings done this week but I've only
    managed to get 2 pupils to perform in front of the class and the rest
    have been allowed to do their performance behind closed doors or
    lunchtime. This in itself prevents a problem as many don't bother to
    show up!
    I feel so frustrated at the moment. I have worked
    really hard to try and turn this department around and things are a lot
    better, but I am really disappointed with the low standards of the
    performances and the fact I've barely got through all performances. They
    need to do 4 for this unit, I was hoping to get 2 from each pupil
    recorded this week, but I've had to change that to 1. Many kids complain
    that they are not ready despite being given plenty of time to practice.
    The fact is most still don't bother to practice even though they know
    their performance will be poor. This is apparently the same in their
    drama lessons.
    I know I shouldn't beat myself up too much about
    it, and I know that Rome wasn't built in a day, but I feel very run down
    and need some new ideas for after Easter. I have a few good kids who I
    am neglecting because I have spent so much time trying to engage the
    'lazy' or 'disengaged' kids.
    Has anyone got any advice on how I
    can push on the standard of performing? They have no instrumental
    lessons outside of class, so it's pretty much up to me. I'm going to
    trial a 'timetable' for practical lessons, so I focus on roughly 5
    pupils per lesson and leave the rest to get on in an attempt to help
    improve their practical skills. They are also reminded of practice
    techniques to use, but unless I actually sit with them, some just don't
    really use them. The vast majority are playing keyboard pieces which
    don't use notation (from classpiano.com - it's been a god send). They
    tend to get to a point and don't bother with the rest or try it once,
    fail to play it and give up. Quite often it can take me a while before I
    realise a pupil has hit a wall. I'm normally so organised, but I'm so
    used to having a 15 strong class of year 10s and a smaller year 11
    Does anyone else juggle this many pupils? How do you
    cope? What about raising standards of performing? And how did you raise
    confidence so they can perform in front of the class?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Kstring24,
    I feel your pain! When I came in as Head of Music nearly two years ago, my school was too in special measures and faced the same as you are facing. I'm glad to report it will get better.
    It might be worth doing a unit on skills building on a series of instruments in the short term to help achieve your long term goals. I workshopped the different classroom instruments: guitar, bass guitar, drumkit, keyboard, voice and tuned percussion to build basic skills then introduced them to really straight forward 3 or 4 chord songs. Stick to something that has the same structure throughout to build their confidence and maybe something recent in the charts? I would recommend musical futures to you as it has transformed music in my school to the point where i have just had a battle of the bands event with 14 bands from across year 8 and 9 and this years BTEC year 10s are flying through the course.
    With regards the year 10 class, perhaps it might be better doing the ensemble performance unit first so that they can gain some confidence. This would make the solo performance easier next year. I would also recommend Numu to you, get regular recordings up. My pupils loved hearing their music online and developed an eagerness to improve. I also let my pupils sign up in groups of 5 for solo performances the first time, so they chose the group they wanted to perform to. This worked really well. It is quite daunting to play to your whole class peers if you are not used to it.
    Having 60 in year 10 is great, it shows that somehow the subject either interests or has engaged them so don't get disheartened, stay strong and firm, communicate your expectations and demand a high standard. Special measures isn't easy and I wish you well!

  3. dropje

    dropje New commenter

    Sounds to me like you are doing the right thing. Just remember, they are responsible for not passing and don't feel you are obliged to give them a pass. Maintain high standards. They just need to learn the discipline of performance
  4. The younger ones coming up will benefit from you putting in good practice at the beginning. Just do your best with the older ones. That's all you can do.

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