Looking back over this year I keep thinking how much I’ve enjoyed it. My new classroom layout, designed for creative, practical music has brought with it some challenges most notably how to evidence the fantastic learning I can see happening in my lessons when it doesn’t look the same as learning in other subject areas. Or how to cope with 5 lessons of workshopping in a day! But how can I identify this learning to observers and help students to really understand the progress they have made in a year and the relevance of this in a wider context?

I have always found that students tell me one (or many) thing (s) and write in far less detail especially if I am framing feedback in any formal context. They try to write formally and don’t always have the skills to do much more than repeat keywords or phrases they think I want to hear and whilst I believe this is a vital skill and should be included too, I thought I’d try allowing them to express their ideas more freely through a blog as opposed to a worksheet.

At the start of this year, I set all my classes the task of evaluating the music learning they did in the previous year whether they were in year 6, 7 or 8. I encouraged them to speak honestly and informally about their experiences so that I could keep this in mind when planning our learning for this year. There were no questions, no writing frames, no suggested words or phrases to use.

I thought I’d log some of their initial thoughts in one place as I start to reflect on this year and look towards the next and then add some of their more recent comments to demonstrate how much you can learn about students, their learning and your teaching  through their blogs.

First a group of year 9 who were my ‘experiment’ in year 8 last year following a year 7 which they described as ‘mainly written work’. I tried to teach every project using Musical Futures approaches, whether this was learning to play a Reggae classic on a Band Carousel, or creating minimalist loops as the backing for a piece of video, working as a whole class using non-formal approaches. I’m interested to compare what feel they learned last year and what they enjoyed with feedback from groups that were taught using more traditional approaches. Here is a sample of the first reflections they carried out. More to follow soon:

  • ‘During ‘Beat It’ possibly one of the most challenging tasks for me because I played the drums was possibly one of my favourites because it was so challenging’ Year 8 girl, level 5
  • ‘Learning to write about music throughout the year was very helpful’ Year 8 boy, level 7
  • ‘I have learnt alot about playing different instruments but I have also learnt who my friends are and that it’s OK to be nervous about playing live and you can take your time and not have to rush into everything’ year 8 girl, level 4
  • ‘The highlight of the year for me had to be the Beat It performance. I learn (sic) how to play piano and I also learnt how to concentrate when there were distractions’ Year 8 boy, level 5
  • ‘In year 8 I had developed lots of musical skills I thought I didn’t have’. Year 8 boy, level 4
  • ‘This year I have learnt to play songs and chords on the piano and guitar. I have learnt how to compose music and how to make a song different’ Year 8 girl, level 6 (no previous musical experience outside the classroom)
  • ‘I have learnt alot in year 8. One of the most important is composing. I have been taught to improvise and compose my own pieces from scratch which I am proud of’ Year 8 boy level 6
  • ‘I have learned not to work with my friends because it only distracts me and that has consequences on my work’ Year 8 girl level 6
  • ‘Pachelbel’s canon was great because it was a very versatile piece when I first heard it I didn’t really have a good idea of what to d and how to incorporate it into my work and a proper song, But after we listened to a few examples of it incorprated into famous pop and rock songs, I definitely felt more confident’. Year 8 girl level 6 (no previous musical experience outside the classroom)
  • ‘We did lots of practical work. I believe this is important because you are learning techniques by putting them into action not by sitting behind a desk listening to what you are meant to do’ Year 8 boy level 6
  • ‘We went off into groups and did the work with no interference from the teacher meaning that we worked independantly’ Year 8 girl level 5