Issue 16: Can’t they read music yet?

So, you have been teaching the children for a whole term, and they still can’t read the music yet!  How hard can it be to read just three notes?

The most single effective tool I use in assessing whether the children can read music is composing music.

Take a piece of standard manuscript music and enlarge it on a photocopier, or else create it using word. (table with four rows and no columns, font size 5).  Demonstrate, or even better, get the children to demonstrate where the notes lie on the stave. Compose a short phrase in crotchets using the notes that you expect them to know, and get a child to play it.

After a couple more demonstrations, issue everyone with manuscript paper and pencils (it is handy to have a couple of rubbers and sharpeners around as well) and get them to compose and play their own music.  You can now circulate and see how they are getting on.

The noise is horrendous – 35 beginner recorders all composing and playing using BAG is not a nice aural experience.  One OFSTED inspector left in a hurry at this stage of the lesson, saying they would return when we were doing singing.  I don’t blame them!  However the children really enjoy discovering that they can read and write their own music.  It is also a golden opportunity to make an individual assessment of each child, and “gather evidence” of where they are in music reading fluency.

You might like to refer back to the “aliens” article, back in issue 4, “Here come the Aliens” for further ideas for teaching notation.

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