Friday afternoons are probably my least favourite times for trying to teach music in primary schools. The children are a toxic mixture of over-tired from the week’s work, and hyper with the weekend hoving into sight. When you consider that Friday afternoons are when I teach recorders, you can imagine that it is very hard work to engineer the kind of outstanding recorder lesson that one reads about in “how-to-do-it” books. And that is without enduring a Friday of “wet play” all day.
So here’s the scenario: year 4, thirty children, many with recorders, many without, (“Can I borrow a school recorder?” “No, you’ll have to play a pencil!”) Friday afternoon, wet play, the room hot and fuggy and stuffy;
They fidget, drop their recorders on the floor, clank them on the table tops, “accidentally” (huh) blow them, chat, wriggle, put their hands up to go to the loo or because “she said something nasty to me” or because “I’ve hurt my finger” or …
I was beginning to feel desperate. So I took out my trusty little mp3 player, placed it on the front desk and announced that I was going to record a couple of minutes of the lesson. Then I played it back.
They were astounded! We discussed the quality of the playing (dismal), the level of background noise (appalling), the relevance of one child’s interruption because she had caught her leg in the desk, the background chatter (rude and disrespectful)… Please note, the comments in brackets were theirs, not mine!
Then we tried again. Their playing improved, the background racket disappeared, there was no “tootling” and no-one interrupted to tell me about self-inflicted injuries, not least because everyone was sitting still and concentrating. RESULT! We finished the lesson a good deal more pleased with ourselves that when we began.
OFSTED are great believers in using recording and playback as a method of improving music making. Not sure if this is what they had in mind, but it worked brilliantly.