I’m teaching composition to primary classes from Reception to Year 6 (and even a one-off inset session for Primary School Teachers) this term.
Here’s how I’m going about it.
First, I’ve explored dynamics (loud and soft, and changing between them) with the class. We’ve used various instruments, and, according to the age of the children, followed a conductor, learned to Italian words and symbols, and used written notation.
Then, I’ve added texture (one, several, many children playing at the same time). After spending some time explaining and conducting the class, I’ve split them into groups to organise a composition that has to have different dynamics and different textures. They’ve performed their compositions at the end of the lesson, and assessment is completely obvious – did they play loudly and softly? Did they vary the number of children playing at any one time?
Now for timbre (type/quality/description of sounds – eg scratchy, scary, magical, dingy, bell-like, tapping etc). The Cathy Berberian “Stripsody” piece is a fun way in. (Have a look on youtube). Once the children have stopped giggling, they can have a go at creating their own version.
The next composition phase is to create a piece using texture, dynamics and timbre. At this point it is a good idea to have some kind of a story in mind – eg “we went on an adventure, there was a dramatic dangerous incident, we were rescued by magic and arrived safely at our destination”. Oho – we’ve just added structure into the mix! And also notation and graphic scores.
To assess, check out – dynamics? texture? could you tell which part of the story you were in by the types of sounds (timbres)?. Just tick them off, noting how effective the children’s choices were.
What would make it clearer? Better? What went very well?