I’ve noticed that when I ask children to listen to a piece of recorded music, that is not exactly what happens.
They jiggle, interpret, pull faces, and generally react in a physical way. That’s sort of good, but, in my book, much more sort of unhelpful. I’m reluctant to be too fierce about insisting upon stillness, especially when their “interpretations” are rhythmic, and maybe even relevant (miming violins or flutes or beating a drum).
However I think it is important that they do learn to focus their hearing beyond the superficial first response. Otherwise they can miss the subtleties and layers that are present.
This week I have played part of “Peter and the Wolf” to two different year 3-4 classes (7-8 years). The first class, which has a superfluity of “class characters” all vying to be the coolest, wittiest, most individual person, barely listened at all. The children in question were so busy miming, grinning and frowning, conducting, that the other children were distracted from hearing the actual story. There is some relevance to miming a cat, flapping wings like a bird, grumping like Grandfather, but there is more hear than just the different instruments and themes.
The other class listened quietly, some with their heads down on the desks (have they been trained to listen to stories like that, I wonder?) and then were able to talk about the details – why did Grandfather’s music sound grumpy? How did the music describe the bird? Could you hear the argument? What made it sound like an argument?
This calmer, more thoughtful class behaviour is clearly impacting positively on their rate of learning. It is also far less tiring to teach – in one way. In another way, they make so much progress that I have to make sure that I prepare very full lessons for them than for the other class, which wastes so much time in settling between activities that planning time is much reduced as I know we won’t get through the same amount of material.
Based on this comparison, I’m far more attentive now to individual behaviour, and quicker to react to children who steal the attention from the task in hand. Starting with learning to listeni quietly and attentively to the rest of Peter and the Wolf.