4 Simple Ways to Fit More Music Into the School Day
Music is an incredibly important subject that enriches pupils’ lives and education. But as it is treated increasingly as an afterthought rather than a priority, how can we ensure that children continue to enjoy the remarkable benefits of music in schools?
With a lack of funding and resources for specialist education, it’s important to fit music into the school day wherever possible. Here you’ll find some simple and effective ideas to help you do so.
Why we need more music in schools
A 2012 Ofsted report highlighted several worrying trends in the provision of music education in schools across the UK. Of particular concern was the widening gap in the quality and quantity of music education across the schools visited and between different groups within those schools.
Ofsted also reported a insufficient emphasis on the use of music as a learning aid and a general lack of understanding as to how to help students make good musical progress through key stages 1 to 3.
The report concludes that while continued funding and support from the government are welcomed, this alone is inadequate for ensuring that all pupils have access to a good musical education. It is the quality of the provision made by individual schools and local authorities that matter the most.
This is a slap in the face for many schools, which are already doing their best in the face of ever-shrinking budgets and ever-growing lists of priorities. With more and more schools having to sacrifice their music education programmes in order to satisfy other demands, what can be done to further children’s musical development without compromising other areas of learning?
It hardly seems fair to pressure cash-strapped parents into funding private music lessons, to the exclusion of those who genuinely cannot afford them. Nor is it practical in many cases to allocate more hours of the school day to dedicated music classes.
The simple solution is to fit more music into your day-to-day teaching and activities.
How to get more music into the school day
With these things in mind, how can you as a teacher make the most of the educational opportunities that music has to offer? How can you work it into the school day with a view to maximising its potential for aiding personal, social and intellectual development?
- Use songs in the classroom
The main objective here is to ensure that pupils from all backgrounds have the same opportunities, and one of the best and easiest ways to achieve this is through regular and sustained use of music in the classroom.
Educational songs can be a very effective tool for introducing and reinforcing subject matter across core topic areas. Take advantage of this opportunity by choosing songbooks that have been compiled specifically to support the National Curriculum, such as Out of the Ark’s highly acclaimed selection of musical resources for schools.
- Sing songs in assembly
The other obvious place to sing school songs is in assembly. As the one time of day when everyone gets together, assembly offers an important opportunity to nurture positive values and promote the shared ethos of your school – and music is ideal for this.
Reflecting upon universal values such as love, peace, truth, cooperation and respect form the basis of several vital components of the National Curriculum, including religious education (RE), citizenship, personal, social and health education (PSHE), and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC).
Look for assembly songs that have been composed to support the curriculum, and which are catchy, positive and fun to sing.
- Play background music throughout the school day
As well as using song lyrics to support educational, moral and spiritual teaching, you could also make use of music’s remarkable ability to create a positive energy and atmosphere.
From the classroom to the assembly hall and beyond, music can be used to stimulate and inspire, to calm and encourage focus, and to promote creativity and personal expression.
Have a song playing when children enter or leave a room, or put one on in the background as they carry out a particular task. Make sure you choose carefully, as a poorly considered choice can have precisely the opposite effect to that which you’re looking to achieve!
See Chris Boyd Brewer’s article Integrating Music in the Classroom, reprinted from his book Music and Learning, for some excellent examples. Scroll down to the section entitled ‘Turning Music On in Your Classroom’ to read his suggestions.
- Rehearse and perform musicals throughout the school year
Schools that restrict the use of musicals to the Christmas period are missing a trick. From musical adaptations of biblical stories to original scripts that raise awareness about environmental issues, one can find musicals to support learning across a diverse range of topics.
This needn’t necessarily entail a lot of work. Rather than rehearsing with a view to staging a full-blown production, you can simply run through the script and songs in class to reinforce your teaching and make lessons more memorable.
Another alternative is to have your class perform a musical in front of the rest of the school. Allow them to retain their scripts and turn this into a fully inclusive, interactive activity by allowing everyone to join in on particular songs.
Over to you. Anything I’ve missed? How do you fit music into the school day? Please add your thoughts in the comments box below.
Heather is writing on behalf of Out of the Ark, a leading UK supplier of curriculum-led musical resources for primary schools. Each of their songbooks comes with an audio CD containing backing and vocal tracks, and many also include software to display song lyrics onto your chosen screen.
Visit www.outoftheark.co.uk to view the range and order online for delivery.