Like no other year level, year 7 is a heady mix of student skills, interests and experiences. They come from far and wide to our classrooms – some have been learning piano, theory and violin since age 4 while others are sitting in a music classroom for the first time. Oddly enough both groups are equally apprehensive about what is to come. The ‘learning all my life’ kids are expecting to be bored while the first timers are expecting to feel like dummies from day one.
As teachers, whether we ever say it out loud or not, we also have our own agenda for these new bods. Top of our mind is recruitment, both for our future classroom music program and our ensembles. I know a teacher whose main aim for year 7 is for 1 new kid in each class to start learning an instrument.
Together with all of this and sometimes last on the list is that they are supposed to be learning! They are all supposed to be learning.
Year 7 music is my favourite class to teach. They are keen, diverse and up for a challenge.
Year 7 suggestions:
- My Ice breaker is a silly name game. Wait – it works. I go down the roll staring at faces and checking names but with each new name I start from the top again eg. “Simon – which one is Simon? Ok – you. So we have (pointing) Sarah, Angus, Oskar (always with a k), Jessica and Simon”. Yes – it can get tedious, that is the point. After about 10 I do start a little further down the list and I try and identify bunches sitting together etc. Then I go around and try and name them all in seated order. This all sounds like a giant time waster, but they are a lot more relaxed and they know each others names as well. We have all had a good laugh which is most important on day one.
- Always do a pretest. Mark it in class if you like but make sure you record the results. I personally like a fairly light hearted one with some multi choice silly questions. This has the advantage of giving the kids who already know music a chance to show you without any other kids feeling dumb.
- Start on the drums. Seriously, there is method to the madness. Usually the kids who have learnt all their lives have never touched a drum kit! They are immediately into it. Then you can link easily straight into your first theory lesson using the basic drum beat!
- Use composition. Those of you who read my blogs regularly know that this is a mantra of mine. Nothing on earth does differentiated learning better than group compositions. It takes a bit of time and needs to be set up well but it provides excellent creative learning and allows everybody in the group to participate at their own level.
Year 7 is great fun for all. While we are effectively selling our subject to each new lot, it is important to remember that kids like to learn. Kids like to learn new stuff and be motivated.
- Playing instruments all day without any sense of achievement will not do this.
- Playing computer music programs all day without any sense of achievement will not do this.
Whether we like it or not, students pick subjects on whether they like the teachers and the atmosphere in the department.
Learning new skills and developing music knowledge will motivate kids – and it is great fun!
Our New Digital Resource – Year 7 Music for Australian Kids