Music is and has always been a big feature in my life.
Each morning when I get up I put music on in the house, I put music on in the car when on my way to work and I put music on through the sound system when I arrive at school so my staff team will tell you they get musical welcome to work each day!
I am lucky to have come from a musical family with both my grandad and my mum playing the piano. I also learned to play the piano and guitar. In my first teaching post I was also subject leader for music and taught music throughout school. As a deputy I covered PPA in all classes and taught music. I love live music of many different types – I usually have at least 1 gig booked in – ‘Madness’ at the Manchester arena just before Xmas is my next one!
When I put the music on in school yesterday morning as I routinely do, I was thinking about how important music is in school and how much we use it for a range of reasons – perhaps even more in a special school than a mainstream setting. So my blog is an account of the different ways we use music and the positive impact it has with our pupils.
Before I begin – there is a caution with music of course and I can almost hear some of you screaming it at me already – it should never become ‘wallpaper’, on all the time and used so indiscriminately in school that its value is lost. Now I have got that out of the way – here we go………
It is really important that as part of a broad, balanced, relevant and meaningful curriculum that music has it’s place and that our pupils get access to knowledge and skills about music. Developing musical skills alongside the appreciation of all different types of music is important to me and the school.
We have a school choir which is part of a bank of choices for our pupils for ‘Friday Fun Clubs’ i.e. activities including cheer leading, choir, sports, IT, local walk….that our pupils can choose to join on a Friday afternoon. Our choir is a singing and signing choir and we have been proud to have performed at a range of events including in the Exhibition hall at the 2015 SSAT national conference and singing as part of ‘The Tale of Mr Tumble‘ in last year’s Manchester International Festival. Being part of Young Voices each year at Manchester Arena has given our choir a chance to perform along side many other school choirs and be part of a truly memorable experience
Sing and Sign
We have a weekly whole school ‘sing and sign’ session for which we are joined each week by a group of pupils from one of our local primary schools. We have ‘old favourite’ songs we like to sing but enjoy learning new songs too. The choir have an important role in leading the singing from the front! Time to come together each week as a whole school in this way is very special.
Music an auditory ‘cue’
Many of our pupils benefit from the use of ‘Objects of reference / Object cues’ to support their understanding of the timetable, support their transitions and access to learning i.e. a set of objects which are consistently used to relate to activities on the timetable such as a book for English lessons, a cup for snack times etc. We have an auditory cue we use for assemblies – the piece of music ‘A whole New World’ is played in the hall as our pupils arrive which signifies to them it is assembly time.
Music to support timetables / transitions
Building on from auditory cues a number of songs are used regularly with our pupils to support their access to learning e.g. hello songs, days of the week songs, now it’s dinner time song…… This is in addition to number songs, alphabet songs…….
Song boards / song choices and our school CD
Many of our pupils have favourite songs they like to sing and sign and most classes have song ‘choice boards’ where during a singing session the children can either verbally or by choosing a symbol choose the song of their choice. We have song bags of props for a whole range of favourite songs. Following a request from a parent about knowing the words and signs for the songs their child was singing so they could sing them at home, we produced a school CD and accompanying song book which includes the words and signs to the songs. The cover of the CD is the image at the top of this blog.
Music as a motivator / reward / to calm and relax
Many of our pupils find music as a motivator and will work towards having headphones and music for example as a ‘golden time’ type reward for doing their work. The right piece of music in the right environment can be very effectively used to de-escalate a situation when a child is in crisis.
We have set of steel drums in school and a range of other drums. We use our music grant to buy in tuition for a group of pupils in KS2 to have access to learning to play the drums. They sound fab!
Music to enhance and support learning across the curriculum
Without it becoming ‘musical wallpaper’ , music can be really effective in enhancing learning across all different areas of the curriculum. Dance / PE is an obvious one, however, so many other lessons can benefit when used well. A favourite of mine is seeing the children engaged in ‘Write dance’ where the tables are covered with lining paper and the mood of the music which accompanies encourages different mark – making on the paper
Christmas concerts, part of assemblies – our pupils are superstars when it comes to musical performances. We love to celebrate the work of our pupils and the school and musical performances are a great way of sharing our joy with parents / carers, families and friends of the school. “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo. Bravo, Bravo, very well done!”
Our school song
We our proud to be a Unicef Right’s respecting school and as part of this work we established a school song which we sing during sing and sign sessions and have sung at some performances: