Today is 3rd March 2012. Today I learnt to teach Music the ‘Orff‘ way….
Who is ‘Orff’? (1895-1982)
Carl Orff was a German composer best known for his work Carmina Burana. He founded a school for movement and dance in Munich in which he was determined that the students, musically trained or not, should be involved in creating their own dance music rather than relying on a piano accompaniment which was the traditional practice at the time.
Working with students of dance and gymnastics, the only available instruments were in various forms of drums and untuned percussion. Although he started with these, it was not long until his students were improvising tunes, in pairs on the piano (even though they had never played the piano before).
To all trainee teachers who are interested in teaching a successful music lesson, music specialist or not, I would highly recommend attending a workshop on the ‘Orff Approach to music’.
Why? What have I learnt?
I have learnt how to teach a classroom of children effectively about music. At the start of the day, I was sceptical. We were running around the room, singing a song we did not know, something I did not think would be important. In fact, what I did not realise at the time, I was learning different rhythmic patterns. The only way I can show you is through video:
You will notice, the rhythm, ‘Paa, Paa, Pa pa pa‘ followed by the rhythm, ‘di di di di di di di di di di di di di‘. By doing the dance with the rhythm of the music, the children are becoming aware of a pattern; they become more rhythmically aware. This dance works in both double meter (crotchets/quavers) and triple meter (triplets/12:8 time). After doing the ‘Snake Dance’, we were sat in a circle and made different rhythmic patterns using ‘body percussion‘. We also changed our voice. For example, we would say ‘Paa, Paa, pa pa pa” in different pitches and also clapped on the second ‘Paa,’ and clicked on the fourth pa. You do NOT need to have percussion for each thing you say. It is also important that you keep your rhythm in four. Children will often stray and create a rhythm with 5 beats. This is not wrong, but it may confuse them later on. One thing to watch out for with this is whether the children notice or not.
The name ‘Edwin Gordon‘ was bought up at this time. You can watch his approach to music here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRUCZp9uYOM
This particular lesson could be taught to children in KS1 as long as you keep it simple. I learnt through this that you do not need to keep everything too simple, you can challenge children in KS1. They will work and they will try new things. Especially if you incorporate movement and dance into the lessons.
Following on from this, we learnt to make ‘Rhythm Phrases’. These looked like this:
The triangles stand for ‘metal sounding’ instruments, X’s for ‘wooden sounding’ instruments, O for drums and T for together. Each line represents an 8 beat phrase. This particular rhythm chart we produced was for a year 3/4 class. We thought this would be suitable as there was not a lot of variation. However, you will notice that the wooden instruments carry over to the second phrase for 2 beats. We were told that this would be confusing to children of this age as they will be used to ’4-beat phrases.’ Therefore, this rhythm chart would be much more suitable for a year 5/6 class. Although we may find something easy, the children may not.
The next part of the workshop involved using ‘Ostinati’. Here is an example of this (and a particular favourite of mine) :
At around 1:11, you will notice a change in the piece. Again at 1:27. These are called ‘breaks’. Having a 3 minute song with the same ostinati would become repetitive and boring. Therefore, you need to add a new idea or a break. This was something I did not know before today. If I had been teaching ostinati to a class, I would have quite happily listened to the same thing over and over again. After this learning, I know now how to engage the children more. The teaching of ostinati can be used as a continuation project in both KS1 and KS2 moving the rhythms to instruments (or in the Potter Puppet Pals case, voices).
The rest of the afternoon was spent putting more movement into music:
Before putting dance to the music, we ‘drew’ what we saw when listening to the music. My drawing looked like this:
My drawing was to the right. I envisaged dancing in circles at the beginning, being calm. The second, I saw angry crows and the third I saw a waterfall. The fourth a sword fight and the fifth, I personally saw a battle during the ‘American Revolution’! Or a scene of celebration. The drawing to the left was another person’s attending the course. See the similarities between the two. This will be common in a primary school. Although we had different imaginings to the way we would dance, we still saw similar patterns when illustrating what we had seen.
The main thing I learnt from today was that to do the ‘Orff Approach’, the teacher is not necessarily needed.It is fluent and flexible. It starts from the learners and what they bring to the group. You may have a plan but this might (and probably will) change when the children come to do the task you set. This approach is also very much inclusive. Children with SEN, severe or moderate, will be able to express their emotions through movement and music. Words are not needed. All ‘Orff’ teachers will have a different approach, but they all have the same vision- the learning comes from the children.
I can not express enough how much I will value this experience. I will be taking everything I have learnt into my teaching when I finally get back into a classroom.