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Modelling, demonstrating and joining in

It is far easier to persuade children to try something out if they see us doing it. As with all aspects of teaching, modelling and demonstrating what we are asking children to do is really important. Here is an example:

'Peering through the school hall door, I noticed the beaming smiles of Mrs Clark’s Year 3 class stomping around the room to ‘Nellie the Elephant’, which was blaring from the speakers. Most were marching in time with the music and each other. Weaving in between their haphazard pattern was Mrs Clark, joining in with evident delight, making eye contact with children as she marched around, pumping her arms in time and with gusto. With the music in full flow, the room suddenly fell silent. Abruptly, the activity stopped and the children and teacher froze mid-move.'

Daubney, 2017: 11

Can you see yourself as Mrs Clark? What would be different if the teacher was just standing watching at the side? Would everyone still be joining in, absorbed by the activity in the classroom?

Throughout our teaching, we need to model, demonstrate and join in. This means being a musician yourself; if you want children to come up with their own short repeating melody (ostinato) then we must model how to make one up, and then another, and then another. By doing this, children see you modelling the behaviour and also they don’t assume they are seeking one ‘right’ answer – i.e. the one you played them. If you want them to stand up straight and look confident, then stand up straight and look confident yourself. If you want them to sing a short phrase confidently, be prepared to do this yourself.

In order for your lessons to be enjoyable (for you and the children) and effective then you need to find strategies to feel that you can be confident to ‘act musically’. Practical ways in which you can develop your own confidence to do this are spread throughout the toolkit. Perhaps the best way to do this in the early days is to be brave in your own space – when nobody is around, sing out loud, move to the music, make up song lyrics to well-known tunes, make a sound on some musical instruments or even the objects in the room. Choose a line from a famous poem and say it in different ways and then try to sing any melody that pops into your head, and then another melody. In other words, go and enjoy yourself and immerse yourself in the opportunities to act musically. This is an important precursor to being part of the musical community in the classroom. Enjoy the freedom and make some noise!

1Daubney, A. (2017). Teaching Primary Music. London: Sage publications.