The importance of music is undeniable in today’s society. ‘[It] plays an important part in everyday life: we hear it on the radio, on the television, in churches, in the supermarket; we dance to it, relax to it and are refreshed by it. We seem to need it; in fact it is difficult to imagine society without some form of music. Such an essential need would justify its inclusion in any school curriculum’ (Gilbert 1992, p.6).
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The key skills that underpin music as a primary subject are transferable to a wide range of other curriculum areas. According the national curriculum ‘Teaching should ensure that listening, and applying knowledge and understanding, are developed through the interrelated skills of ‘performing’, ‘composing’ and ‘appraising” (DfEE/QCA, 1999). Listening is fundamental skill within all national curriculum subjects, in particular literacy, to which listening is a major part of the knowledge, skills and understanding content. Listening is a skill to which children must develop if they are to communicate effectively. In every aspect of the primary curriculum, listening is a skill that needs constant development.
Appraising is the tem used to by the national curriculum for evaluating music. To appraise effectively, in a musical sense, a child must apply their listening skills. Boys and Spink agree that “appraisal implies active listening with a specific purpose in mind and is a way of coming to know and understand music”. Appraisal is a personal involvement with a piece of music, comparing and contrasting, ways of improving and how it makes you feel. This skill can be transferred into many curriculum areas such as expressing an opinion on a piece of poetry in literacy, comparing one balance to another in gymnastics and the two stars and wish system of peer assessment.
Composing is the creative aspect of music within the national curriculum. ‘It involves creating a piece of music with an intension. It involves ideas, possibilities, drafting and re drafting to reach a desired outcome and making judgements about what is successful and why’ (Jones and Robson, 2008). The skills that are necessary for composing music are further highlighted by Boys and Spink, ‘Pupils have acquired a huge range of transferable skills such as teamwork, co-operation and working to a brief or deadline as well as recorded evidence of their achievement’ (2008).
The most successful music lessons manage to incorporate all of these elements of skill within the one lesson leading to a performance of some description. The culmination of listening, appraising and composing leads to a performance. Whilst on practical teaching placement I managed to observe several music lessons in a Year One class that contained these elements. Firstly the children listened to their teacher say her name varying the pitch high and low and using long and short notes. The class then had to repeat back using the same pitch. The children could then suggest there own way of singing their full name, varying the pitch and tone of their voices. The children then sang their own name to the class if they wanted to, in a safe setting, encouraging the less confident children to do so, reassuring the children that they could not get it wrong. Music has an exceptional way of encouraging children as a child does not have to be musically proficient to be successful. One piece of music may make a child feel sad whilst make another child happy.
Music is a highly adaptable subject that can be used to develop skills in other areas of the curriculum. A piece of classical music can be used in an art lesson to ‘paint a song’, allowing children artistic freedom, to use different brush strokes, colours and shapes. Music can also be used with subjects that are not within the same cluster such as geography. The national curriculum states in its breath of study that ‘during the key stage, pupils should be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through: a range of live and recorded music from different times and cultures’ (DfEE/QCA, 1999). This enables a strong cross-curricular link to geography. It is important that children explore other countries and their culture, particularly its arts and music. Music is a cornerstone of many societies which can lead us to a greater understanding about that culture. Children can experience this through listening to music native of various countries all over the world and experimenting with different instruments.
In today’s multicultural society it is essential that children are exposed to a variety of cultures so they can exercise respect and develop knowledge and intrigue. Jones and Robson concur, stating that “the principles underpinning this are not simply that the children themselves in the class that you teach will be drawn from diverse backgrounds that all children growing up in a multicultural society are entitled to a curriculum that reflects the diversity of the country, further than that, children are increasingly required to grasps the global dimension of issues and some appreciation of cultural variety will enable this wider understanding” (2008).
Geography it seems has an uncertain future according to Tilbury and Williams, ‘In some countries the separate identity of the subject is not recognized while in others it is often squeezed into elective structures as pressures mount on the limited amount of curriculum time’ (1997). Geography has a lot to offer in enriching the primary curriculum, the skills that are taught and developed are especially wide ranging. Their spatial awareness is developed by practicing their map reading and making skills this is a strong link to the understanding properties of position and movement area of mathematics in the National Curriculum also when collecting and interpreting data when reading graphs and surveys. This gives the handling data area mathematics and real life situation that it is used in geography when studying information about other countries. Children have the opportunity to develop their observational skills through secondary sources such as artefacts, stories, pictures and photographs. Not only does this link to developing other humanities subjects such as history but also in creative subjects such as art. Being able to describe and explain and criticise using various artefacts is a valuable tool.
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Although the skill set from geography is beneficial to children, in today’s rapidly changing world, it is becoming ever more critical to be sparking interesting in geographical and environmental science. It may be a child that takes an interest in the environment and sustainable development within a primary classroom, who has that concern nurtured throughout their education and is the one that developed a sustainable fuel we can all live with, essentially changing the world.
English speaking and listening programmes which target the National Curriculum (and also the new Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland) as well as the objectives of the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) framework. Teachers’ notes are also available.
Geography promotes attitudes and respect.
The sameness between countries to eliminate
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