While discussion about the role of Key Stage 3 music goes on over at https://teachtalkmusic.wordpress.com , I am in the process of observing six Key Stage 3 music lessons over the next six weeks. Each I hope will be different and reveal a particular perspective and commitment.
This week I observed a year 8 lesson. It was part of a series of lessons designed around the topic Protest Songs.
The first thing to say is that the teacher and the pupils were enjoying being together in the classroom. Relationships were warm and mutually affirming.
In coming to understand and appreciate the character of protest songs across time and place the pupils were being introduced to a good variety of songs, all with challenging lyrics. It would be the words that attracted attention and in which meaning would be found.
The class had previously listened to the song Cutty wren reputedly created at the time of the 14th century Peasant’s Revolt and just the kind of song, following the folk revival of the mid 20th century, to be taken up by folk groups and folk singers.
Today there are three songs to become acquainted with and all three are related to that 20th century folk revival – Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Ralph McTell.
What interested me most was the quality of the pupil’s listening in the central fifteen minutes of the lesson when the songs were played.
What do I mean, ‘the quality of pupil’s listening’? How do I know what their experience was like? Of course, I don’t. All I can say is that there was a stillness that allowed for some barely perceptible bodily movement. There was inwardness, an air of reflection, a searching for meaning in the words of the songs. Stop this! I am in danger of projecting all manner of things.
I can reasonably say that here was a musical experience that seemed to be entered into by all.
The lesson included singing of one of the songs. There was thinking and talking about the songs too. Shortly the pupils will be song writing themselves.
Protest Songs seek to bring about social change. Will the pupil’s songs be doing likewise and what does this mean for 12-13 year-olds I wonder?
One role of music education at Key Stage 3 is to introduce pupils a range of musical practices. I hope that is not contentious.