A tweet came up in my Timehop today that read ‘I’m bored and ready for a change in my classroom layout, but am I brave enough to ditch the tables?’. Turns out I was and my first class in September arrived to a very large space with all the instruments set up ready to play and no desks. The aim of doing this was to put musicianship at the heart of the room. A room that says ‘we make music’ NOT ‘come in and get a pen out’
The best thing about doing this has been how quickly and naturally the lessons move into practical work and the amount of music making in each lesson has increased. End of lessons can seamlessly move from practical into a plenary. I have also become better at setting more musical starters: clapping, singing and musical warm ups. Listening activities have become much more open ended without a book to take notes so I have really tried to work on the ‘pose, pause, pounce, bounce’ approach to encourage whole class listening. This has resulted in some amazing responses from students, but none of this is formally evidenced. Is that a problem? There’s another blog post right there!
The main issues have arisen from GCSE and A Level lessons where there is a more formal need for worksheets and note taking. Even with practical interspersed this has become clumsy and students are uncomfortable so we are often moving the keyboards to enable them to use them. They are also very grumpy about moving the furniture. As a result there is a regular mess in the room where things are not put back. Things have a less formal place and despite the lower amount of breakages things are constantly being moved and lost.
Despite the mess and lack of order I would not go back now. Having the tables was far too restrictive and I love how naturally my classes move round the piano for singing or shift into groups to discuss an extract. It does make my lessons feel so much more organic and musical. To be honest I am not sure anyone should never trust an ordered or tidy music department.