All the days start with coffee (that is a given) but officially my day starts with a visit to Bristol Cathedral. Each morning at 7.55am I head over and register the choristers, checking in on the day to day wellbeing and attendance of these students is a pleasure. They are the hardest working bunch of students you could imagine and my role is to log their attendance but also be a conduit between school and the cathedral to support their busy lives.
Following on from the 20 minute registration I head back to school to lead a rehearsal. During tutor time on a Friday I run ‘Lower School Voices’. This is a choir of roughly 30 year 7 and 8 students who are a chamber choir in training. We sing a range of repertoire, usually 2 or 3 parts. We do have 2 other entry level choirs that are much bigger and open to all, but this one is more focused on more complex part singing and music reading. We have tried to map and sequence our musical ensembles at BCCS to enable students to grow through them as they travel up the school. This morning they are working on a 2 part arrangement of ‘Blackbird’ accompanied by a year 12 student on the piano to be performing in an upcoming concert. They work hard, despite lots coming in late due to the city buses. I really try to encourage them to hold a good posture and look up at the conductor to secure the starts and ends of musical lines. Some students singing the higher part are struggling with the higher notes in the middle section, I make a note to warm up more comprehensively next week as I think I may have rushed this today.
Period One: Year 7
Year 7 come in on time, our school policy is to enter silently so students enter the room and complete a short ‘Do it Now’ task. We are in a music tech room so the task is to log in to Google Classroom and find the task for today along with two retrieval questions on the board (‘what does the word sonority mean?’ and ‘how can you edit the sonority of an audio file in Soundtrap?’. After the register we navigate the questions as a class through questioning and I launch the task.
Students are using Soundtrap to import short audio files and made edits to them. The topic is called ‘Exploring Musical Sound’. It is early days in them using Soundtrap so I allow them to spend time creating sound with some simple targets on the board. After 20 minutes we take time to show some students work and provide feedback against a simple criteria. As a school we are focussing on metacognition at the moment so I try to encourage students through questioning to explain with care what processes they have used and why they have used them. I want to push this further this term and also do some explicit modelling next lesson to secure their understanding. I intended to set a homework on Delia Derbyshire and some listening, but I have run out of time to explain to launch it. I made a decision to set it next time.
Period Two: Year 11
Year 11 find the silent start harder to execute. The Do It Now task is some retrieval around exam vocabulary and they do this with some prodding and grumbles. It comprises looking at the word harmony and associated vocabulary. After going though the responses they get on with composition, they are working individually towards a brief which forms 15% of their GCSE coursework. They have a lot to do and last week were all given written targets and feedback so I now spend my time going round individuals supporting their questions about it and their progress. In the whole lesson I manage to spend meaningful time with four students and end the lesson I’m frustrated that I haven’t managed to see as many individuals as I wanted. There is some beautiful work there, so exciting to see new pieces emerging. The level of differentiation in feedback and modelling in a lesson like this is mind-blowing. I really hope some come back to one of the out of lesson sessions after school or at lunchtime, I make a note to email them and copy in families later to encourage attendance.
Period Three: Year 13
My year 13 lesson is a free period as they are doing their mock exams. Their music mock exam was earlier in the week so I try to use the time to mark some of them. They take so long to mark as the A Level papers are 50% essays, I don’t mark as many as I want but I do manage to make some notes on what I have noticed in their papers so far. There are some trends emerging, which will help me when planning their future lessons. Mocks are so valuable for this, a really good chance to reflect and refine what we are doing. The mark is probably the least interesting/useful thing. To me anyway, not to the students! I make a detailed spreadsheet to gather the data together and make a plan for when I meet with senior staff to discuss the way forward from this point. Half way through the period my empty classroom is designated a ‘partner classroom’ for some students who were being taught elsewhere so the task is abandoned for now and I spend the time supporting restorative conversations and managing behaviour, pretty standard activity for a subject leader. One of the students tells me being partner classroom-ed in a music room is a bonus as he’ll now be first in line for a rehearsal space at lunchtime as his mate is teaching him the Mario theme on the piano. Not sure how to respond to that.
Period Four and Five: PPA/Free
After a busy lunchtime of supervising practice rooms, rehearsals and general business in the music rooms I have an absolute (rare) treat of two free lessons in a row and no cover. I am determined to use this time well if I can. During the afternoon I have scheduled meetings with two year 12 students to talk about University/UCAS applications and answer their questions about music and HE. One more students comes to music for an audition for the school Chamber Choir. I then do a 15 minute drop-in on a colleague and write up some feedback for our coaching session on metacognitive questioning. Following that I approach the backlog of emails that has been awaiting me and try to clear as many as I can, I also spend some time in ClassCharts and log some house-points for my year 7 and 11 students earlier in the day.
Trying to keep a productive pace I spend some time mapping repertoire for our next concert and check in with an accompanist that they can make the next concert and promise to get the music to them soon so they can prepare for the rehearsals. I finally call home for a couple of my year 11 students to invite them to some out of hours composition tutorials next week. I sit down with my colleague for ten minutes to chat about next week’s lesson planning before the after school rush starts of students appearing wanting to rehearse: an endless administration of leads, amps and drumsticks before the department quietens down for the end of the day. After a quick tidy it is time for home, happy I have managed to use the precious free afternoon productively.
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