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Planning your program

The learning environment

Music making can happen anywhere – in the regular classroom, in a specialist music room, in sophisticated performing-arts buildings or under a tree in the schoolyard.

What makes the environment ideal for learning has as much to do with the enthusiasm and focus of the group as it has to do with the equipment or the physical space. The factors that create a focused and positive learning environment include:

  • enthusiastic, dedicated and passionate teachers
  • a sense of order and organisation (in both the space and lesson structure)
  • lesson plans that accommodate the diverse needs and interests of students
  • teachers and schools who find ways to engage with others (partner businesses, parent support, collegial support)
  • students having a choice and a voice whenever possible and appropriate
  • an inviting, attractive learning space
  • access to and knowledge of technology for making music and running the music learning program, including tablets, apps, recording and editing software and hardware.

The quality and number of instruments, equipment and technology in a room is certainly not the defining factor in how engaging a music learning program can be. Having said that, if your school has the capacity to create a dedicated space with quality instruments – whether it be in a music room or a music corner – then making that space inspiring, practical and workable can help give students the focus they need. Many well-regarded music learning programs have started with a focus on singing, movement and body percussion, and gradually built their resource base.

Consider these ideas:

  • creating zones in the classroom space for listening, recording, performing and composing
  • positioning permanent instruments for ease of access
  • creating enough space to sit in a circle for body percussion or for small groups of students to work in clusters
  • making sure that during instrumental music lessons no one else will need to access the space or interrupt
  • displaying inspiring examples of student work, such as photographs from performances and educational music posters and other material up on the wall
  • locating recording, editing and music technology equipment in an area that has been soundproofed as much as possible.

Interestingly, researchers have found that students working in groups on music tasks (when they are not recording) are not particularly bothered by noise as long as the task is one that holds their attention.

Creating a stimulating learning environment for music is as much about the relationship between teacher and student, as it is about the one between students and the room set up. If students know that they are about to move into learning a new skill or gain a new understanding that they can immediately put into practice, they are more likely to settle quickly and be ready to learn.

Make sure there is enough time for students to apply and understand what they have learnt. Don’t be afraid to spread learning opportunities over several lessons if this is the time required for students to achieve satisfying outcomes.

Think about

Take a look at the music learning spaces in your school:

  • What messages do they give to students and others about the music program?
  • What is important?
  • What is valued?
  • How do people know what happens in the space?
  • How well are the spaces organised as resources for delivery of the intended learning program?

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