Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 67. I’m Debbie O’Shea. And I’m here for the second part of my talk with Ruth Friend. Find out more about what she has done, find out some of her nuggets of fabulous.
About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 067 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Ruth Friend’s Nuggets of Fabulous
All right, now this is what everybody’s waiting for. Are you ready?
Nuggets of fabulous, because you must have so many nuggets of fabulous. What do you choose? So I’m interested to hear what you choose?
Yeah, well, look, I thought this section really is covered in Teaching Tips and Tea, because they began in 2020 when I did some videos, because I was on six months of long service leave, I was going to travel to Canada, and then we were locked down for the rest of our lives. So I stayed home and I thought well look it’s an opportunity to share a few ideas for teachers who are struggling with the whole online learning, and it must be so horrendous. And then I moved into it when I got back to school later in the year.
But I just did think, you know, like we said at the start of our chat, that I’ve got all this experience. And if I can help 10 teachers, imagine how many students. If I can help 50 teachers, imagine how many students. 100 teachers, you know, and so the more I can help teachers with a nice little concept and little idea. And it’s not necessarily usually repertoire, it’s more the pedagogy, and it’s the classroom management and techniques for maximising your teaching time. Because we get such a little time, even if I did have at one stage, I had music every day for my preppies for four days a week, 20 minutes.
And even if I had that I still trying to maximise every second I’ve got, I don’t want to waste any time. And one of the beautiful things about that is the musical cues that I use to tell them what to do, and to come back to the mat or go and find a place to move or get a partner or whatever. They’re all amazing for less talk more action, and you just sing something. And one day I lost my voice. It was six months into the prep year. And I thought okay, and I had a new Learning Support Officer in the classroom looking after someone.
And so I got my recorder out and I played (sings) doh, doh, doh, doh, doh and they knew that meant sitting on the mat, please. Then they all just ran in and sat on the mat. And then I went (sings) “find a place for move it standing up” and I just played that. And off they went, they found their own space in the room and the teachers looking around going, what the heck is happening, unbelievable, and then it was, you know, (sings) “looking for a partner”, I could do the entire class using the melodic cues and playing a piano. I didn’t have to sing.
I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t talk. It was amazing. Let’s face it, we all lose our voice at some stage of the year.
I think this is like Pied Piper eat your heart out.
I think that and I got that idea, you know, the old Yamaha when I started my teaching, doing preschool teaching when I was at uni, and it was, you know, playing the the C minor thingo to get them to come back and sit on the mat. And then it was “sings” back to the keyboards and it was just all that. So I thought, okay, using that idea, I can make up these little songs. And then they just become the melody and the kids respond.
What a fabulous idea.
I wish I had a video of the class because the astonishment on this teacher’s face was just, she had no idea what was happening.
I just, I just love it. Can I say I am so going to start doing that. That is amazing.
So that’s one of the teaching tips. And I’m not sure whether I’ve got the notation, but I might put that on the website so that everyone’s got the melodic cues on there. I’ll write a note to myself.
But even just the concept, people can develop their own.
Absolutely. Yeah. And look, you know, people have a welcome song and whatnot, but it doesn’t enhance the transitions of the class. And the less talk we do the better. You know, now girls and boys I’m going to ask you to move over there and make a circle, I just go from one thing to (sings), and they can see you making a circle with your hand. You then hold your hands out and it looks like yeah, we’re gonna hold hands. So you don’t need to use all those words. They just get in the way and kids we know you know less is more. Less words.
And I suppose the other nugget of fabulous is movement, just keep them moving. So even with the older kids, it is a whole body experience. And it is experiential learning you cannot be not involved in the music making if you are doing it. If you are putting body percussion on your body, or you are doing a dance, some sort of dance. So what I love from John Feierabend especially is the Move It series. Do you use those?
I, sure do.
They are absolute gold. And I see them as moving meditations. When you do the Satie or the Respighi. And I’ve got little prep boys, because I taught at St. Kevin’s College, doing the beautiful movements and the extension. And you know, we work on extension. It was not that everyone of course in the class is going to be looking like a dancer. And then it’s the enjoy that delicious space out there when we’re doing creative movement, like enjoy that beautiful Oh, you could skip sideways, you could skip forward, you could skip backwards, well, a lot of them can’t skip, but you know, gallop or whatever, or travel in those ways.
And the Move It’s give that whole clear way of experiencing the learning. They learn about form, compositional techniques of dynamics, texture, instrumentation, and tempo that they’re all in there. And then you don’t have to talk about form. It’s just like, well, you don’t have to teach form is what I’m saying. Well, that first section, oh, that’s where we do this.
And then the second section is when we do this, and oh, and we call that A and then B. Oh, duh, you know, it’s so clear. Since the lock downs I’ve been working on our own couple of Move Its. So we call them Listen and Move and they are coming very soon. We’ve just done the videography of it in April, and we’re doing Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. And we’ve done in the Hall of the Mountain King. And that’s a creative movement lesson.
So a way of supporting teachers to Here’s an idea for a warm up for your kids. And you can either use me up there or you can learn it yourself. But it’s trying to support people in getting out of their comfort zone. Because I was lucky enough to do training in, I did my movement and dance grad dip after my undergrad. It was fantastic because I feel very comfortable dancing, and I’ve never done ballet or anything like that. I’m definitely not a ballerina, I walk like a truckie, very determined and all the rest, but you don’t have to be a dancer to dance.
And people need to get out of that mode of oh, it’s very confronting to me. It’s like improvisation, I was really lucky in many ways not to go to Melbourne Uni. I went to Melbourne State College, I lacked a lot of other things that Melbourne Uni students got, but I got a really good grounding in improvisation. I think that willingness to have a go at things is that’s the lifelong learner thing again.
Yes. And I do believe really firmly, especially for children before they have built up all of their inhibitions, every child is a musician, every child is a dancer.
Who are we to put those limits on them. It’s our job to allow them to continue to be musicians, continue to be composers, continue to be a choreographer. Like they just can do that. Our job is to just keep applying the skills and like you’re talking about with Move It that actually gives them a raft. The Respighi you’re doing this, it’s one of my favourites and Aquarium.
In fact, I turned Aquarium into a performance, all of my preppies they all had two scarves.
They did it with scarves and the audience was wowed, because every little prep, the most energetic one was still doing this beautiful thing. So it’s our job to build their vocabulary isn’t it?
And their confidence.
And their confidence, yes. Yeah. We need to use movement. Absolutely.
Yeah, I think I don’t spend that much time doing Kodály singing games. I do more movement because I feel that Okay, why don’t we do now that song you know, once they know the song and you’ve done the game once but I will then move away from doing the game again and move it into more Okay, let’s put the beat in your feet and we’re going to do simultaneous beat and rhythm. So by the end of prep, they’re doing (sings) tick tock, tick, tock, blue bells cockle shells, and they’re doing it with their feet, and they’re moving to the tick tocks. And you’ll get about a quarter of the class able to do beat and rhythm simultaneously by the end of prep. Holy moly. And for the other ones, it’s just a matter of practice, isn’t it?
We all know how beat fullness is so important in the development of children. And you can see the students with ASD have not that capacity at all. We actually had, after Anita Collins research came out and Anita did a workshop for the language teachers. One of the year one teachers went along to that and she said, Oh, Ruth it would be really great if we could observe the incoming preps on the orientation day to allocate them to classes, would you be able to do a music activity for them for 20 minutes?
And we will say, Oh, yes, there’s who’s your Bob and who’s your Bob and who’s your Bob, they are special needs. And because parents don’t want to tell you that they are special needs. They want to keep it quiet, or they have not investigated and they don’t know. So there are many more that come out of the woodwork in that session.
And for the last four years, we did that. And the prep teachers would observe, and the head of teaching and learning would come and watch and go, Oh, yep, yep. Right. Right. So we better split them up so that they’re between the two classes. And it was so good. But you know, the more of that, that we could do, the better because that’s all about the advocacy work.
Yes. Which actually leads perfectly into the question I like to ask about advocacy. Because it sounds to me, certainly the school that you were in? Well everything you’ve said sounds to me like they really value music education. Value what it offers the children and understand what it offers the children but not all of us are lucky enough to be in a position like that. So what would be your advice around advocacy? Apart from some of it, we can glean from what you’ve said, things like, Well, if your teachers and your staff are informed about the power of what you do, and the benefits of what you do, of course, they’re going to be more on side. So what’s your advice for people to develop this understanding and other things around advocacy?
Ruth Friend’s Advice on Music Advocacy
I’ll just step back a bit in your observation there. The school had embedded an investment in the music teachers like the music, there were so many salaried instrumental music teachers in the team that I worked with, but they didn’t really understand what I was doing in Kodály, they didn’t really get it. And if they didn’t understand the head of junior school, I was told, Oh, no, James says no. I said, Oh, okay. So I’d go back and I thought, okay, he doesn’t get it, it’s on me to unpack it and explain why I need to ask for ABC, I never got knocked back in anything in 10 years.
Once I asked for a year three string rehearsal after school every fortnight, so we’d have 3A one week and 3B the next week for their string rehearsal in their program, and he didn’t want it to start straightaway. So we had to wait till week five, there we go. That’s, you know, that’s fine. I still got what I wanted but we just had to wait those first few weeks. So it was basically I would say to everyone, you know, you’ve got to explain what you do, and why you’re doing it and what you need to make it better. So don’t expect that people get it.
The whole thing of leadership getting what you do is just bunkum you know, unless you’ve got a musician as a as a principal, and whilst they might value, my head of junior school valued music, and he would comment on the singing at assembly and say, Wow, that sounded really good. And would say Mrs. Friend is that a new hymn? And he was always very supportive, fantastic working in that sort of situation.
But I think the best way of advocacy within your school would be to ask the homeroom teachers to come and collect their children five minutes before the end of the lesson, and they can catch five minutes while you’re doing the final segment of the lesson. And we can say Mrs. Smith you should have seen the boys doing this thing, boys are you ready? Shall we show Mrs. Smith? And Mrs. Smith then gets to see wow, look at Johnny, he does not show that possibility, those capabilities, that socialisation etc, when we do other things in class.
So it’s really important that we share what we see in our classroom with the other teachers. And some are more happy to do that than others, of course, as we know, and we know what benefits those students get out of it when you’re very collegial with the other staff members, and it just serves to give the students more and you know, more and more success.
But the other things would be to have your open classroom program or video classroom segments so that you can share them with parents, and even the classroom teacher might have a look, if, you know, they’ve got nothing on, you know, a wet weather day, they might say, oh, let’s just show you a little video of your music lesson and the kids would be very happy to see themselves. Yes, you know, and I must say, I don’t know whether I’ve ever done that and showed the students because you know, you run out of time, I want to do more learning, not just watching what we did. But that also allow them to reflect, doesn’t it? Because I’m saying I reflect on my learning and my teaching.
So they can also see oh, that’s why I was asked to sit out. Oh, that wasn’t really very good choice. Was it? Oh, okay. I understand. But I think as Anita Collins says that we educate to advocate, because you have to educate effectively to advocate. And I see that you know, my students are going to come through with a love of music, with a better sense of self as a successful learner. And I think that is really the important element in our teaching.
So you know, I figure my role now, as an experienced teacher is to focus on mentoring and teacher training. And with the current teacher shortage. It’s just so much more important now than ever encouraging students when they’re in year six, I talk about right well, if you do this, then you know you’re on the way to year 11 and 12 music and I talked to them about the pathways, what you can be doing, then if you choose to do an instrument as your year 12 subjects, you then get to stand up and practice rather than do more bookwork or computer work. You’ve got to show them the journey.
And when we talk about tambor and compositional elements, I’m always saying, well, these are the things that will you do in year 11 and 12. This is what you need. These are the elements of what will help you become a musician. And if you want to pursue it further, then that’s great. It doesn’t mean that everyone who wants to do music is going to become a music teacher. And you can keep doing your cello just for the love of it. You don’t have to study, you don’t have to undertake undergraduate music. But it should be a joy in your life that is just something that makes you feel good. And it doesn’t have to be a career.
But I just think it’s so important the work that the neuro scientists have been doing and aren’t we in a great time in the music education to understand all that we know in our hearts has been the case. That the way that the music binds us, and it is very important in the social communication system, bringing us together, it’s just amazing to see that we actually have evidence now for why all those students who would go up at the end of the term for their awards 90% were musos. Yep, muso, yep, muso.
These are academic awards and there was always a connection. But you know, we were just music teachers, we didn’t really know, the reason. It was always the chicken or the egg. Do they do music, which made them more academically minded? Or was it the other way and it’s a bit of both, but I think we can see the value and I just think the socialisation that music can bring in the classroom, you know, especially in prep, as they come in as new learners getting to know how to be a social being and develop their sense of self it’s been so important.
Yes, absolutely. It is an exciting time to be able to access that new research and I love that concept too. You were talking about showing the children, your students the path and the possibilities moving forward. I think that’s a slightly different way to look at things too. I love it.
In lockdowns I did a bit of training in the year 11 and 12 curriculum so that I could understand more of what they were heading towards now that it’s changed. But if you can understand where they’re going in their learning, then you know what is important now and I don’t usually dumb it down I don’t say the particular sound of an instrument, I say tambor fairly early on so that they are really coming into using Italian time names and Italian words and all that sort of stuff.
They should absolutely understand that our meta language, they should absolutely. There is some great advice there around advocacy. Gee I have loved talking to you?
It’s so good. But before we go, and I’m sure that everyone else listening has just got so much from this chat. But I like to just say do you want to just get on your soapbox to finish off with giving the world and important message from Ruth Friend.
Ruth Friend’s Soapbox and Important Last Thoughts
Oh my gosh, that pressure? Oh, yes. Where do I go? I think that our sense of well being is developed through music so effectively more than anything else. When I see well being classes where they’re doing these games, and people take turns and blah de blah, I think, Oh, I could do that more easily in class, in music. And they would be listening to Mozart or you know, I really think we pack a big value punch in the music classroom, that covers all areas. Absolutely. So that is huge. And I think the more of this research with the neuroscientists, it just really backs us up more and more, with everything.
The way that being exposed to music at a young age teaches children to aurally recognise different sounds and rhythms, it supports their memory and their language development. And we know that music affects the brain. So whether they’re listening, playing or learning, they are finding strong correlations between the positive brain function, and music that really makes me so excited about the future and music. And it does mean that we are able to create enriching classes for students. And if we can maximise our time with them, we get even more value out of our time with the students.
I think one of the important things is that we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of listening skills, music teachers, if we’re using and I really do think that the John Feierabend approach of I sing for the students, they sing for me was so cathartic in my teaching, because they did a lot more listening.
And I think that we develop listening skills explicitly in music, that are not developed in any other subject area, we have so many students with auditory processing issues, that the more we develop their listening skills they’re going to, they have through music, they have better motor skills, improved memory, verbal and literacy skills. And you know, that impacts maths and all the rest. But their listening skills mean that they might be able to listen to it in a conversation, not just talk over the next person, you know, so it’s life skills, not just in music and enhancing the brain development.
But that whole community making and socialisation of the whole person, the positive impact on the way children interact on a social level is what I see as the joy. It’s not that they can sing beautifully in tune, it’s not necessarily that I’ve seen an amazing improvement in their skills. It’s that joy, that they’re able to work together and enjoy the challenges of a canon or part work and the eyes lighting up, that oh is that really something I could possibly achieve. And I think that has always kept me excited in the journey of music education.
So there was one more thing that I would say, or a golden nugget, is based on John Feierabends I sing for you and you sing for me. I developed a four prong approach where we had year level singing so 140 students at a time. So if there was a new song, with many phrases, and particularly intricate intervals, etc, I would sing the phrase for them. They would then mouth the words or put the words on your lips, reading the words, then they would mouth the words and show the melody, melodic contour.
And then it was their turn to sing. Now if they get to the third point, and they can’t show the melodic contour very well. You realise they’ve gone down instead of up. Say I’ll just sing it one more time for you and you show that show the melody and then you can see that over here and over there that they’ve got the melody now and now it’s your turn to sing and then the teacher does not sing for the student, you back off.
And I think that’s the hardest thing I’ve been able to encourage my co teachers not to do. So remember doing this, but you put your finger on your lips, because you mustn’t sing with them. We don’t know whether they’ve caught the song, If you sing over them, if you sing with them, and they just split second singing behind you, and hanging on for dear life to your singing.
Yes, I love that. And what did you call that? You said it’s a four prong?
It’s just a four prong approach or a four step approach to singing a more complex song. So you do phrase by phrase. And that’s how we would do hymns and that sort of our Christmas carols and all that sort of thing. And that was a game changer. Because previously, you know, they’d laboured, before I arrived, they’d laboured over things and they didn’t get things right and then they’d go back and fix this. And it’s very messy. It’s not maximising your time. And this way, they are listening for three times and singing once. Look at all that listening. And this is 140 boys all together in a chair, mind you, not on the floor, scrambling around. Three times listening one time singing and I had 50 boys together in my prep singing on Friday. All together and they did 80% listening, 5% singing, 5% dancing.
Wow, that’s a lot isn’t it?
A lot of listening.
Listening to picture storybooks. The lovely ones where John Feierabend has them give a little response and they’re doing 5% singing, I’m singing all the rest of it. They’ve got 5% and then you might be singing a new song while they’re doing an activity or body percussion or something or other. Whatever it is there was a lot more coming from me than them we did of course Gustav Mole, what a gem that is.
And miming, so they would always mime the instrument that they were hearing. So I was very careful to mirror the violin, so that would do that. And so they’re listening. When they’re dancing, when they’re moving, when they’re doing (sings) well you walk and you walk and you walk and stop. And then I would do it on an instrument and I wouldn’t sing it. So they would know. And then they tiptoe and stomp and skip and all around. They’re listening and moving. So that develops so much and let’s face it when the preppies arrive, they do not listen well at all.
Understatement of the century. So I think that’s it Deb. Debbie.
I think that is, no you can call me Deb when it’s just by myself.
Oh, no, no, I’ll get into a bad habit then.
Oh, look, it’s been just magic Ruth, thank you so much for your time. And I know that the listeners got so much out of listening to you. So thank you very much.
No. It’s been my pleasure. It’s been wonderful to have time to chat with you because we only met in your classroom. And of course you were teaching and we haven’t had conferences and things like that to catch up with and I was sick at the last one, the last national. So I do look forward to touching base with you more regularly.
Yes, me too. Thanks so much Ruth.
Thanks so much, Deb. Bye listeners.
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/67. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you’ve got all of the detail that you need. If you found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. (sings) “We’ll meet again”, I I hope we will. Bye.
This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education connecting supporting and inspiring music educators. In the show notes you’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member, for a low annual fee you can access hundreds of files worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops and webinars and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.
Just for Laughs
As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.
The swordfish has no natural predators to fear, except maybe the pen fish, which is supposed to be even mightier.
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
‘Put the Beat in ya Feet’ has been added to our Music Making series!
Ruth’s Website: https://www.takenotemusic.com.au/
Music Writing books: https://www.takenotemusic.com.au/music-writing-resources.html
- Growth Mindset: Episode 10
- Melodic Cues: Episode 11
- Movement Ideas: Episode 12
- Developing Beautifulness: Episode 7
- Performance of Beat and Rhythm Simultaneously: Episode 8
Where to find me:
- Crescendo Community Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/crescendocommunity
- Official Crescendo Page: https://www.facebook.com/CrescendoMusicEd/
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/CrescendoMusicEd
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- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debbie-o-shea-62a3741b/
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