My Top 5 Favourite Music Assignments
In Australia, we are three quarters of the way through our academic year. For me personally, this means, as Head of Faculty, that most of our HSC major works are due or are being examined over the next couple of weeks. We had our Year 12 Visual Arts class submit their Body of Work last week, and next week we have the Year 12 Music class completing their performance exam for the team of External markers. It is at this time that Drama students are also marked, among many other subjects. So while teachers in the Northern Hemisphere are starting their year, we are feeling like we are winding up! Especially as holidays are in 3 weeks 🙂
It is about this time every year, that I start evaluations on our programs, assessments schedules and the assessments themselves. With this in mind, I would like to share with you my top 5 Music Assignments that I love to use, the students love to complete and the ones that have the biggest overall engagement by our students. This order is about my preference for the assignment, not the order I teach them in!
Each of these assignments have been designed with the purpose of developing music performance skills, music analysis skills, creativity, along with the simple fact that they can’t use Wikipedia or Google to complete it!!!
This one is my all time favourite!! This assignment is a part of my Beginnings of Rock unit and in this unit students learn about African and Jazz Music. In this assignment, students learn the simple melody, then they form groups to create their own arrangement of the piece by composing both melodic and rhythmic ostinatos. I give the students plenty of class time to compose, arrange and rehearse this assignment before they are filmed in performance. The students are marked individually on their actual performance as well as the completion of the written review that they write on another group’s performance. In the past I have had class groups use video editing software to create little film clips of their performances as well!
Students learn lots of valuable skills in this assignment—cooperation, independence, writing skills as well as more musical skills such as composing, arranging and performing.
- Rock Music Design Project link here
I usually teach this one with my Pioneers of Rock unit or the Kings and Queens of Rock and Pop unit. It also usually coincides with the Year 12 HSC Music performance exam. I plan it this way so that the students can work independently in class on something they enjoy while I am busy ensuring my senior students are ready for their exams!!! Work smarter, not harder I say!
In this assignment students start by watching either School of Rock or Bandslam. In both movies, the story follows the formation and branding of a Band. I have not had a student not enjoy either of these movies ever! Students are then asked to be creative by designing their own logo, t-shirt, CD cover and song list for a real or imaginary band. A couple of years ago I had to put a ban on any female student creating versions of One Direction logos, I even told them that if they did—I would fail them, and I wasn’t kidding!
The creativity of the students never ceases to amaze me, I have had students create for very specific audiences such as Autistic children, family members, particular sports, motivation and even relaxation.
Students learn about the actual business side of Music—merchandising, as well as, fun, design skills and music for a purpose.
- Make an Instrument Assignment link here
This assignment accompanies the Instruments of the Orchestra unit of work. In this assignment, students have to design, make and perform on an instrument that they have made. In the early days, I would just get students to make an instrument—and I got lots and lots of shakers. I soon got very sick of the lack of creativity, so I made it a bit harder. Students had to create and perform on their instrument for 30 seconds—this soon got students realising that they had to create an instrument that could last 30 seconds in performance, but also had a variety of sounds that it could create. Again, the creativity always astounds me with what the students bring in on their due date. Along with creating and performing on their instrument, students have to write a procedure on how they made their instrument as well as classify their instrument and answer a series of questions about the process of the assignment.
Students learn many skills in this one—instrument classification, performance, composition and self reflection/evaluation skills.
- Song Writing Assignment link here
This assignment is one that I have used with both Year 9 and 10 music students. It does help that students can play an instrument with some sort of proficiency with this one. It has been designed as a small ensemble assignment, and each person in the group must perform a part in the final demonstration of the composition. Included in this little time saver is everything that you students will need to find success. It has brainstorming pages, ensemble combination pages, chord progressions in different keys, all chord charts for both guitar and keyboard and even some suggested lyrics!
When I teach this assignment, as a class group we will have a go at performing the different chord progressions in the assignment. As a group we will come up with ways to make the class performance interesting – tempo, texture, performance techniques, block chords, arpeggios, etc… I have used this assignment often, and I know that I will continue to, simply because the end result is always pleasing for both the students and myself!
- Radio Advertisement Assignment link here
This assignment is usually completed by my Year 9 Music classes, but the last couple of years I have had my Year 10 classes do it as I have changed schools, and I can do what I want as I am Head of the Department!!!!
In fact, my Year 10 students are actually have been completing this assignment today. We have been working on it in class for a few weeks and today was recording day—nearly all done, only two groups to go tomorrow.
In this assignment, which is really a whole unit of work, I teach the students about the different types of ways music is used in advertising. We analyse a few different ads that I find on YouTube, and then they have to form a small group and create an ad for a real or imaginary product. Students have to write their script, decide on what music will be used in the ad and I encourage them to compose a jingle. This assignment requires a lot of patience and guidance through the different types of technology needed in the recording process. I often get students to use the free program Audacity to record and edit the ads, but today we even just used my IPad with another free recording program— RecordPad. This program is easy to use and what I really like about it is that you can email the recordings to yourself for students to use later in editing.
My students have to not only record their 30 second ad, but they also have to complete and submit the booklet for marking. In this booklet there is a lot of music analysis, recording of their process, paragraph writing and reflection on their finished product.
The skills that students learn in this assignment include—cooperation, independence, composition, music for a purpose, use of technology, self reflection and writing skills.
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Until next time
Julia from Jooya