It’s hard to believe, but I started my own Super Six journey over 4 years ago! Since then, I have regularly used these strategies in my own music classroom. My most favourite of the Super Six would have to be Visualising. As a very “visual” person, I “see” things where other people would not. My own mind’s eye, is hyperactive, and images come to my mind in a constant stream. Despite my love of Visualising, most of my students really struggle to put their images onto paper. I find this quite weird, especially as more and more, students today are bombarded with “visuals” from their phones, screens and devices.
Below are 10 ways that I use Visualising with my music classes, from years 7 to 12.
Stretch Your Sketch
This is probably one of the easiest of the visualising activities to do with a class. It is an easy “go to” activity that can be completed with multiple texts and sources. I find it most useful to use after reading most types of text. It is much easier to demonstrate this one first and show your students that the “drawing” doesn’t have to be perfect – it must only make sense to the person who drew it! If you make your drawing a little “bad” your students will most definitely laugh at you and feel better about their own drawings. After drawing, students should write something about their image – this should help them to make more sense of the text.
However, don’t limit yourself to text with this one. It is perfect to use before a performance assessment. Encourage your students to draw the layout of the ensemble and equipment, then write a description of all the equipment that they will need. Using visualising in this way promotes planning skills, and it helps students to realise what is/is not possible in the performance space.
This is an oldy but a goody. After reading a text or listening to a piece of music, ask students to complete the Y Chart. They should record what they see, feel or hear in the text/music. I find this works really well with music like The Carnival of the Animals. When using this activity, my students like to complete this as a group and using the mini whiteboards. When I use the Y Chart as a group task, I will play the music first, not even give the students the title. Then I ask them to discuss with their group some ideas and thoughts on the music. Next, I will play the music again and ask students to record their ideas on the whiteboards. After this we have a class discussion on which animal they think the composer was trying to recreate through sounds and how this was achieved. It always makes for a great debate!
Visualising and Making Connections
As with so many activities in the Super Six, there are lots of ways to combine the skills students use with any given text. This activity I do prefer to use as a listening activity, but you can use it with any text you choose. Students firstly listen to the music and record any ideas that come to their minds eye. Pause the music, and give students time to discuss and compare their ideas in pairs or a small group. Next, listen to the music again and students record any other ideas or images that come to their minds eye. Students then compare and discuss any new ideas. Lastly, play the music again and ask students to draw their final most memorable image from the music.
With older students, try this activity as an analysis of their last performance. Used in this way, small groups would view each other’s performances and make comment about them. In a small group, most students would don’t feel as anxious about who was watching. It then can be a very valuable learning experience for all members of the small group as they usually say more in this less threatening environment than they would in front of the whole class.
3 Circle Map
This short activity works well with many different texts. I like to use it with written text more than any other type of text, but I have used it with students and their own sheet music too. The activity is simple, read the text/score first. Break the text down into the beginning, middle and end sections and communicate this to the class. Then read again and ask students to record their thoughts for each section of the text. Students should then draw their ideas. I like to discuss the images that they have drawn and why. It makes for a very interesting conversation! It never ceases to amaze me what they “see” and why.
If this is used with sheet music, I have found that it helps the student performer to make a more emotional connection to the music, and this in turn improves their later performances.
This is one of my most favourite activities to complete with my year 7 classes. In the beginning of the year, we listen to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Grieg. I tell them the story of the music, about Peer Gynt, his capture by the evil king, and how the king is forcing Peer to marry his ugly daughter. We look at how the composer has used each of the concepts in the beginning of the music, and how each concept changes by the end of the music. Then, I ask the students to complete this chart on the five senses – what do they see, hear, smell, touch and taste as the character Peer Gynt in this music. I have used this activity for several years now, and students will remember this lesson and the music, and they will often remind of it when they see me!
This is an interesting activity. I tend to use it with older students, and before they complete an assessment. I ask them to predict what they will “see” as being a problem while completing their assessment. Will they have issues with time management, resources, finding music, ensemble members, reliable people, etc…? After they have thought and recorded what they might see as an issue, we then discuss possible solutions and how they might overcome the obstacles.
This activity comes in very handy when you want your students to have a procedure for something important “in their head”. After reading the text, or giving a demonstration of how to do something from the beginning to the end, ask students to firstly write down the main points in the process. Then, after a brief discussion, students are to draw the steps in a comic book style. This means that they have simple line drawings and a small amount of text in each box.
I have found this activity useful with a couple of specific activities. After completing an assignment, especially a composition task, one of the things that students are required to do is keep a diary of their process. This simple visualising activity is great for this purpose as it demonstrates how much a student actually understands about the process of composing. If they draw only a couple of boxes, then they really haven’t put much thought into the steps required to get from A to B.
Another way I have used this activity is in Art classes. I encourage my staff to use this activity with their classes after they have completed a clay or printing (screen or lino) piece of work. As both types of art making requires a very step by step process to get from a lump of clay to a sculpture/functional object. When the students complete the visualising activity, it demonstrates their understanding of the process and the terms used as well.
This activity is another one of my favourite “go to” for all my classes. In music, we use so many different words that have special meaning, and these words are only ever used in music and not in normal conversation. I give my students a list of words/terms, and the definitions. They are to write the term and definition out themselves, then they draw something that helps them remember the term. I have always found this a very useful exercise. My students will then “see” their drawings when they hear certain terms being used in a piece of music.
For example, one student last year, had a very unique spin in the way he drew his terms. While completing these exercises, and complaining about doing them, he could not understand why I was asking him, and the class, to do these “stupid” drawings. I simply encouraged him and told him that if he could not draw it, then he was showing me that he didn’t understand it. This sunk in, so much so, that when we were completing a listening task he got very excited because he remembered his drawings when he heard certain things happening in the music. He had a very weird drawing of an old man walking for “rallentando”, but when he heard the rallentando in the music, he was so excited to tell me that he saw his little old man slowly walking, and that he remembered what a rallentando was!
This activity I like to do with my singers. I know this sounds strange, but bear with me. So often, my students can sing all the notes perfectly, and in time, and it sounds “good”. But, despite the accuracy in which they are singing, it lacks a certain “x” factor. When a singer gets to this stage, I ask them to complete this activity. They are to go through the lyrics of the song and write down phrases that bring an image or emotion to their mind. After completing this activity, we then discuss their images and how they might interpret this in their singing. It seems that the penny drops, and they realise that they need to add in emotion when they are singing. I encourage them to have the images in their mind as they sing and rehearse the piece in the future. At first, they will giggle their way through the piece, but in time, they start making those connections with their visualisations and suddenly, their performance has improved tenfold! This does work better with older students, especially my Year 11 and 12’s, but try this with any student and with any instrument.
I hope that this list of 10 activities has helped to demonstrate ways to use the Super Six in your own Music classroom. If you would like a FREE 28 page Mini Super Six Bundle of activities to use with your classes, click here. You can also purchase the Super Six Visualising Resources by clicking here, or you might want a better value deal by purchasing the Super Six Bundle with all my Super Six Resources included.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya