Using the Super Six comprehension strategies has many benefits beyond understanding text. I use the Super Six strategies in multiple ways with my classes. This week I return to work after the Easter holidays. At the very end of last term, my Year 12 students completed their Half Yearly Exams. This entails the students completing an Aural Exam, as well as the performance of two pieces that they hope to use in their HSC Musical Practical Exam in September.
Before the actual exam, and in preparation for it, my students seemed to get very slack. This lead me to make the bold decision to not accompany them at all during their exam. My decision was based on their lack of rehearsal. My students were coming to class/rehearsals very unprepared. This meant that we were spending too much time learning pieces instead of tweaking the piece so it would be exam ready. I told my class that I was not prepared to spend hours of my own time practising learning their pieces, if they were not doing the same amount of work on their own.
I should say, this is the first time, in my whole career of teaching HSC Music classes that I have taken this action. I did not leave them “high and dry”, I prepared backing tracks for each student so they could rehearse and have something ready. In the exam, it was evident that those students who I chose not to accompany, still did not put the amount of effort into their pieces as they needed to. As a result, they got the marks that their effort deserves.
I did take this course of action with a plan in mind. I did want to see how much they were willing to work independently to achieve the goals that they had set for themselves. The students who worked hard, did get the better results, and those who didn’t work hard, their marks reflected their efforts. Tomorrow I will see my students, and I will hand back their results. I will have some very happy students, and I will have some very upset ones. This, unfortunately, is an all too common scenario for this stage in the course.
So, you might be wondering how this all fits in with the Super Six. Well, this is the midway point of the course. Students, if they choose, do have enough time to turn their results around, and if they choose, they can get there in the end. BUT, it does all come down to choice. My students have to want to do this, they have to have a desire to do well. If they choose to take the path of hard work, it will certainly pay off for them. To make this path easier, I give my students a plan. This plan outlines what they need to have done and by when, along with lots of self-reflection exercises to help them along the way. This is where the Super Six fits in.
So, what am I asking my students to do? The answer is – heaps!!!!! They have a stack of work ahead of them. Below, is an outline of what I include in their book – On the Road to Improvement. I expect that my students will complete these exercises for each of their performance pieces for their HSC exam, and in the order set out below.
This first exercise asks the student to watch their performance and record what they see or hear. This can be anything – were they out of time, did they look frightened, did they look relaxed, were they pitchy, was there a section that really needs work. Once they have answered this part of the exercise, they then must connect it to something else they know. This could be the emotions they fell while watching themselves back, or identifying that in the original piece that “X” happens, etc…
In this second exercise is about looking at the music more closely. If they have lyrics, they are to write each section down, if it is a piece without words then they record each section as A,B,C, etc…. This time, the students is to “make a connection” to an emotion in the music. I am asking them to take a really close look at their lyrics, what is that they are singing/performing about? How they can they convey that emotion through their performance. This is a really hard exercise for students to complete and it often takes a while for the “penny to drop” before they “get it”!
Problem/Solution Chart. In this exercise, I ask the students to self-identify what is the biggest problem in the piece. If there are more than one problems, they would complete this exercise for each issue. They simply work through the question prompts – What is the problem? What are the effects? What are the causes? What are the solutions? For every question, they must come up with a strategy to fix the problem. For example, the problem might be a tempo one. In this case a solution could be to use a metronome and practice initially at a slower pace, then work up to the correct tempo as they get better.
Three Circle Map. In this exercise, I want my students to “visualise” three key points in their music and draw what comes to mind at these points in the music. After drawing they are to write how they might achieve what they are visualising. This is going to be difficult for most students. Firstly, they will struggle to think of three key pints in the piece, and then they will struggle about how to achieve what “they see” musically, but that is what I am there for! To guide them.
Note Taking. This exercise asks the student to consider key two points about the music. It is like the last exercise, but in this one I want them to get down to basics and break that key musical idea down into its smaller components. For example, one important idea might be use rubato in the bridge section. They would then define this musical idea, and explain how they will achieve this with the ensemble – what signal will they give the other musicians, who will set the timing, who will be playing, how will that section begin and end.
Non-Linear Questions. These questions are designed to promote further self-reflection. Students ask themselves – What do you now know? What are some of the problems or weaknesses? What new ideas do you now have? What is your gut feeling or reaction to this? What strengths or opportunities does this provide? What have you learned? After answering these questions, hopefully the students have a very clear understanding of whether to continue with the piece, make changes or even abandon it and do something else!
Deconstruct/Reconstruct. This is the final exercise asks the student to “see the final product” and plan on how to get there. This is open for the interpretation, they can map it out, write it out or even draw the plan. The plan could be a diagram of who is the ensemble and where they will be situated in the performance space, or it could be a plan of the piece – each section mapped out, who is playing what, when it will be loud/soft, tempo changes, etc…
In the coming weeks, I will show you how my students are progressing with these exercises, and give you some feedback on what has worked well and what maybe hasn’t! Honesty is my policy, not everything works as well as we expect it to, especially when you have people involved.
If you would like a FREE Super Six Mini Bundle, click here. If You would like these exercises, you can purchase them as part of my Super Six Bundle OR you can purchase each part of the Super Six separately, either way, click here to go to my store to purchase your copy of these invaluable resources.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya