Music extension as a catalyst for whole class engagement


 The impact of an Orff Music Extension program on highly capable students. Harnessing the energy created by these students to lift engagement and performance for the whole music class.

Ianthe van der Walt



This study attempts to show that valuable curriculum time invested in a smaller group of Year 5 and 6 children, who are very able learners in music, yields benefits that go beyond the obvious opportunity for these particular students to become deeply engaged in challenging tasks that develop their skills and understanding as musicians. When very able learners in music are given the chance to learn difficult things together, fast, and when they have time and space to experiment and improvise together to find what sounds and feels great to them (and to an audience as well) then the energy and momentum created in this space spills over in an almost magical way, to lift the engagement, skill, understanding and deeper learning of the whole class, when they all come for their weekly classroom music lesson.



Data from standardised testing of learners in Years 3 and 5 in the small Queensland urban primary school that is the focus of this study, have shown that intensive interventions with less able learners produce marked improvements over time.  The same data in the same school have shown a very different picture for the most able learners in the school: It seems these learners tend to perform very highly in Year 3 standardised tests, but Year 5 standardised testing of the same students has indicated a concerning lack of progress. In response to this disappointing phenomenon, the school’s leadership team have nominated as one of the top priorities for the school, in 2018, to identify and implement targeted interventions to challenge the school’s most able learners to move out of their comfort zone and embrace challenging learning tasks, with rich opportunities for deeper learning.

One of the existing opportunities in the school for extending able learners, is an Orff music extension class for a group of 12 – 16 children in Years 5 and 6. (Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music education developed by the composer Karl Orff.  See appendix A.) During this class, students are given opportunities to work with more challenging material, and to go deeper with their music learning, transferring music understanding and skills to new contexts. Typically, the work done in music extension class culminates in concert performances.

However, the purpose of this study was not to show that participation in an Orff music extension program raises the level of achievement in music as a curriculum subject for these learners.  Neither was it to demonstrate that investing resources in an Orff music extension program delivers performance outcomes that showcase the school’s music program, although it is naturally hoped that this would be the case.  The purpose was to investigate what happens when the energy and momentum that is created in an Orff music extension group is harnessed to impact on the engagement and learning of the whole cohort of learners in Year 5 and 6, functioning as a cooperative group.

A secondary purpose of the study was to investigate the impact for these learners on other factors, such as their perception of themselves as learners able to attempt very challenging tasks, and the development of entrepreneurial skills and a creative mindset in all they do.

Directing funding to students with particular needs is always a complex issue, whether we are talking about those with disabilities and diverse learning challenges at one end of the spectrum, or those with exceptional abilities, at the other. It can be daunting to advocate for funding and resources for the gifted children.  This is perhaps particularly true when the students in question have been identified as gifted in music. A third purpose of this study, then, is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Orff music extension program in the school.


Historical background: A personal reflection


When I started working in this school in 2014, Year 5/6/7 classroom music was a real challenge, as it can be in many schools.  Although there were a good number of children in each class who were highly capable in music, thanks in part to the efforts of an instrumental teacher who had successfully moulded this little group into the excellent school band, most children had not really experienced how exciting it can be to perform on xylophones and drums in a large, whole-class ensemble. I set about building skills in these classes, but in such large groups, with very mixed musical ability, progress was slow, and many began to lose interest before we were able to reach a point where they could hear themselves making music that sounded really good.


Halfway through the year, we were given one hour of highly prized curriculum time to start a music extension class with about 15 very able learners.  When they performed at an end of year concert, the school community began to see what could happen when children with natural ability in music are given the opportunity for focussed, fast-paced learning. As they performed challenging music on xylophones and drums, to quite a high standard, the other children in the school were given a glimpse of how exciting music classes could be, and what it might be like when it they, too, began to sound good, performing as a whole-class Orff music ensemble. From then on, interest in being part of the music extension group grew rapidly.  Retention rate was one hundred percent, with no children wanting to drop out.  However, Year 5/6 classroom music was still not really taking off, and I realised that I needed to find a way to harness the positive energy in the music extension class to lift the engagement of the whole class.


In 2016, the Year 5/6 music extension group worked with a quite complex Orff composition for xylophones, by Ian Ross Williams, called “The Silk Road.” They quickly progressed from performing the song as composed and arranged by Williams, to composing their own melodic and non-melodic ostinato patterns to accompany the song.  They then used their experience in the whole Year 5/6 class context, to lift the level of understanding, creativity and skill of all children in the class: Each music extension child worked with a group of children that were not in the music extension group, first to teach them to play the melody and ostinato patterns composed by Ross Williams, and then to create an original arrangement of the song, using their own improvisations to compose their own original ostinato patterns on a variety of melodic and non-melodic instruments  This resulted in four or five different arrangements of the song, all of them vibrant and exciting in quite different ways, and all of them demonstrating how the children had taken what they had learned about manipulating the elements of music, and applied this in a new context.  All of this was achieved over the course of just four lessons, something that would not have been possible without the very able music learners being given the opportunity for accelerated learning in a smaller, select group.


In 2017, all children in the school were taught a song called “Boorenbah Songlines” by Mark Shortis. This rather unusual song was like a gift to our school, because it came to us from the indigenous community of Brisbane and featured familiar place names. This made it easy for us, not only those that identify as indigenous to this area, but also those (like myself) who have left their country of birth and chosen to make Brisbane our home, to receive this as “our song.” The original song consisted only of a melody line and clap stick part, which all the children in the school learned to sing and play. In the music extension class, the children used xylophones and drums and a number of other instruments to evoke a particular mood suggested by the lyrics.  They also incorporated some of the African polyrhythm patterns they had learnt as part of a unit on African indigenous music earlier in the year. Again, during classroom music time, the music extension students worked in groups with their class-mates, to help them create their own ostinato and colour parts to accompany the song. This culminated in a whole-school performance of the song, led by the music extension and other students.


Here is a different example of the way resources invested in music for a small group of older children, can inspire younger children in the school: In 2017, a group of seven Year 6 children of quite widely varying natural ability in music, elected, as their Year 6 passion project, to write an original song about their memories of primary school to present at their graduation. About an hour a week of curriculum time in term 4, was allocated for this project. I worked intensively with this group to collect their stories, craft their stories into their poems, and find the music in the words, to build their own original melodies. In this process, I was careful not to insert my own artistic ideas, and to give space for their authentic expression to emerge. A short while after they had presented their song to younger students, a group of Year 2 children got together independently to compose their own song, which they later performed for the school.


These experiences led me to wonder what might happen if there were a shift in focus in the purpose of music extension classes. What if this valuable curriculum time were to go beyond providing accelerated learning opportunities for these students only?  What if these highly capable learners were to be activated as catalysts for greater engagement and deeper learning for the whole music class? In addition, how might these mastery experiences both in extension and regular music classes, impact on the students’ perceptions of themselves as adventurous and creative learners?





Gifted Education


One of the most influential voices in the area of gifted education is Françoys Gagné. Gagné (2015) developed a Comprehensive Model of Talent Development (CMDT) that charts an integrated developmental path from genotypic foundations to high level competencies, or talents. (See appendix B for model.) The model graphically shows how environmental and intrapersonal catalysts work together with developmental processes to transform genetic potential into natural abilities, or gifts. From this point, the progression continues, to show how, again, environmental and intrapersonal catalysts interact with developmental processes to transform gifts into high level competencies, or talents. In other words, the CMDT indicates that talent development originates in the moment of conception, and from this point, there is a progressive buildup of natural abilities, culminating in outstanding performance in at least one of the nine competencies, or fields of endeavor.


The questions Gagné (2015) posed for teachers responsible for working with gifted learners are,

  • Why do some students excel, while others perform at average or below average levels?
  • Where does talent originate?
  • Which influences (if any) are the key factors leading to outstanding performance?


“Are some factors generally recognized as more powerful predictors of outstanding performance? For all those involved in the talent development of gifted individuals, this is THE ultimate question,” (Gagné, 2015, p 24). The answer he has proposed to his own question is that the most powerful predictor is Gifts, or “direct genetic contribution” (p. 32).  His position regarding the long-standing heredity vs environment debate is that heredity trumps environment.


In close second place in the hierarchy of predictors, he has nominated Intrapersonal catalysts, because of the absolute necessity of motivation, willingness and perseverance on the part of the gifted individual, in order for gifts to be transformed into actual high-level competencies (p.25).


In third position, Gagné has nominated Developmental activities (time and effort, or “practice makes perfect”). Relegated to fourth place, is Environment (p. 26).


This is not to say that interventions on the part of educators (and families) are not able to play a necessary, even crucial role, in helping gifted individuals to realise their potential.  The Australian government policy document, Curriculum provision to gifted and talented students, N.D., states that “every school is resourced to accommodate a base level of diversity among its student population,” (p.26). It is understood that there have to be various acceleration strategies for the very able learners in a mixed ability class, as well as the expected differentiation for all learners. When schools choose to allocate funding for extension activities over and above what can be provided in the general classroom context, Gagné’s nomination of Gifts (i.e. direct genetic contribution) as the number one predictor of outstanding performance, might suggest the importance of exercising rigour in the selection of individuals for extension activities that require special funding and resourcing.


Funding and resourcing for Gifted Education


When it comes to funding and resourcing it can sometimes be daunting for those educators that are advocating for programs in schools for gifted children.  As James R Delisle has said in his tongue-in-cheek “Top Ten Hit List of songs: music for the gifted child advocate,” one’s colleagues may question why gifted children need anything special: “After all, if they’re so smart, they’ll make it on their own,” (2011, p.14). He has pointed out that gifted children also have special needs, and by addressing these, we are in no way detracting from the reality of children with other kinds of special needs, or, indeed, from all children that need more than the basic curriculum. Not many professional educators have “a primary mission to serve the gifted population,” (2011, p.15).  Commenting on the American catch-cry, “No child left behind”, his wry comment is that one group of children has in fact been left behind – the gifted ones.


The situation in Australia is not different.  According to Robinson (1992), the “tall poppy” syndrome still influences attitudes in education. Children who blossom in ways that make them stand out from their peers are “held back until all can bloom together” (p. 1).

Admittedly, policies outlining curriculum provision to gifted and talented students have come a fair way since 1992, but the leadership team in the school that is the subject of this study, have recognized that the existing systems and structures for providing extension opportunities for the very able learners in the school are in need of revision and this has been nominated as a priority for 2018.


A more recent study by Long, Barnett and Rogers (2015) looks at factors that might explain the variations in scope and quality of gifted programs.  The focus of this particular study is secondary schools in NSW, not primary schools in Queensland.  Nevertheless a few observations may be relevant: Even when government policies make provision for gifted programs in schools, some of the things that might negatively influence the quality, sustainability and longevity of the programs are:


  • When teachers lack training to identify, profile and track gifted students;
  • When teachers that have been successfully implementing programs move on without leaving robust school-specific structures in place;
  • Absence of external funding.


The issue is far too complex to make generalized statements, but this study, too, mentions teacher knowledge, attitudes and internal beliefs. One teacher (Ruby) commented that budget is the big thing when it comes to G&T. Staffing allocation and funding is there for support teachers, learning assistance, ESL, and all those things, because everyone recognizes it’s a matter of equity.  But funding for students at the top is “additional to people’s budget, and you know those kids will do well anyway, so you kind of think, well, let’s focus where you need to,” (p. 134).


If our gifted children are somehow being left behind, getting along well enough, but not truly thriving, this diminishes not only what they could become, as individuals, but also what could happen in classrooms, for all learners. What might happen in our classrooms if gifted children are given the opportunity to experience powerful learning for themselves in an accelerated environment, and they then return to the whole group, bringing fresh energy, initiative and leadership?


Highly capable learners and cooperative groups


Could extension students working in groups with their class-mates, be an agent for powerful learning in the classroom? Hopkins and Craig have stated it this way: “When we implement cooperative group structures and techniques to mediate between whole class instruction and groups carrying out tasks, then the academic performance of the whole class will increase, (2015, p. 5).


When whole class learning is leveraged off of the accelerated learning opportunities given to gifted students, could this have potential benefits for the least able students as well?  While the majority of students are engaged in independent learning, in cooperative groups, this may leave the teacher free to focus on students that are less able, or those that are disengaged. “Cooperative groups offer teachers the flexibility to conduct more subtle and complex learning strategies that achieve a number of learning goals simultaneously,” (Hopkins and Craig, p. 28).


This is inclusive learning in action. Instead of the all too common scenario where the highly capable students are held back until the majority understand the concept or demonstrate the skill, all students are challenged.


Challenging learning tasks


According to Hopkins and Craig (2015) challenge is a strong influencer of student attitude and achievement. Today’s teachers are well acquainted with the idea of the zone of proximal development.  We know our students progress best when learning tasks are differentiated. “Such tasks take a student forward because they are precise and work with the student’s current level of mastery” (Hopkins and Craig, p. 20).


Another advantage of working with highly capable students in extension groups, is the opportunity it offers for these students to demonstrate to others what they too, potentially, could do. Good and Brophy (2008), quoted in Hopkins and Craig (p. 20) have noted that an essential ingredient in good task scaffolding is demonstrating an idealized version of the actions students are required to perform.


Teacher efficacy and mastery experiences


It is worthwhile looking at this idea also from the perspective of the teacher. It is the teacher who must design opportunities for extension students to participate in mastery experiences. In order for this to happen, the teacher needs to possess a strong sense of personal efficacy, and this, in turn, increases the sense of efficacy for the students:


“When a strong sense of efficacy is present, students are afforded greater opportunities for successful performance accomplishments.  These mastery experiences help build students’ sense of academic efficacy.  Challenging goals are set, and strong commitments to accomplish them are maintained.  When teachers have greater self-efficacy, they work harder to design mastery experiences and that in turn increases students’ self-efficacy,” (Donohoo, 2017, p.15.)


The affective domain


An idea linked to self-efficacy is the idea of students’ learning attitudes, motivation and values.  According to Kretchmar (2014), these components of the affective domain are becoming increasingly important to researchers and educators. For this study, Krathwohl’s Taxonomy of the Affective domain (Appendix C) has been used as a tool for measuring student attitude, engagement and appropriation of learning in music.


Music and entrepreneurship


As the purpose of this study is to explore the impact of music, specifically an Orff music extension class for highly capable learners, it is necessary to comment on the existing literature in the area of music and gifted learners. There is much literature on the importance of extension activities for gifted and talented learners, and much literature on the value of music education, as such.  The idea of using music as a remedial tool for disadvantaged learners has certainly been looked at from a number of angles. However, it appears that there is not much that explores the unique potential of music extension to offer challenging tasks and opportunities for deeper learning, to the very capable learners in a school, or that throws light on the potential of music education to energize learning in other curriculum areas.


One study was found, that has researched the idea of finding a way to use music education as a way to educate learners to be entrepreneurial in all their learning.  The study took place in Finland, where entrepreneurship education has high priority in schools.  The researchers felt that music education provided an ideal environment to help learners acquire entrepreneurial skills.


Questions the research tried to answer were:


  • Are entrepreneurial skills innate, or can they be explicitly taught?
  • How can entrepreneurial ways of acting in learners be enhanced by means of structuring the music learning environment?


The conclusions of the study were based on anecdotal evidence collected from teacher and learner diaries.  The paper does mention that it may have been good to have a person who was neither teacher nor learner to document observations during the learning experiment.


The findings stated in the paper, based on teacher and learner reflections, were that the learners’ knowledge of both music and entrepreneurial action increased, and that regardless of different skills and interests, each and every child was engaged in meaningful learning, both as an individual and as part of a group, and all learners showed improved skills.


These findings show that music education can potentially both strengthen, and be strengthened by, other curriculum priorities, in this case, the priority of equipping 21st century learners to take initiative and harness their own creativity. While it doesn’t provide much objective evidence that the experiment was successful, it nevertheless sparks interesting questions and ideas.  It is an intriguing idea that the experience of improvising and creating their own original music using voices, xylophones, drums, and any and everything else that they are able to find in the music room and elsewhere, may actually help children to build entrepreneurial skills and mind-sets.


Existing research by Orff Schulwerk educators


It appears that not much research exists that explores the potential of an Orff Music Extension group to give to students gifted in the area of music, opportunities for accelerated music learning.  A possible reason for this is the powerful underlying principle of inclusivity that lies at the heart of Orff music education: Everyone can make music. As Nikki Cox, president of the Queensland Orff Schulwerk Association has said: “Inclusive learning environments and a clearly differentiated curriculum are the natural consequences of a well implemented Orff Schulwerk program….the Orff Schulwerk approach caters for all,” (2012, p. 1)


In fact, no research could be found that explores the potential of an Orff Music Extension program to raise the level of music learning not only for the learners in the program, but for all learners in the cohort. This is the main area to be addressed in this study.




What is the impact of a primary school Orff music extension program on:

  1. The gifted learners in the program 2. The whole mixed-ability class 3. The creativity and entrepreneurship displayed by learners in music class as well as other curriculum areas

What are the implications for the “gifted and talented” program in the school?



The purpose of this qualitative research project is to:


Do narrative research, documenting the work that has already been done to harness the skills, energy and momentum of the very able music learners as an agent for engagement and deeper learning in music in the whole music class.


Do action research by implementing a whole class music project, over the course of two terms, in a way that intentionally harnesses the skills, energy and momentum of the very able music learners, working as leaders of cooperative groups doing music tasks involving improvisation, composition and original arrangements of music.


Do exploratory research, by assessing at the start and end of the project:


  • Music extension students’ perceptions of themselves as creative and entrepreneurial learners
  • Teacher perceptions of music extension students as creative and entrepreneurial learners


Setting and Participants

This study was conducted in a metropolitan state school on the south east edge of Brisbane. Approximately 260 children attend the school.  Very close proximity to a number of private schools has a measurable impact on the demographic of the school, with a high proportion of children coming from low to average income homes. The school has a strong focus on learning play in early years and inquiry-based learning across all year levels.  It also has a growing reputation as a trail-blazing school in implementing a Reggio Emilia approach, with project and product-based learning strongly evident in all classrooms.  Children are helped to express their learning in the so-called “hundred languages” of the child.  Specialist teachers in music, visual art and drama, work with classroom teachers to help children create artefacts that document and showcase learning.  The school has an innovative leadership team and a stable and committed body of teachers. All these factors have contributed to a growing trend by families with the means to afford private schooling, both in and out of catchment, to enrol their children in this quite progressive school.


In addition to one hour per week of classroom music for every child in the school, which is twice as much time as that provided by the average state school, there is a certain amount of time allocated for the music specialist teacher to work with groups of children for specific purposes, such as music projects, music interventions for children with identified needs, choirs and music extension. The participants in this study were the children in the Year 5 class, the children in the Year 6 class, and more specifically, the 14 children in the Year 5/6 music extension class.  In addition to attending music with their class once a week, these children attend a music extension class once a week, for one hour.


The children were selected by means of an audition.  The audition task was to improvise, and then create an original 2 or 4 bar ostinato (i.e. repeated pattern), in a given tonality (e.g. Alah-pentatonic) on a xylophone. This is a skill they would have learned and practiced in their regular classroom music lessons.



Study Design

Data collection instruments:


  • Music and creativity questionnaire: The purpose of this questionnaire was to measure students’ perception of themselves as learners in both music and other curriculum areas, with a particular focus on creativity and entrepreneurial behaviours and mindsets. The questionaire consisted of 12 statements describing music attitudes, competencies and behaviours and 14 statements describing attitudes, competencies and behaviours in other curriculum areas. The 26 statements related to four categories, namely giftedness, music skill, creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset. The students indicated on a continuum to what extent the statement was true for them, from “not at all” to “very much.” The same questionnaire was completed by the music teacher and the classroom teacher. The intention was to compare each student’s perception of themselves as a learner, with the teacher’s assessment of the learning behaviours observed for each student. (See appendix D.) The music and creativity questionaire was completed once at the start and once at the end of the intervention.


  • Exit ticket: The purpose of the exit ticket was for students to do a self-reflection at the end of the lesson, with a particular focus on creativity and entrepreneurial behaviours and mindsets. See appendix E. The exit ticket was completed once each term, ie twice during the course of the intervention.


  • Observation and analysis of learning behaviours by the music teacher, using the Krathwohl Affective Domains taxonomy.


  • Interview with music extension students. This took place with the whole group. The teacher asked questions and each child had an opportunity to respond.  This took 20 minutes. The responses were audio recorded, and later transcribed as formal documentation.


  • Observation of learning behaviours during music extension and regular music classes, by a teaching colleague who is not a music specialist. The observer was given the same checklist that was given to the students as an exit ticket (See appendix E.).


  • Interview and written reflection: Learners in the music extension class were asked the question: Does being in the music extension class impact you as a learner? All children answered yes.  They were then asked to describe what impact it had on them, being in this class. They were asked to write, and then verbally share their answers.



Table 1: Timeline for collection of data:


                                            Timeline for collection of data
Date Data collection instrument Data collected from
08.05.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire All children in the Year 6 class


10.05.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire All children in the Year 5 class
04.06.2018 Exit ticket All children in the music extension class
28.06.2018 Exit ticket All children in the Year 6 class
18.07.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire Music teacher and the classroom teachers
30.07.2018 Observation of a music extension class Colleague who is not a music specialist
14.08.2018 Exit ticket All children in the Year 5 class
16.08.2018 Exit ticket All children in the Year 6 class
30.08.2018 Observation of a year 6 music class Colleague who is not a music specialist
10.09.2018 Interview Music extension students
09.10.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire All children in the Year 5 class
11.10.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire All children in the Year 6 class
11.10.2018 Music and creativity questionnaire Music teacher and the classroom teachers
29.10.2018 Interview and written reflection All children in the music extension class




The Intervention

Over the course of two school terms, all children in Year 5 and 6 were taught to play an arrangement of the song “The Silk Road” by Ian Ross Williams. In term 1, all children were taught to sing and play the melody, as well as a bass part and two ostinato parts, on xylophones. Then they were shown how to improvise and compose their own original ostinato patterns on xylophones, as well as non-melodic instruments, such as conga, djembe or cahon drums, claves, bells and cymbals.


In term 2, children worked in groups to create their own arrangements of the song, using their own original ostinato patterns combined with the melody from the original song. They spent time in groups, planning and structuring their arrangements to achieve a balance between the parts and instruments. In the final stage, they performed for each other.


During the same two terms, the children in the music extension group used some of the weekly music extension class time to work on their own performance and arrangements of the song. They also spent time planning and preparing to be leaders of groups during the class music lesson time.


For the project plan for this intervention, see appendix F.


Data Collection


All data were collected in an ethical way, with approval from the principal and from parents of the children involved.  There was no compulsion to participate and participants were free to withdraw at any time.



Data Analysis


Data collected by means of the music and creativity questionnaire at the start of the intervention were analysed in detail.  Given the volume of data, and the time it took to capture it all, it was decided to analyse only a sample of the data collected at the end of the intervention. For this reason, only the following six questions were selected from a bank of 26:


  • SC01 I am really good at improvising and creating original ostinato patterns or melodies.


  • SC05 I am good at collaborating with others to improvise, compose and arrange music in new ways.


  • SM05 I am a good ensemble music maker: I pay attention to the conductor and I listen to the other music makers in the ensemble.


  • SM03 I am a skilful musician.


  • SE05 I enjoy creating and inventing things.


  • SE11 I am good at collaborating with others.


Eight children were selected from the music extension group.  The average scores were calculated for the six selected questions. These are presented in a bar chart.




Music and creativity


Table 2: Increase in music skill, creativity and classroom entrepreneurship over two terms, as indicated by teachers.

Table 2

The assessments completed by the teachers showed a modest increase after the intervention. The self-assessments completed by the students did not show any measurable increase after the intervention.


Although student self-assessments did not deliver a statistically meaningful result, they nevertheless provided a wealth of feedback-to-teacher that merits a closer look. For example, in the whole class group, a number of children with average skills in music assessed themselves as strong in music, and a number of children with strong skills assessed themselves as average.


Whole class engagement


This music teacher has observed, over the course of five years, how the energy and momentum in a music extension class has been harnessed to lift the overall achievement and engagement in music in year 5 and 6 classes as a whole. It is not the purpose of this study to try and demonstrate a measurable cause and effect relationship between music extension music-making and whole mixed ability class music-making, over the course of two terms. This would be very difficult to prove by means of numerical data collection. In addition, two terms are not a sufficiently long period for measurable perception and attitude changes to take place. This study relies on reflections by the children, by other teachers in the school, and by the music teacher herself to identify the source of these observations.


In 2018, we have a Year 5 class with 28 children and a Year 6 class, over-sized at 32. Both classes have a typical spread of mixed ability in all areas, including music, and both classes have a small number of children with emotional and behavioural challenge that is at the extreme end of the scale. These children receive a certain amount of support, but not usually when they come with their classes to music, for an hour, once a week.


This is what it looks like when the Year 5 and 6 classes come to music: A significant portion of each music lesson involves all the children making music together, by singing and playing xylophones and other percussion instruments, such as drums, claves and bells. Usually, by the end of a unit, the whole class is able to perform a song, in four or more parts, as a class ensemble. A casual observer would be able to notice that the children are playing something that sounds tuneful and rhythmical, either a learned part, or a melody or ostinato pattern they have created themselves. All parts are mostly in time with each other, and overall, it sounds really good. Every child is engaged in the activity and it is easy to see that they are enjoying it.  Given that the group always includes a number of high need children, there may be someone who is not engaging in the music on a given day.


Children’s reflections after a typical music lesson:


  • “I liked everyone working on their part to make a good song.”


  • “I like that the song and all the parts came together.”


  • “I liked everyone working in a fast pace.”


  • “I love how everyone was focused, because it made them play nice and not be silly and we all had fun.” (Elizabeth)


Reflections from a colleague who is not a music teacher:


  • “Students were engaged when performing and when planning ostinato for that performance. “


  • “Students involved in the music extension program gave appropriate and relevant feedback to group performances.”


  • “Some students had observable difficulty during the performances but showed perseverance to remain engaged in the activity.”


Music teacher’s reflections:


What is remarkable about this is not that a group of mixed ability children are successfully performing an appropriately challenging song, as a four (or more) part percussion ensemble. This is what the Orff Schulwerk approach equips music teachers to do.  When we apply the Orff principles and follow the Orff process, this is what should happen.


The remarkable thing is that this can still happen, even when classes are dramatically oversized (an Orff class should consist of 12 – 16 children). Even more remarkable is how many high need children are in fact engaged in the music making.  There may be one high need child sitting off to the side while the remainder of the class are happy and engaged in music making. One high-need child might be disengaged, but there are two or three others in the group, and today, they are joining in. Another time, today’s disengaged child will be having a better day, and they will join in as well.


Any music teacher in an average state school, looking out over a class at the start of a music lesson, will most likely see children that fall into one or more of these groups:

  • Group 1: Strong music learners. These children have natural aptitude for music, they are independent learners, keen, looking forward to the music lesson.
  • Group 2: Strong learners: These children have average aptitude for music, but they are capable independent learners overall, willing to do the music task.
  • Group 3: Keen music makers. These children are not particularly strong in music, but they love it, and will join in enthusiastically.
  • Group 4: Friends and Fun. For these children, the focus is on something else, like friends, or the soccer game at play time.  This group includes the low-level disrupters and the easily-distracted.
  • Group 5: Learning challenged. These are the children who will need extra support to achieve the music learning goals. If they don’t, they will withdraw. They may experience anxiety. They may become disruptive.
  • Group 6: Emotionally-challenged. These children may arrive at music already anxious from earlier events of the day. Even a small incident could cause them to escalate rapidly, causing the flow of the lesson to be interrupted in a major way.


When I started teaching at this school, the only time I saw the Year 5 and 6 children was once a week all together, for their music lesson. This what it looked like when the Year 5 and  classes came to music:  I would attempt to engage them all in music making following an Orff Schulwerk approach. Typically, the musically strong, independent learners achieved success very quickly, but when they were joined by the dependable learners who were not strong in music, the keen music lovers who were not very strong, the disrupters and distractable, and the extreme challenge children, the result was not very musical.  They were all out of time with each other.  It was a cacophony. The dependable and keen were willing to keep working to get it right, but the disrupters and distractable, as well as the high-need and highly challenged, began to disengage and create disturbances. By employing my best behavior management strategies, I was usually able to keep the lesson going and sometimes, by the end, most of the class were making music that was acceptable. But it wasn’t wonderful. It wasn’t challenging enough to extend and inspire the children who were still engaged by the end, and a group of children had completely disengaged, just sitting against the wall watching, or amusing themselves with little private games. In other words, engagement in the music lesson was not very high at all.


This was especially true for learners that didn’t have high interest or ability in music. It was also true for a number of learners with strong ability in music, which, considering that the factor nominated by Gagné (2015, p.24) as second in the hierarchy of predictors for which gifted and talented individuals will realise their potential, is “Intrapersonal catalysts,” was very concerning. According to Gagné, motivation, willingness, and perseverance on the part of the gifted individual, is essential in order for gifts to be transformed into actual high-level competencies (p.25).


Behaviours that indicate attitudes such as awareness, interest, responsiveness, attention, caring, and taking responsibility in the learning situation are important for all learners. It is quite eye-opening to view the change over time in Year 5 and 6 music, using a tool like Krathwohl’s Affective Domain.  This is a taxonomy that is useful for measuring learner engagement.  Here is an analysis based on the music teacher’s observations over a four-year period.


Historical data 2015-2018

Historical data 2015-2018


So, what has made the difference between then (fairly chaotic classes, average music-making, a significant number of children disengaged) and now (exuberant, but generally orderly classes, challenging songs performed with skill, commitment and enjoyment by the whole class)?  The table shows a definite strengthening of student engagement in 2018, compared to 2015.


My observations over five years are that the things that have made the difference are:


  • I have built relationships and rapport with the children (I have taught the current year 6 class since they were in year 2.)
  • Foundation skills laid in earlier years make success more achievable in Year 5 and 6.
  • The school culture has helped all teachers to become more effective. I know I am a better teacher than I was then.
  • The focus on behavior management across the school this year has contributed to calm, orderly classrooms.


However, by far the most significant factor has been the opportunity to do extension work for one hour a week with a group of 16 children with strong music ability, in Year 5 and 6.  They are able to learn challenging songs quickly, and they have opportunities to improvise and create new arrangements.   The immense energy and momentum from this group is now harnessed to help a whole class achieve something that sounds great, in a relatively short time. Not only are all children engaged in performing a given arrangement of a song, but all are actively involved in applying what they have learned, in new ways, improvising and creating their own ostinato patterns.  In a typical music lesson, the music extension children can be observed doing things like this:


  • Learning new songs quickly and then buddy teaching to help every child get it right.
  • Demonstrating what the song should sound like when all the parts are put together.
  • Confidently holding the song together, even when less capable children join in, so that all experience success.
  • Being leaders in mixed ability groups to plan and perform an original group arrangement of a song.
  • Helping to engage most of the disruptors and easily-distracted learners, as well as the high-need and highly challenged children, in group activities.


The teacher can then be observed doing things like this:


  • Teaching the song to the whole class, using the Orff process.
  • Deploying music extension children to help children that need it.
  • Setting up cooperative groups where music extension students can act as mediators between the whole class instruction that has just occurred and the and group activity being carried out.
  • With most of the children productively engaged in groups, the teacher is now free to give attention to the learning-challenged and emotionally challenged children that are not yet being drawn into these music extension-led groups.


The more the children experience how good it is to perform challenging songs as a class ensemble, the more they are willing to cooperate with the Orff Schulwerk process at the beginning of a new unit, knowing that this will lead to something exciting. Getting it right fast with the music extension class leads to getting it right faster-than-before with the whole class, and this leads to a classroom culture of willingness to engage from the start, because they know it will be good in the end.


So, what is the impact of a music extension class in a school?


The impact of music extension


Children in the music extension group were asked to reflect on the impact of music extension on themselves, as learners. Here are some of their responses:


  • “I can challenge myself in a hard task, like I do in music extension.”


  • “It makes me try and have a shot at things.”


  • “It adds to my vocabulary.”


  • “It helps with reading and spelling.”


  • “I can imagine more things.”


  • “It helps me in my drama assessments.”


  • “It makes me improvise and makes my brain work with lovely music.”


  • “It can make me think beyond my limits.”


  • “It will challenge me and with practice I will be amazing.”


  • “It helps me in my hypothesis testing, testing (a) new ostinato.”


  • “My learning in music extension helps me to calm down and focus.”


  • “I can just go by myself if I am mad and relax but before music I couldn’t.”


  • “It helps me with creative stuff.”


  • “Music extension has made me understand that I love music and I have a chance to do it when I grow up.”



Children in the music extension group were also asked to reflect on the impact of music extension on classroom music. Here is a summary of their responses:


  • We have more time to learn the music, so we know it better and we can teach it to others.


  • There are more people in the class that know the music, not just the teacher, so there are several people teaching simultaneously.


  • We can spend time in music extension planning for the group activity in class, so it saves time, and we can spend more time actually playing the music in our groups.


  • In music extension we have the opportunity to hear what the music should sound like, so when we are back in class, we can immediately hear if our group is doing it right, or not.


  • In music extension we have a better idea of what we are looking for (success criteria), so we can help the people in our groups to achieve success.


  • When music extension people play for the class, they hear what it should sound like, and they think, “We can do that too.”


  • We know how easy or difficult it is to learn a part, so that helps us to teach it to another person.


  • There are not enough xylophones for everyone, so in class we can be the ones that don’t get a xylophone, and we can go around and help others, because we have already had lots of practice during music extension.



Considering all the data gathered for this study, as well as factors that may be considered self-evident, it is clear that a primary school Orff music extension program has a significant impact in a school. The initial impact is on the gifted learners in the program.

Impact on the gifted learners in the program:

Involvement in the program:

  • Raises their personal level of engagement, confidence and achievement in music.
  • Enables them to learn at a fast pace.
  • Enables them to engage in ensemble music making at a much higher level than would be possible in a general classroom setting.
  • Gives them greater opportunities for deeper learning and application of learning in music.
  • Gives them the opportunity to make music in a group that is closer to the appropriate group size for an Orff ensemble, where 12 to 16 children are ideal.
  • Provides exciting performance opportunities.
  • Equips them with the confidence to transfer understanding and skills to class mates.
  • Enables them to hear what the music should sound like, so they have a clearer idea of the success criteria.
  • Enables them to spend time planning to be leaders of collaborative groups in the whole class.
  • Provides a strong vehicle for product-oriented learning, where experimentation, inquiry, application and deep music learning culminate in a presentation (artefact).


Impact on the whole mixed-ability music class

When music extension students act as catalysts for learning in the whole class, a number of interesting things have been observed to happen:

  • All students are working in collaborative groups to improvise, compose, structure and perform their own arrangement of a song. This stage is reached quite quickly, because music extension students have had the opportunity to experiment and plan and so they provide leadership and buddy teaching.
  • Music extension students know what success sounds like, and they can model this for the whole class and in their group.
  • Collaborative group work with confident leadership by music extension students taps into the “friendship and fun” dynamic in a classroom. This social dynamic can be the pitfall that sabotages group work, but with strong and musically competent music extension students steering the process, the potential disrupters are much more inclined to stay involved and work collaboratively with their peers.
  • Learning and emotionally challenged children are often successfully helped in groups where there is confident leadership by the very capable students, who can give emotional support as well as direction with the task.
  • With groups working independently under confident and capable direction by music extension students, the teacher is free to work with the individual children that are struggling to work within their group.

There is something that happens in music that is quite unique when it comes to cooperative groups and powerful learning.  In other curriculum areas in a primary school, as a general rule, it is possible for gifted learners to forge ahead as individuals. Clever readers, writers, scientists, and mathematicians, and gifted artists, can sit quietly in their own corner in a classroom and produce excellent and original work, experience higher order thinking and deep level learning.  Although they could do this in cooperative groups, they are not dependent on the group.  Music is different.  With the exception of pianists, musicians mostly need other musicians in order to make complex and exciting music.


This writer believes firmly in the Orff principle of inclusion and the immense value of music education for all children.  The rationale behind investing additional resources in an Orff music extension program for learners with gifting in music is this:


  • It adds an interesting avenue of extension for a group of learners that can sometimes be overlooked, namely the very quick learners.


  • Investing resources to equip quick learners in music with advanced skills not only in performance, but more particularly in improvisation, composition and arranging music, enables them as facilitators in powerful cooperative groups, which raises the level of music making for all children in the class. The effect of this is, in fact, to reinforce the inclusivity of Orff music making for all children.


Impact on the creativity and entrepreneurship displayed by learners in music class as well as other curriculum areas


An attempt was made in this study to measure the effect of music extension on entrepreneurial skills and mind-sets. Although the data collected did not deliver statistically significant results, it is still an intriguing question that may merit further study:


  • For a group of students identified as gifted, or very able, learners in music, does involvement in an Orff music extension program impact their perception of themselves as learners capable of achieving success with challenging learning tasks, especially tasks requiring creativity and entrepreneurship?
  • Could the experience of improvising and creating their own original music actually help children to build entrepreneurial skills and mind-sets?
  • Could this raise the level of willingness to attempt challenging tasks requiring creativity and entrepreneurship for learners in the whole class?
  • Could this spill over into other curriculum areas, strengthening the ability of all children to approach classroom projects with increased creativity and initiative?


Implications for the “gifted and talented” program in the school Implications for G&T learners

The music extension program is already functioning in the school as a robust structure for extending students with natural ability in music. What can be taken from this study to inform  the school’s mission to implement targeted interventions to challenge and extend all our highly capable students?


Some of the children in music extension, though by no means all, have also been identified as gifted and talented in other curriculum areas.  This means that these G&T students already have this particular viable avenue for extension.


There are two ways to go about extending G&T students in a primary school. The first is to identify the G&T students by means of testing, and then to look for projects and programs in which they can participate.  The second is to identify programs that are already up and running and create curriculum time for them. G&T students would then be identified to take part.  These programs could be those offered by outside organizations, or by the local high school. Alternatively, they could be programs that are already available in the school.  The Orff music program is an example of this.  It is possible that there are other programs with exciting potential for extension, already present in the school.


How getting it right with the G&T learners might benefit all learners


Some of the dynamics in a music extension class are unique to music, but others could well be applied to other curriculum areas, for example:


Extension students could be intentionally equipped to act as leaders in the whole classroom context, with the potential of lifting engagement and performance for the whole class.


Engagement of year 5 and 6 students can often be an issue in other specialist areas, such as LOTE. Intentionally cultivating extension students as group leaders in these classes could potentially strengthen motivation and appropriation of learning in these traditionally challenging curriculum areas, with a challenging age group.





Music extension and special music projects are an ideal vehicle for setting challenging learning tasks for the very able learners that are sometimes under-challenged in a larger group.  When smaller groups of able learners are given the opportunity to work in their zone of proximal development, then engagement in the task is very high, and they are able to move very quickly into deep learning. They become proficient at applying their skills in new contexts. They quickly understand how to improvise and create their own, original music compositions and arrangements. In addition, they rapidly gain understanding of the many ways the elements of music can be manipulated to make a musical performance engaging for an audience. The benefit for these children is not only what they gain for themselves, but the way the opportunity of working in a smaller extension group empowers them to share their understanding and skills in the context of the whole class of mixed ability children.





Cox, N. (2012). Inclusion and the Orff approach. QOSA News July 2012, p. 1.

Delisle, J.R. (2011). WGCA: Music for the gifted child advocate. Gifted Child Today. 34, no          1,14-16.

Department of Education and Training. (n.d.). Curriculum provision to gifted and talented  students. Retrieved from

Donohoo, J. (2016). Collective efficacy: How educators’ beliefs impact student learning. Thousand Oaks. CA. Corwin Press.

Kretchmar, J. (2014). The affective domain. EBSCO information services, Inc.Great neck publishing,1-7.

Gagné, F. (2015). From genes to talent: the DMGT/CMTD perspective. Revista de Education 368,12-37.

Hietanen, L., Uuslautti, S., & Määttä, K. (2014). Enhancing entrepreneurship in learners –     an implementation and evaluation of entrepreneurship education through music education.  Problems of Education in the 21st Century. 59, 34-48.

Hopkins, D., Craig, W., & Knight, O. (2015). Curiosity and powerful learning. Denver, Colorado: Mcrel International.

Krathwohl, D.R.

Long, L.C., Barnett, K., & Rogers, K.B. (2015). Exploring the relationship between principal, policy, and gifted program scope and quality. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. 38, 118-140.

Robinson, Maureen. (1992).  A vision splendid: Gifted education in Australia.  Roeper Review, 02783193, 14, Issue 4, 1-4.

Ross Williams, I. (2013). Xylo Beat Australia. Glass House Mountains. Australia. Published by

Songlines Choir. (2013) Tracks for change: songs of struggle and hope. Australia. Songlines Choir inc.



Appendix A: What is Orff Schulwerk?

What is meant by “An Orff approach to Music Education”?

At Cannon Hill State School, following the child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, providing interesting provocations to stimulate and nurture that innate drive to learn, and adapting learning programs in response to what we see the children doing, is fundamental to all we do. The music program at CHSS endeavours to align with this dynamic approach, and for this reason, we favour an Orff approach to music education, because it respects the innate musicality of children, while at the same time, offering a rich, pedagogically rigorous, and time-tested methodology. The music specialist at CHSS has had internationally accredited training in both the Kodaly and the Orff approach.

Here is some information taken from an Australian Orff web-site:

“Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music education pioneered by German composer Carl Orff (18951982) and his colleague, Gunild Keetman. Its foundation was concerned with the child: the needs of the child and the emphasis on nourishing the musicality of each child through elemental activities in music and movement. The Orff teaching process involves singing; body percussion; playing on a variety of both tuned and untuned instruments; movement and dancing; and speech activities to encourage active music making.

The Orff teacher studies the many processes that can take a musical idea from the simple to the complex. Mastery of the technique and exploring and developing the unique understandings of each student’s unique learning style takes a lifetime of study. Orff Schulwerk employs elemental techniques such as imitation, echo, ostinato, canon etc. Improvisation is a fundamental part of the process. It is an approach to which all may contribute and in which all should experience success.

We provide musical experiences which not only develop aural, visual, kinaesthetic and creative skills, but challenge the intellect. The cognitive development of a child is greatly enhanced by a well organised, developmentally structured, exciting music program. The child offered a chance to develop his or her musical potential, is being given an opportunity to experience richness in cultural heritage, self-esteem, success, co-operation, discipline and flexibility.

Inclusivity is a hallmark of the approach: age is no limit. It is an approach to which all may contribute and experience success. The social value of group music making is reinforced in this approach, as is the importance

of individual creative contributions. Because of its flexibility and adaptability, Orff Schulwerk has flourished throughout the world. In the same way, it has become part of our Australian cultural heritage.”           

Appendix B

Appendix Figue 4

Appendix C: Krathwohl’s Affective domain

Learning Taxonomy – Krathwohl’s Affective Domain




Affective  learning is demonstrated by behaviors indicating attitudes of awareness, interest, attention, concern, and responsibility, ability to listen and respond in interactions with others, and ability to demonstrate those attitudinal characteristics or values which are appropriate to the test situation and the field of study


Level and Definition Illustrative Verbs Example
Receiving refers to the student’s willingness to attend to particular phenomena of stimuli (classroom activities, textbook, music, etc.).  Learning outcomes in this area range from the simple awareness that a thing exists to selective attention on the part of the learner.  Receiving represents the lowest level of learning outcomes in the affective domain.


asks, chooses, describes, follows, gives, holds, identifies, locates, names, points to, selects, sits erect, replies, uses Listening to discussions of controversial issues with an open mind.

Respecting the rights of others. Listen for and remember the name of newly introduced people.

Responding refers to active participation on the part of the student.  At this level he or she not only attends to a particular phenomenon but also reacts to it in some way.  Learning outcomes in this area may emphasize acquiescence in responding (reads assigned material), willingness to respond (voluntarily reads beyond assignment), or satisfaction in responding (reads for pleasure or enjoyment).  The higher levels of this category include those instructional objectives that are commonly classified under “interest”; that is, those that stress the seeking out and enjoyment of particular activities.


answers, assists, complies, conforms, discusses, greets, helps, labels, performs, practices, presents, reads, recites, reports, selects, tells, writes Completing homework assignments. Participating in team problemsolving activities.

Questions new ideals, concepts, models, etc. in order to fully understand them.


Valuing is concerned with the worth or value a student attaches to a particular object, phenomenon, or behavior.  This ranges in degree from the simpler acceptance of a value (desires to improve group skills) to the more complex level of commitment (assumes responsibility for the effective functioning of the group).  Valuing is based on the internalization of a set of specified values, but clues to these values are expressed in the student’s overt behavior.  Learning outcomes in this area are concerned with behavior that is consistent and stable enough to make the value clearly identifiable. Instructional objectives that are commonly classified under “attitudes” and “appreciation” would fall into this category.


completes, describes,

differentiates, explains, follows, forms, initiates, invites, joins, justifies, proposes, reads, reports, selects, shares, studies, works

Accepting the idea that integrated curricula is a good way to learn. Participating in a campus blood drive.

Demonstrates belief in the democratic process.

Shows the ability to solve problems.  Informs management on matters that one feels strongly about.

Organization is concerned with bringing together different values, resolving conflicts between them, and beginning the building of an internally consistent value system.  Thus the emphasis is on comparing, relating, and synthesizing values.  Learning outcomes may be concerned with the conceptualization of a value (recognizes the responsibility of each individual for improving human relations) or with the organization of a value system (develops a vocational plan that satisfies his or her need for both economic security and social service).  Instructional objectives relating to the development of a philosophy of life would fall into this category.


adheres, alters, arranges, combines, compares, completes, defends, explains, generalizes, identifies, integrates, modifies, orders, organizes, prepares, relates, synthesizes Recognizing own abilities, limitations, and values and developing realistic aspirations. Accepts responsibility fro one’s behavior.

Explains the role of systematic planning in solving problems. Accepts professional ethical standards.

Prioritizes time effectively to meet the needs of the organization, family, and self.

Characterization by a value or value set.  The individual has a value system that has controlled his or her behavior for a sufficiently long time for him or her to develop a characteristic “life-style.”  Thus the behavior is pervasive, consistent, and predictable.  Learning outcomes at this level cover a broad range of activities, but the major emphasis is on the fact that the behavior is typical or characteristic of the student.  Instructional objectives that are concerned with the student’s general patterns of adjustment (personal, social, emotional) would be appropriate here.


acts, discriminates, displays, influences, listens, modifies, performs, practices, proposes, qualifies, questions, revises, serves, solves, uses, verifies A person’s lifestyle influences reactions to many different kinds of situations.

Shows self-reliance when working independently.

Uses an objective approach in problem solving.

Displays a professional commitment to ethical practice on a daily basis. Revises judgments and changes behavior in light of new evidence.

Appendix D: Music and Creativity questionaire

Music and creativity questionnaire.    Name:_____________________________________


ID:__________Grade:_____Age:_____ Gender: M/F Date:_________GR______DR_______


Please use the following statements to rate yourself as a learner in music. Please put a cross on the line:


SM01 Music is a very strong interest for me.

Not at all _______________________________________________very much


SC01 I am really good at improvising and creating original ostinato patterns or melodies. Not at all _______________________________________________very much


SM05 I am a good ensemble music maker: I pay attention to the conductor and I listen to the other music makers in the ensemble.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


GT01 I am naturally gifted in music.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SM06 I enjoy doing challenging music tasks.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SC05 I am good at collaborating with others to improvise, compose and arrange music in new ways.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SM04 I am an expressive and sensitive music maker

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SC02 I am an adventurous and innovative music maker.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SM02 I am very quick to learn new songs (singing and playing instruments). Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SC03 I am okay with taking risks and making mistakes in music.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SM03 I am a skillful musician.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SC04 I am a very creative, original and unique music maker.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much




Please use the following statements to rate yourself as a learner in areas other than music. Please put a cross on the line:


SE01 I am curious about many things.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


GT02 I am naturally gifted in science/ technology/ English/ maths.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE02 I can tolerate uncertainty.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE03 I enjoy challenging tasks.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE04 I enjoy solving problems.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


GT04 I am naturally gifted in sports.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE05 I enjoy creating and inventing things.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE06 I am good at staying committed and following through.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE07 I am good at taking initiative.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE08 I am okay with taking risks and making mistakes in my learning.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


GT03 I am naturally gifted in the arts.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE09 I can easily adapt to change.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE10 I easily come up with original ideas.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much


SE11 I am good at collaborating with others.

Not at all ________________________________________________very much       






Appendix E Exit ticket

Name:                                                                                        Date:


Music exit ticket


Today in music, did you notice yourself doing any of these things?


Learning a new song quickly and easily

Applying BLP skills

Paying careful attention to the conductor while performing a song

Paying careful attention to others in the ensemble

Understanding a musical concept that I didn’t understand before

Overcoming a real challenge

Being adventurous and taking risks

Doing something original and creative

Creating something that worked really well

Being inspired by what I saw someone else doing

Feeling confident

Trying hard with something difficult

Enjoying the fast pace of the lesson, not feeling overwhelmed of left behind

Thinking “I wonder what would happen if we tried ….”

Helping someone else to get it right


What did you like?




What was disappointing, frustrating, boring, a waste of time?




What was challenging?




What did you learn?





Any other feedback about this lesson?



Appendix  F: Project Plan for the intervention used


Project Planner Project name: The Silk Road Year level: 5 and 6
                                                 Stage 1: Desired Results



Compose and perform music.  


Use rhythm, pitch and form symbols and



Explain how the elements of music

are used to communicate meaning in the music they listen to, compose and perform

Students will be able to independently use their learning to:

•       Compose original ostinato patterns on melodic and non-melodic percussion instruments.

•       Arrange and structure known songs.

•       Apply the convention of complementary rhythm when arranging songs in new contexts.

•       Consider texture and timbre when arranging songs in new contexts.

Students will understand that:

•       A beat part is (usually) essential to keep the song together.

•       Complementary rhythms add interest and balance.

•       Skilful use of texture and timbre add interest and balance.

•       Changing the ostinato pattern when moving to a new section is effective.

How can we, in small groups, take a song that we know, and change it so that it has a unique sound and feel, different from the original, and also different from the other groups?
Students will know that:


•       A beat part stays steady all through the song.

•       A melody part goes for several bars and it often has repeated phrases as well as a number of sections.

•       An ostinato is a repeated pattern that (usually) goes for 1, 2 or 4 bars.

•       An interlude is an instrumental section somewhere in the middle of the song.

•       The song starts with an intro and ends with an outro.



Students will be skilled at:


•       Composing original ostinato patterns.

•       Combining various ostinato patterns with a melody and a beat part in balanced and interesting ways.

•       Listening to each other to make sure the different parts fit together.

•       Listening to each other to stay in time.

•       Collaboration and negotiation (eg sharing instruments).

•       Combining sound and silence – knowing when to play and when not to play.

•       Capitalizing on the different strengths of musicians in the group.

                                            Stage 2: Evidence and Assessment
Evaluative Criteria Assessment Evidence  


-All play in time with the ensemble.

-All play at the right time and make silence at the right time. -We can hear the shift between sections.

-Beat and melody parts are confident

-Ostinato patterns are effective and original.


In a group of 4-6 people, create your own original arrangement of “The Silk Road”

•       Your arrangement must include a melody and a beat part, as well as a number of ostinato parts.

•       Structure your arrangement with an intro, A part, B part, interlude and outro.

•       Plot your arrangement on the given structure sheet, using rhythm symbols and music terminology

•       Perform your arrangement for the class.

•       Explain to the class how you have used the elements of music to make your arrangement unique and interesting


Students complete a reflection sheet at the start, middle and end of the project



                                                        Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Week 1



Week 2




Week 3




Week 4



Week 5




Week 6




Week 7





Week 8



Learn the song and the bass ostinato.  Play the ostinato while singing the song, first body percussion, then on xylophones


Learn AX ostinato “People of the world” First BP then on xylos

Three parts voice and body, then three parts voice and xylos

Start working out melody on xylos


Learn AX ostinato “Merchandise for sale” First BP then on xylos

Three parts voice and body, then three parts voice and xylos

Continue working out melody on xylos – buddy teach


Learn SM ostinato “Tantalizing mystifying” First BP then on xylos

Four parts voice and body, then four parts voice and xylos


Introduce concept “Structure”

Structured class performance four parts on Xylo

Buddy teaching time to ensure every student can play at least three parts confidently


Brainstorm word ideas from Marco Polo story

Use words to create rhythmic ostinato patterns

Structured class performance four parts on xylo and a few rhythmic ostinato patterns on



Using a beat chart, students improvise and create their own 1, 2 or 4 bar rhythmic ostinato. On planning sheet, each student writes their own ostinato pattern and plots where to play it.

Perform with half the class on xylos, half on NMP, then swap

Introduce group task (project).  Decide on groups and spend time planning on planning sheet.




Week 9



Week 10





Demonstrate the desired outcome using MX students.

Groups practice their arrangements

Groups test their arrangements in a whole group setting, using the “Mrs van der Walt technique”

Groups give each other feedback aligned to the success criteria.


Groups refine their arrangements and perform for the class.  They explain how they have used the elements of music to make their arrangements unique and interesting, then get feedback.


Selected groups perform their arrangements at assembly.