Author - Ms. Fon

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Integrated Music and Arts with Orff-Schulwerk Approach
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More Learning through Orff Schulwerk Music Classroom
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Learning on the Move
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Storytelling is Not Reading
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The Orff-Schulwerk Approach

Integrated Music and Arts with Orff-Schulwerk Approach

At Magic Years International School, we offer the music programme based on the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education, in which teacher and students interact as partners in music-making. Singing, moving, dancing and playing instruments are treated as regular ensemble experiences. The Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education was carefully chosen in order to closely reflect the type of hands-on learning practices in the classroom. The Orff-Schulwerk allows for active music-making for all age-groups and abilities, along with a historical and theoretical music education.  This approach builds musicianship through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama.

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In music classes, we begin with what the children do naturally: play, imitate, experiment, problem-solve, and express themselves in a natural way.  Singing and playing the musical instruments, along with movement and dance, are combined with dramatic elements in order for the students to see the music as an expression of the human experience.  Moreover, the visual and creative arts are also integrated in the music learning environment. Visual and performing arts affect our emotions and senses. We can listen to the music or look at the artwork to inspire our movement.  Music is the artful thinking of sounds organized in rhythms, melodies, harmonies, texture, forms, and timbre. Similarly, art elements are visualized with color, form, design, and texture.

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Teaching music with traditional methods often start by focusing on the technical steps of instrumental playing and notation reading.  Interestingly, in our Orff-Schulwerk music class, we start with what children do best – move, play, say, sing. Through imitating, exploring, experimenting, creating, and improvising, the children enjoy learning music with a deeper understanding with music through play.  Adding movement, game, drama, the visual arts makes the musical learning experience be more creative and artful. The children chant and sing their favorite rhymes and children’s songs while they play the musical instruments with steady beats. Some of them may imitate the teacher’s playing or feel the inner beat and are able to present through playing the instruments.  Then they take ownership of musical understanding when they make the connection with the songs and visualize the musical elements on their artwork.

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More Learning through Orff Schulwerk Music Classroom

“Elemental music is never just music.  It’s bound up with movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of music in which one music participate, in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer.” – Carl Orff-

The Orff Schulwerk, this approach to learning, developed by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, builds musicianship through singing, playing instruments, speech, and movement.  Active music making is the core of this philosophy, supporting both the conceptual and affective development of children.  Active learners develop more thorough and better long-term understanding of the material and ideas involved. Children who regularly improvise and create their own dances and musical settings are uniquely prepared to solve problems in many other contexts.  

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In MY music classrooms, students begin with what they do instinctively: PLAY! –play with the rhythm, play with the music.  Imitation, experimentation, and personal expression occur naturally as students become confident, involved, socialized, life-long learners/musicians maybe and creative problem solvers.  Orff Schulwerk Approach contributes to development of the individual far beyond specific skills and understandings in the arts.  These skills and procedures have a wider application and value in several areas:

  • Intellectual: The critical-thinking and problem-solving tasks involved in Orff Schulwerk call upon both linear and intuitive intellectual capacities.  The carrying out of creative ideas calls upon organizational abilities as well as artistic knowledge and skill.
  • Social: Orff Schulwerk is a group model, requiring the cooperative interaction of everyone involved, including the instructor. It is important that artistic development occurs within a satisfying and supportive human environment.  Tolerance, helpfulness, patience, and other cooperative attitudes must be cultivated consciously.  The ensemble setting requires sensitivity to the total group and awareness of the role of each individual within it.  Problem solving, improvisation, and the group composing process provide opportunities for developing leadership.
  • Emotional: The artistic media involved—music and movement—provide the individual with avenues for non-verbal expression of emotions.  The exploration and improvisation activities can provide a focus for emotions, a means for release of tension and frustration, and a vehicle for the enhancement of self-esteem.
  • Aesthetic: As knowledge of and skills in music and movement grow, students will have opportunities to develop standards of what is considered “good” within the styles being explored.
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We apply the Orff’s philosophy of music education to MY because it supports the IB learner profile, attitudes and skills within our music programme.  You may find more about how the children learn through music and art with Doug Goodkin, an internationally recognized teacher of Orff Schulwerk and my teacher in USA and Austria, from his TEDTalk.  Enjoy the Show!

Learning on the Move

This morning, I have been watching the students playing together in the playground, one is spinning in a circle, creating a narrative about a princess as she twirls. The other group of students are jumping in and out, climbing up and down at the jungle gym as a guard at a castle in the story.  What seems like a simple story involves sequencing, character development, and empathy for the brave princess stuck in the tower.

This kind of experiential learning, in which children acquire knowledge by doing and via reflection on their experiences, is full of movement, creativity, and imagination.

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Movement allows children to connect concepts to action and to learn through trial and error.  Research has shown time and again that children need opportunities to move in class. Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it.  Ben Mardell, a professor of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the project director of the Pedagogy of Play initiative at Harvard’s Project Zero, observes that even when adults do incorporate play into learning, they often do so in a way that restricts free movement and agency. “The idea that there should be formal instruction makes it no longer play,” says Mardell. “In play the player is choosing to participate, choosing a goal, and directing and formulating the rules. When there is an adult telling the kids, ‘This is what we are supposed to do,’ many of the important developmental benefits of play get lost.”

Creativity is one of the most essential tools for a child to develop. However, the education specialist Sir Ken Robinson says that our current systems of early education are killing creativity. We often punish kids for making mistakes and discourage them from acting or being different. Current education emphasizes imitation, memorization, fixed rules, and pre-established formulas and beliefs about the way the world should work. Children need to learn to follow directions, to know how to replicate what they see and hear, and to be able to participate in coordinated group activities, but those practices do little to encourage creativity.

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Unfortunately, children restricted to those frameworks alone will have a much more challenging time coming up with new ideas, mastering self-expression or finding innovative solutions to problems on their own.  The good news is that we can help turn this around through music, especially by integrating music back into the education. In addition to stimulating creativity, music can help contribute to the development of a more creative mind.

Playing music – especially improvisation, and creating music – musical composition, are highly engaging processes that activate multiple areas of the brain and help us to develop greater creative capacity.

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Simply listening to music can help relax us, and relaxation is key to creativity. Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist and author of the bestselling book Imagine, says that moments of insight, or creative moments, usually correspond to a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from the brain’s right hemisphere. And that is stimulated by relaxation. Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights?” he writes. “When our minds are at ease, when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain, we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward.”  And Lehrer agrees that one of the oldest and most widely available resources to help the mind relax is music. Music can alter the state of our brainwaves, as well as trigger neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that alter our mood and reward us for creative breakthroughs.

Music can also help stimulate our imagination, one of the key components of the creative process. Just now, you may listen to a song that you and your child which shift your mood, create images in your mind, impact your limbic brain and open you up to new ideas.  Have a nice musical day!

Storytelling is Not Reading

These kinds of music stories follow the important elements of teaching music with the Orff-Schulwerk Approach.
During our recent Book Week at Magic Years, in music class, we all enjoyed listening the stories and songs, acting with the role-play, playing the percussion instruments for sound effects to accompany the stories, dancing with the music and also sharing laughs and good time together. This make me realizes that telling a story to children can be so mesmerizing and very different from reading story out loud to a group. Add songs, chants, rhymes, dances, or musical instruments to a storytelling scene and the story experience is even more enriched!

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The Orff-Schulwerk Approach

At Magic Years International School we learn about music through the Orff-Schulwerk Approach, a child-centred, developmental approach which encourages children to experience music at their own level of understanding. Imitation, experimentation, and personal expression occur naturally as children become confident, life-long musicians and creative problem solvers.

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