MUSIC AND LITERACY PROJECT
In 2017, NECOM initiated an inspiring project linking music and learning to play ukulele with the development of literacy skills in the primary classrooms of rural schools in the New England region. With generous funding from the Foundation of Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR). The project met with great support from Ashford Central School, Bald Blair PS, Ben Lomond PS, Black Mountain PS, Chandler PS, Drummond Memorial PS, Ebor PS, Tingha PS and Walcha Central School.
The project includes two professional learning workshop days that focus on the following areas:
- to develop the teacher’s ukulele skills and knowledge including work on playing scales;
- an in-depth session on the development of the literacy strategy as part of the classroom approach;
- working through the next set of eight lessons, and
- the development of a personal repertoire: playing for fun!
The day started with a sharing session with stories from the music classrooms. Despite interruptions to the implementation because of various school events and other unforeseen circumstances, the project is proceeding with enthusiasm from both teachers and students. Teachers told stories from their own classrooms which included success stories, how they organised their classroom and storage, and how they solved the tricky issues that arose. They all commented on the effectiveness of the literacy strategy and this was also immediately noticeable when I visited schools. The students were very proud of their new vocabulary development and displayed it at every opportunity. The teachers also reported being very happy about the way the project is going in their schools and their own enjoyment of the project and their growing music skills.
After morning tea, we worked on developing further skills in vocabulary development, working through many literature examples and some geography texts before then translating this into the music classroom context. At this point, the teachers are using the strategy at a specific part of the lesson. However, the eventual aim is to incorporate the literacy strategy in a natural way throughout the lesson. Some teachers reported that they are also now successfully incorporating this approach into other areas of their teaching.
After lunch, we worked our way through the next set of eight lessons with the teachers making practical suggestions and adjustments.
The final session included learning to play scales on the ukulele and then some repertoire especially selected for the teachers to play and enjoy. A quick visit and performance by The Wild Women of Armidale provided some inspiration for the teachers to develop their skills.
Michael Simpson from Ashford Central School spoke of the experience so far:
What is ahead? Apart from working on the next series of lessons, the next phase will include developing strategies for schools to work together across the distances that separate them. Some schools will physically get together while others will work with available technology to share lessons and performances.
This project is currently a pilot study. It also provides 15 hours of accredited Professional Learning for teachers in schools. With feedback, revisions and refinement of the materials later in the year, the project will then become available to other schools in the future.
NECOM thanks the Foundation of Rural and Regional Renewal for its generous support of this project.