Who is Australia’s most erudite lyricist?
And how can you embed the General Capabilities in secondary music lessons?
Aussie Song Lyric Readability
In answer to the first (but no spoliers here, let me tell you) you’ll need to read all the way to the bottom of How complex are Aussie song lyrics? Analysis shows our wordiest songwriters to find out. The article looks at readability scores, length and the difference between being able to read the words and having the life experiences necessary to understand them. Along the way there’s fine (YouTube linked) examples of our best talent, from Paul Kelly and ‘Dumb Things’ through to Kasey Chambers and ‘Nothing at All’.
Embedding General Capabilities
Now let’s use the con concept of assigning readability scores to song lyrics as a way of embedding general capabilities into music lessons:
Start with the article. It will make a fine primer and Australian-artist orientation for students before delving into lyrical analysis.
Now have students collect lyrics from their favourite artistes and paste them (the lyrics, not the artists) into Word.
- Click the File tab, and then click Options.
- Click Proofing.
- Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
- Select Show readability statistics.
Word will also give a word count for the text. Record the results and organise them in Excel. Their efforts might look a little like this, from The Dumbest Hits of the Last Decade:
Questions to ask. Which artist pitches (hah!) their lyrics at the lowest reading age? Which at the highest? Who has the longest word count? Shortest? What’s the average readability? Who uses the longest words? Shortest? What correlations can be found across genres? What other generalisations can be made?
So what General Capabilities have been covered? You can certainly tick off:
- Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing
- Text knowledge
- Grammar knowledge
- Word Knowledge
- Investigating with ICT
- Communicating with ICT
- Managing and operating ICT
- Estimating and calculating with whole numbers
- Using fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and rates
- Interpreting statistical information
Critical & Creative Thinking
- Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
- Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
- Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
Matthew Hindson, Composer. Deputy Dean at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Curator, Australian Music Program has a number of useful free music resources on his blog.
Free Manuscript Paper: Five different styles including a compact 18 stave version.
Free Music Fonts: There are 14 different fonts including a recorder fingering font, a guitar strings font, a sax fingering font and a tempo indications font. My two favourites are the Rhythms and StaffClefPitchesEasy fonts.
I needed a quick way to record my use of the general Capabilities in my my programs. I tried a few different configurations, but this one seems to work well.
There’s a title section at the top for unit title, year level and date. The capabilities are in two sections: ‘Supporting students to become successful learners’ and ‘Developing ways of being, behaving and learning to live with others’. There’s a checklist of elements for each capability with a small section for notes. I use this to jot down what I’m specifically doing in that unit to teach / assess the element.
Since using the checklist, I’m discovering that I’m actually teaching to the capabilities more than I thought. The element descriptions are a handy reminder of the scope of each capability too.
Two versions are available for download: a Word file that you can edit and a pdf version.
AC General Capabilities Template (pdf)
AC General Capabilities Template (docx)
My Year 6 music class experimented with serialism and tone-rows but using a diatonic scale (A B C D E F G) rather than a chromatic one (ie with all the semitones).
I used the phrase ‘Rainbow Tone Row’ to link in with out use of BoomWhackers.
Although this does somewhat negate serialsims goal of removing the influence of key from compositions, it allowed for easier composition and the use of our decidedly diatonic glockenspiels and BoomWhackers.
I demonstrated the technique on the board and then had students perform. The methods on the sheet (including writing the tune a third higher) are not authentically serialistic but the aim was to provide the students with readily accessible composing techniques. After students had tried their hand at writing and performing their (own diatonic) tone rows, we chose one student’s piece to perform using the performance grid. The class divided into four groups, with each group ‘soloing’ and performing with others.
A quick search of YouTube will turn up many videos on serialism.
Advanced students may like to try composing the chromatic scale. There are lots of resources around but mostly aimed at secondary students. This 12 tone serialsim worksheet at TES.com might be useful.
Australian Curriculum links
- Explore dynamics and expression, using aural skills to identify and perform rhythm and pitch patterns (ACAMUM088)
- Develop technical and expressive skills in singing and playing instruments with understanding of rhythm, pitch and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the community (ACAMUM089)
- Rehearse and perform music including music they have composed by improvising, sourcing and arranging ideas and making decisions to engage an audience (ACAMUM090)
© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2010 to present, unless otherwise indicated. This material was downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website (Website) (accessed [7/5/2017]) and was modified. The material is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Version updates are tracked on the Curriculum version history page of the Australian Curriculum website.
ACARA does not endorse any product that uses the Australian Curriculum or make any representations as to the quality of such products. Any product that uses material published on this website should not be taken to be affiliated with ACARA or have the sponsorship or approval of ACARA. It is up to each person to make their own assessment of the product, taking into account matters including, but not limited to, the version number and the degree to which the materials align with the content descriptions (where relevant). Where there is a claim of alignment, it is important to check that the materials align with the content descriptions (endorsed by all education Ministers), not the elaborations (examples provided by ACARA).
Yay! Blake Education’s new ‘Australian Readers’ Theatre’ series has arrived from the printers! It’s been great fun working as series consultant with editor Vanessa Barker and publisher Lynn Dickinson and to have six plays included alongside those of the talented Sandie Eldridge, Catherine Bauer and Elizabeth Klein. It’s a great series (all photo-copiable) with lots of Australian humour and drama. No primary school should be without a copy!
From the Blake website:
“A Reader’s Theatre performance is a dramatic reading without the need for stage actions, or elaborate sets and costumes. It provides teachers with an opportunity to stage a play without the challenges that come with designing and building sets and creating costumes.
Each book in this series contains 10 photocopiable Reader’s Theatre plays written by Australian authors covering a wide variety of genres. Each play has ACARA curriculum links and Teacher’s Notes with information about:
- the script’s plot, characters and setting
- introducing the play – main topic, characters, ideas
- vocabulary discussion and list of tricky words
- interpreting the story
- rehearsal and stage movement
- performance and staging ideas
- post-play review
Photocopiable assessment checklists for pre-performance, peer evaluation and oral performance assessments are included, as well as two worksheets for each play.”
Book Cover – Australian Readers Theatre Lower Primary
Australian Readers’ Theatre – Lower Primary
Book Cover – Australian Readers Theatre Middle Primary
Australian Readers’ Theatre – Middle Primary
Book Cover – Australian Readers Theatre Upper Primary
Australian Readers’ Theatre – Upper Primary
A big shout out to Jill McTeigue and the students of Red Beach School. Loved your photos from Compass Rose! Your sets and costumes look gorgeous and I hope you had a great time putting it on!
One lovely touch; Red Beach borrowed our original prop ‘Compass’ (to the right in the featured photograph) and it appeared in their school’s production. What a wonderful sharing across the ocean!
This year’s theme for World Radio Day was ‘Radio In Time of Emergency‘.
I developed this drama unit for Year 5 & 6 around that theme with a focus on improvised dialogue, characterisation and structure.
The lesson sequence is based on the 5Es teaching model, familiar to many teachers from working with the Primary Connections science modules. I find the structure admirably suited to drama units with its Engage / Explore / Explain / Elaborate / Evaluate cycle.
The full unit plan with Australian Curriculum outcomes and a pdf of Emeregency Scenario cards can be downloaded below.
- Develops shared norms
- Determines readiness for learning
- Establishes learning goals
- Emergency radio samples: Hindenberg, Nepal, aircraft landing.
- Emergency / disaster photos. Improvise a radio broadcast as the different scenes appear.
- Mime using different radios – hand-held, walkie talkies etc.
- Prompts inquiry
- Structures inquiry
- Maintains session momentum
- Emergency situation cards: short scenarios of amusing emergencies.
- In groups, leader improvises the scene as the rest of group mimes the action.
- Swap: group mimes as a ‘reporter’ improvises the narration of the action.
- Presents new content
- Develops language and literacy
- Strengthens connections
- World Radio Day: discuss the themes.
- Share the World Radio Day UN video.
- In groups, respond to the themes – create a short scene demonstrating each. Emphasis on serious responses.
- Hot-seating: journalist, refugee, radio broadcaster.
Elaborate Facilitates substantive conversation
- Cultivates higher order thinking
- Groups select a scenario for broadcast eg. Nepal earthquake, bushfire, refugee, bomb threat, flooding.
- Students develop a script. Characters include broadcaster (DJ), reporter, ‘involved civilian’.
- Recording of script, editing with sound effects, music, voiceovers.
- Assesses performance against standards
- Facilitates student self assessment
- ‘Braodcast’ of radio programmes.
It’s the summer term here in Australia, which means students have to wear hats during playtime at school.
The SunSmart site came up while researching ideas for ‘No Hat/ No Play’ signs for our schoolyard.
After a quick registration, I completed the online teacher training. It’s pretty basic – quizzes, animations, text to read – but provides a good reminder of why we need policies in schools around shade, UV exposure, sunscreen and skin cancer.
You receive a nice certificate at the end and your choice of resources, including picture books, lesson plans and posters.
Highly recommended for all educators (and students and parents!)
“Music Mind Games” (Michiko Yurko, Warner Bros Publications) is an outstanding resource for any music educator, especially so if you’re planning on teaching any aspect of music theory.
With its emphasis on cooperative learning, hands-on games and ‘joyful learning’ the simple, focused and fun games can be used to teach everything from the basic music alphabet through to advanced triad building and interval recognition.
A simple resource mentioned is the alphabet note pack. These are typically small square cards printed with the letters A-G and available in a variety of colours. Michiko utilises them for a variety of games, including ‘Snake’ where students simply place them in order from A to G to learn the musical alphabet. I’m using them for recorder lessons, sight-reading and composition activities.
The attached resource is a printable pdf of cards. Each A4 sheet has six note squares. The 100mm cards are big enough for small hands to manipulate and make efficient use of space on the page when printing. Note that the seven letter alphabets “wrap around” to the following sheet. Printing off the seven pages will give you six complete musical alphabets.
Music Alphabet Cards
Printing hint: Print out at 100%. You’ll lose a little of the cutting lines on the left, top and bottom margins but the cards will only require four cuts to create your cards.
Of course, if you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase them from the Music Mind Games website.
I’ve been using the Lego Movie Maker app with our students for a while now.
The app is free (yipee!) and although it’s a bit clunky in places it’s proven a real hit with children from ages 6-14.
If you do any stop motion animation on the iPad or iPhone give it a go. And feel free to download the manual I put together for our school.
Lego Moviemaker Manual