Reflections on planning

Post thirty-eight in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is the first week responding to the tasks in chapter six in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School. This is week eight of the collaborative blogging. 

Mike Morgan @MikeMMusicED

Formal Knowledge: The part where pupils are asked to play one note from the chord is working on this knowledge. Pupils need to know how to play their instrument so will need to have this knowledge to help them. The linking passing notes is also something which will develop this type of knowledge as they learn harmony.

Informal knowledge: The aspects of the lesson where pupils are asked to add their own ideas. This could be from the improvisation and composing their own musical ideas where they can bring their own influences.

Intuitive Knowledge: This is one of the aspects that is being developed extensively in this kind of task. The improvisation where pupils are thinking about what is musically right in a style. I feel this type of knowledge is difficult to teach with pupils and tends to come through practice and listening. This is evident when trying to get pupils play or record in time to a click track.

Supervisory Knowledge: This knowledge is being developed through use of discussions and evaluations of music. Looking back on what has worked intuitively and making sense of this to apply in another context

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser


  • An effective overview should come with the caveat that you’re prepared to change course should there be a need
  • If the overview isn’t engaging to all right from the outset, and is put forward as a fait accompli with no wriggle room, then teaching and learning won’t be effective, nor meet the needs of all concerned

Lesson Focus

  • I always approach the lesson focus from a smorgasbord perspective. I believe it’s important to have a wide selection of activities situated within the central focus, thus allowing for the course of the lesson to change should there be a need, all while remaining within the central focus. For example – “We will all do these, while some of you might also do these” etc

Prior Learning

  • When referring to prior learning within a plan, I believe it is of benefit to mention certain pupils individually. This helps to remind and inform the differentiation that will invariably be needed in the planning that takes place further within the overall plan
  • It is important to remember that this vital information should inform, guide, and inspire your planning and teaching, not limit it. It is what they have done, not all they can do

Learning Outcomes

  • I believe the lesson outcomes should mirror the lesson focus, and therefore what I have written for that can be applied here. I also believe that language, both written and communicated is key
  • If composed and communicated ineffectively, learning outcomes can hinder more than they enhance. Before they are finalised, you should read each one and ask yourself – “What’s the point?”

Musical Tasks and Activities

  • Music, music, music. This should be the central focus of any task or activity. Again, ask yourself – “What’s the point?” If the answer isn’t a musical one, then redesign or move on

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  • This is where the real understanding of prior learning that a teacher has comes to the fore, or not.
  • If the teaching strategies employed don’t work, it is usually a clear indication that the teacher hasn’t taken the prior learning of each and every pupil into account


  • Don’t assess for assessments sake
  • Involve them in the process
  • Again, ask yourself – “What’s the point?” If the answer isn’t pupil-focused, then you need to be steadfast in your resolve not to engage in it


  • Don’t ignore this vitally important component of teaching and learning
  • Always remember that evaluating and evaluation come in many different forms, and you need to find the one that works best for you and your pupils

David House @House_dg

Overview – keeping in mind the place of a lesson within a large plan of learning, possible reference at start and end of lesson.

Lesson focus – always crucial to establish “this is what we are about today”, and reiterate Prior learning – take every opportunity to link work back to previous lessons, or known understanding of individuals Learning

Outcomes – these, I find, sometimes are best reinforced in the future and not stated explicitly in the lesson itself: this can especially be the case when learning in a lesson takes a twist which emerged from the situation

Musical tasks and activities – these are to be relevant to the group, accessible and achievable by all, engaging and clearly linked to the lesson focus Teaching and learning strategies – language, questioning, differentiation, resources were all mentioned in the diagram: to this intuition and relationship with the class are vital, as is the ability to reflect on the spot and reinvent an activity or redirect to another

Assessment – “evidence of learning” is not really what assessment is in my opinion, rather an ongoing process to facilitate learning – in the music classroom this is a constant process where the teacher notices work in progress, responds to it, offers or models ways to improve and enables that to happen.

Evaluation – useful for the teacher after every lesson, even if only on the way to grab a coffee, and useful for the student voice periodically – perhaps after a sequence of lessons on a given topic

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

Overview: What you are doing in the scheme of work which leads into lesson focus, what are you doing in the lesson.

Prior Learning: This is quite a tricky one as even though things may have been covered previously, some way needs to be found to judge whether pupils have understood their previous learning. If not, is there any point in going on. This can be done by starters or plenary activities that can explore what pupils already know and recap prior learning from previous lessons so that teachers can then address any misconceptions.

Learning Outcomes: What you want to the pupils to have musically achieved by the end of the lesson. I tend to have a performing and or composing outcome, a listening and describing outcome and a musical knowledge outcome.

Musical Tasks and activities: Pretty self explanatory. Activities need to enable all pupils to develop musically so open ended tasks that allow a Grade 8 pupil as well as a beginner musician to move forward musically. They also need to engage the learner. Questioning, targeted musical language, teacher and student modelling are all ways in which we can help learning to take place in the classroom. Assessment. This is where things become a bit more contentious. Formative feedback is the most effective type in the music classroom and verbal feedback is the king/queen of this. I once worked in a school where we had to evidence verbal feedback by getting the students to write it down. I would say “try changing the chord by moving one note at a time” and maybe demonstrate. 20 seconds. Pupil would then have a go and be happy experimenting. They then had to take 5 minutes to write down in their book that ‘MR McIntosh told me to do this so I did it and it worked’. Thankfully those days have now passed. Verbal feedback is the key to helping pupils move forward and it works best in the form of questions to get them to think for themselves about how to do things. Summative feedback will be used at the end when their ‘completed’ work is marked. I rarely give them points on how to improve the specific skills learnt in a scheme eg playing the Blues bass line more smoothly, as we would probably not revisit the Blues in the same form during KS3. The feedback to improve will look at the key musicianship principles we are developing over their school career and how to improve an aspect of them. At the end of each scheme, pupils complete an anonymous student voice activity online so that I can see how they have received the scheme and what improvements can be made.

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

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