What shall we do with Year 12 after their exams?

Those of you who teach 6th form might be wondering what you will do with your Year 12s when they return shortly after half term. There are always discussions on social media with a variety of suggestions including composition and performance workshops (great!), or what I consider to be the most unimaginative option: “getting on with the course/set works.” It’s this final response which always makes me a little sad. We have about 4 precious weeks with this group (of whom some will not continue to A2 anyway), so why not embark on activities which allow them (and you!) to step away from the constraints of an exam specification and develop their musicianship in other ways. For me, the set works or areas of study can certainly wait (although with some, the wider listening could be a useful starting point), as can most of the other components. This post (and the next – to come some time later this week!) contains some ideas which might be of interest to you and your students.

This idea originates from Gavin Plumley (writer and broadcaster) and Mr Alastair Tighe, former director of Music of Eltham College and now deputy head at Bedford School. Like most music teachers, a few years ago, he was in a quandary about the final half term with Year 12. He came up with the title “The six pieces of music which changed the world.” We promptly took on this idea too and came up with a task for our AS class (8 students). The basic aim is for the class to present a substantial dossier on the works (which we had selected in advance), dividing the sections up into historical context, analysis etc. Apart from the resources and guidance, the onus is on the group to organise themselves and how they will go about producing the dossier. As well as a musical challenge, this is aimed to develop students’ independent learning, organisation, and time management.

Here is a note with all the resources we provided the students, along with links to Spotify playlists we created for them, and our original blog post: https://www.evernote.com/l/AFSe8SJHOaxInqykKsF-KgQTUWtlAQ9OKjI

For one particular cohort, we organised for the final dossier to be sent to a musicologist (my good friend Gavin Plumley), and for him to come and discuss their findings with him. It was an exhilarating end of the project for them, and they found themselves having to justify what they had written, why they had written it, and offering their responses to the music selected. It was a fantastic opportunity for the students to dip their toes into musicology and gave those thinking about it an insight into what a music degree at university could look like. Of course it depends on the ability of the class and their interests, but I am sure that this task can be adapted and tailored to suit the strengths of the class.

If you are stuck for what to do this half term, then I hope this gets you thinking!

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