TRAFALGAR Primary School has started teaching music classes made up of Year 7 and 8 students from Trafalgar High School in an attempt to offer a different approach to music lessons.
Above: Trafalgar High School Year 7/8 music elective students with Trafalgar Primary band Cootie Shot.
This article was first published in the 12 September 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Trafalgar Primary music teacher Ben Smith’s classroom is different to what most students see. On one wall is painted the sheet music for Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, while floor space is permanently occupied by instruments.
“The goal of getting involved with the Year 7s and 8s is to try to compliment the music program at the high school,” he told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“Teachers do things differently, this is how I do things.
“It’s student-centred, it’s wholly on-instruments – bands, individuals and duos, whatever – but it’s all about students playing what they like with people they like on instruments they like.
“That, to me, is the whole point of music.
Mr Smith has been running primary classes at a high school level, and is hoping to offer more for the secondary students coming to him for lessons.
The collaboration with Trafalgar High is in its early stages, but the response so far has been positive.
“We’re running a 10-week trial program as an elective, to try to provide an extra opportunity for some talented kids,” he said.
“We have a very successful music program here, world-renowned, and we have people coming to us for advice. Secondary and primary.
“This approach was developed in the United Kingdom because of a lack of kids wanting to do music at school, and yet it was one of the most popular activities outside of school.
“And so they said ‘well, what makes kids want to do it?’ And it was playing music with their friends, playing instruments they want to play, playing music they want to play.
“Ninety-five per cent of the kids have no interest in doing a tertiary course and becoming musicians in that way. Most of them just want to play music and then through bands, if they want to do it they do it.
“The focus of this is non-formal teaching and informal learning in the formal setting of a classroom.
“Kids love it. At the primary level for many years now we have kids bashing down the doors at recess and lunchtime to come and play.
“We’ve got heaps and heaps of bands happening, both in classes and at recess and lunch.
“We’ve gone and competed in Battle of the Bands successfully against high school kids and won.
This year we took two primary bands and one secondary band down.
Mr Smith said students moving to the high school from the primary school continuing private tuition with primary school teachers made him approach the high school for something more formal.
“I was trying to formalise that a bit and put something to the high school,” he said.
“On a week the high school sends 17-18 Year 7s and 8s that come in for three hours on a Friday.
“The high school’s happy, the kids are happy, it’s self-paced so the kids will work on what they’re going to work on, and I just kind of facilitate and help them.”
Mr Smith said the highlights for him included pushing some bands he knew in primary school to go further.
“I’m getting to work with some students who I have worked with in the past,” he said.
“It’s good to push them and challenge them to go further.
“The highlights, I suppose, are seeing groups of kids take on a song in an hour and a half and actually getting it done.
“And kids working in a group having a go at some music they wouldn’t usually play, just because someone suggested ‘hey, let’s do this,’ is great.
“It’s that attitude of having a go at something, whether it’s in their comfort zone or not, that is an important part of what I do here.”
“They’re straight over, nine in the morning they’re at the door and bang, ready to get started.
“It’s kind of fun, it’s different, working with an older age group as well.
Mr Smith started work at the primary school in 2004. In that time he has developed a whole-school music program.
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