Aural skills development in the music lessons at ISD

Contribution by Ms Ilein BermudezISD primary music teacher

Break time is about to finish. It is almost time to go back to the classroom. Once kids line up, they frequently clap back to the teacher on duty to calm down and stay quiet before going back to their respective classrooms. What if the music teacher is on duty? Then, the clapping session turns into an opportunity to invest in developing their aural skills by playing a fun clapping game… don’t clap this one back! Throughout the clapping session, all kids stay quiet and engaged, looking for that moment when the teacher claps… don’t clap this-one back… ta ta ta-di ta. 

Developing our students’ aural skills through various activities is a priority in the music lesson at ISD. Moreover, research suggests that ‘rich auditory experiences’ and acquiring ‘increasingly discriminatory sensitivity to sound’ are essential and relevant not only for music making but for reading and language in general (Hansen & Milligan, 2012). Therefore, this active listening which develops in children the ability to differentiate sounds and connect them to a wider meaning is an essential component of the music lesson at ISD.      

How do we create that awareness of sound and its nuances in the lesson? This can be done in several different ways. For example, in figure 1, a graphic score helps children follow the Russian dance by Tchaikovsky (Nutcracker Suite) offering them the possibility to recognize patterns in music and follow them through the different shapes on the score. As seen in figure 2 and 3, by engaging in a guided drawing session while listening to the Aquarium by Saint-Saëns or Mars by Gustav Holst, children translate sounds into their own creation on paper. Finally, after practicing different basic rhythms in the lesson, some groups can already write down the rhythm that is clapped to them as seen in figure 4 (rhythmic notation). Continuity has been key in achieving a successful result since some of our students worked on developing these skills with our previous music teachers, Ms. Michelle and Ms. Federica.  

All in all, by means of games, children are encouraged to engage in active listening and develop these essential aural skills for life. For most of them, playing games is still the most important part of the day, so no music lesson ends without playing pass the beat around the room, category 64 or… don’t clap this one back!