“I was under the impression that we were doing all sorts of very creative things in my classroom.  Turns out it was mostly me doing the creating.” 

I’ve just returned home from teaching a two-week “Level One” course.  This is the first course in a three-course summer series that introduces the Orff-Schulwerk process to music teachers.  It is an exhausting and challenging time for everyone.  The experienced music teachers taking the course spend long hours each day singing, dancing, creating, playing xylophones and recorders, discussing, reflecting, composing.  For most, it is an experience of pushing beyond their comfort zone, and of expressing their musicianship in new ways.

I found some common themes in the reflection papers they wrote at the end of the course.  One idea mentioned over and over was that they now were inspired to “get kids beyond imitation and give them the opportunity to create.”  This to me is the core of the Orff-Schulwerk and the main reason I am still playing around with this process after so many years.

What I love about teaching music is not quite knowing where we are going with the materials.  I have a broad plan in place when I begin a project, but am alert to seeing where the energy is going.  It might be that the children are really excited about creating percussion accompaniments.  Another class might be motivated to be more physical, and will want to try out movement ideas.  Excitement is generated when the children are given choices, and when their decisions become part of the project.  The artistry of the teacher is in knowing how much to provide for the children and how much to let them improvise, arrange and compose.  Giving them too much structure boxes them in.  Giving them too little structure leads to chaos.  It can be a messy, but joyful process when we get it just right.  Often it’s useful to look for a balance between form and materials.  If the children are creating the form, then it can work best to provide the materials or create them with the whole class.  If the children are creating the materials, then it usually is a good idea to provide them with a clear form.

Some days of course, we simply gather around the piano and learn a new song.  But certainly in every class there can be opportunities to improvise and to create.  And yes, this is creativity involving not just the teacher, but the students as well.


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5 Responses

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  1. Judith A. Thomas

    Very important distinction in using Orff Schulwerk — hardly ever talked about head-on. You stated it clearly and the need for this information “out there” is volcanic. Thanks, Liz. Judith Thomas

  2. Pamela

    Another group of lucky Level 1s with Liz. It changed everything about my teaching, both the learning, and your style, and the biggest and first difference the next fall was my ability to let go. I could have the same 2 grades all day- but 6 classes in a row looked different, and yet, in low-performing schools where everyone was on their guard, I could name multiple standards being covered in every class. Just not the same day, on the same pace, or in the same amounts. Each to what they needed at the time. I swear, at the end of the day, I was less tired. Those classes that loved movement also meant sometimes I ended up playing more for my students, too, which meant more improvisation based on what THEY were doing. No shortage of inspiration with 30 kids.

  3. Liz

    Judith – I love the word “volcanic.” Hmm… a lava flow of good news…!

    Pamela – 6 classes in a row, and less tired. I know what you mean.

  4. I love your ideas! I am always looking for more ways to explore creativity with my students. Thank-you for your great ideas! I love your blog so much that I have nominated you for an award! Check out the details at my blog!
    Officially a follower,

  5. Liz

    Nice to hear from you Stephanie. I visited your blog Stay Tuned! and especially enjoyed your “Outcome Silhouettes.” So many great ideas!

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