Music in Transition


The continued success of Music and Me in various local authorities highlighted the usefulness of music as a tool for cross-curricular learning and the development of pre-school skills. The feedback from teachers using the resource, through formal evaluation questionnaires as well as informal consultations, suggested there was a case for expanding the programme into the early primary years. Indeed many commented that the play-based approach of Music and Me could provide ideal support material and continuity of learning for the transition period from Nursery into Primary 1.

In April 2012, West Lothian Arts Services/ YMI commissioned Music in Transition – a project to develop such a resource. Eight schools took part in the first phase of the project.

After preliminary focus group meetings with staff, I spent Summer Term 2012 working with pre-school pupils in the eight nursery departments, devising games, songs, exercises and activities. After the Summer break, I then returned to the schools to work with the same class groups, now in their first term of Primary 1. This afforded the opportunity to experience the transition with the children, understand their issues and concerns, and create material that was appropriate to this key stage in their development. Ideas soon emerged for projects that could begin in the last term of Nursery and continue in Primary 1 – literally spanning the transition period.

Close collaboration with staff was key to the success of the project throughout.

The material generated during this R & D period were then written up into a resource pack, and original music was recorded for an accompanying CD.

Phase 2 of the project took place between January and July 2014 and constituted the roll out of the new Music in Transition resource pack to 20 West Lothian Schools. The new material was introduced to staff in a CPD session, and each participating school received 2 half day visits, during which I worked with nursery and primary 1 children, allowing teachers to participate in the activities and observe the work in action with their own pupils.

The Resource

MIThiresCOVERMusic in Transition is a resource for both Nursery and Primary 1 teachers that uses music as a vehicle for cross-curricular learning and to support the transition from Nursery to Primary School.

The aim is to develop the child’s innate sense of musicality – rhythm, pitch awareness, sequencing, fine listening skills, and emotional response to music – through a selection of games, exercises, activities and “sound stories”.

As well as these essential pre-reading skills, the focus on group music making is designed to enhance skills in the following areas:

  • Concentration
  • Sharing
  • Turn-taking
  • Carrying out instructions
  • Leading and following
  • Co-operation and collaboration
  • Self – expression

As well as fulfilling the Curriculum for Excellence learning outcomes for expressive arts, the programme also contributes to literacy, numeracy and Health and Well-being across the curriculum.

The explicitly musical elements are:

Active listening games: comparing sounds in the environment; sounds of musical instruments; discriminating musical parameters such as volume, pitch, tempo and rhyming words.

Keeping the beat games

Call and response: clapping rhythms; repeating rhythmic phrases on instruments.

Singing echo songs and rhyming songs

Musical movement: moving/dancing to a variety of musical styles

Playing music together: simple group music making exploring starting and stopping together; loud and quiet playing; fast and slow playing; selecting appropriate instruments and playing with sensitivity to a narrative story (underscoring). Creating music and sound effects appropriate to various “sound stories”. Exploring the different emotions that can be expressed through music.

Making sound pictures: creating simple graphic scores to cue the playing of music to describe, for example, the journey of a boat through a storm at sea.

Imaginary Journeys: Underscoring a series of imaginary journeys, eg a train ride to Africa; a bus trip to the beach: a rocket to the moon.

Making instruments: making a series of shakers that play at different volumes; making a kazoo.

Using recorded music in the classroom: encouraging the use of music to signal different times of the school day, eg tidy-up time; home time; quiet time, as well as to change the mood of the classroom environment.

“Quiet Time” track from the Music in Transition CD

For more information, please contact me by email via the Contact page.


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