Top Ten Tips for a Successful Music INSET session


To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different aspects of music education each month during 2018! This month’s Top Ten looks at running successful music INSET sessions, and is written by Dr Elizabeth Stafford.

  1. Remember that teachers are professionals. Maybe you’re the music expert in the room, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is completely stupid! Don’t treat teachers like pupils, but engage with them as teaching and learning experts. Explain why you’re doing each activity, and by all means get them to model the likely pupil outcomes, but don’t spend all session making them pretend to be 6 year olds, or they may start behaving like them…
  2. Personalise the Learning. You do this all day everyday with pupils, right? Well there is a whole bunch of research evidence to suggest that adults, as well as children, learn more, and are more motivated, when the learning is personalised. Don’t make your teachers sit through an hour-long session on rhythmic circle games if what they really want to know is how to lead singing effectively. Find out the teachers’ wish-list in advance and give them what they need.
  3. Acknowledge the fear. Music can be scary for some teachers, and singing can be downright terrifying! Create a safe space for your teachers in which it’s ok to make mistakes, and explain that almost everyone feels the same level of fear as they do! Teachers are so used to having to be perfect at everything all the time (thanks for that, Ofsted!) that it should be a welcome relief to spend an hour getting things wrong without judgment!
  4. Work on teacher skills first, pupil skills second. Your teachers may have had no music training whatsoever, so starting with how to teach music may not be the best option. Instead find out what level of musical skills each teacher has and then make sure you explain all the musical concepts you’ll be covering, in really basic terms, before you dive into how to teach them.
  5. There must be cake. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. THERE MUST BE CAKE. Not only is it a delicious and motivating mid-session treat, but you can also use your cake as a simile for how the interrelated dimensions of music work together to create a successful piece of music, like the ingredients in a cake. (Although if your baking is anything like mine then best pop to M&S for a Colin the Caterpillar or you’ll totally undermine your clever metaphor…)
  6. Let them use their phones. Writing notes only gets you so far in a practical subject such as music. Audio or video-recording the activities is a much more efficient and practical way for the teachers to capture their learning, and gives them something concrete to refer to next week when they’re trying to remember ‘how that song goes…’
  7. Your session should be practical but RELEVANT. It’s no good teaching an hour’s worth of games, songs and activities if you don’t relate them to the national curriculum, and explain exactly how they can be used in the classroom. If you don’t give teachers detailed instructions for how they can use the activities, they won’t use them. Epic Learning Objective fail!
  8. Tailor the session to the available resources. There’s no point pulling out all your party pieces if they involve instruments, software or equipment that the school doesn’t have. Find out in advance what resources are available at the school and base your session around those. If you think they’re under par then by all means throw in a few titbits about what could be achieved if you had a full class set of glockenspiels, Logic Pro in the computer suite, or an authentic Balinese Gamelan….!
  9. Leave time for questions, reflection and planning. This might be the teachers’ only opportunity to think about music this week/month/term/year. Make sure you allow time for them to ask questions and reflect on how they can implement the ideas you’ve shared with them in their own classrooms, including coming up with a plan to do so. If they leave the room with a SMART goal for revitalising their music teaching then, my friend, you are winning at life!
  10. Music is meant to be fun! Even if you ignore all the other top tips*, at least make your sessions enjoyable for the teachers. This will motivate them to want to go and ‘do some music’ with their class. And who knows? You might plant the seed that inspires one of those teachers to become a musical expert!

*Please don’t, they took ages to write!

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