Teaching Methods

For one–to–one tuition, and whenever the scheme of work is largely my own design, such as in small and large group tuition, since formal lesson plan structure is typically not the norm, lessons adhere to a flexible learning agenda that is developed in part with the student/group, to reflect their needs and goals.  If and when these change, the student/group is free to reorient the learning plan.  To help students (and me) keep to the plan, I maintain a weekly record of each student’s/group’s practice agenda and achievement history.  This may also include notes on special needs and particular teaching and learning strategies relevant to the student/individuals that would differentiate the advice and curriculum I present for learning.

My advice and guidance in this bespoke context consists roughly of two areas of study: a) songs/tunes, music to be performed, which largely are chosen to reflect the student’s / group’s interests, and b) practical skills, specifically, the details of how and what to practise, including in the context of performed music, improvising, which thus overlaps the two study areas.  To develop practical skills, students are given explicit musical structures for learning and rehearsing elements of music (centrally melody and chords) and when necessary, technical skill, such as related to posture and body use.  Theory concepts are presented on a need–to–know basis.

The materials for practising are classic prototype chunks of music — to be understood, perceived and played as melodies — which mostly are performed over four bars/measures in a “four–four” time signature, the most common phrase structure in western music.  (In this time signature, one bar of music comprises four beats.)  Reading music also is important, chord notation in particular within jazz and popular musics.  However, unless a student places reading as a high goal, it is prioritised below other practical skills, again, on a need–to–know basis.  Generally, I try to divide a student’s daily practise time into equal parts of learning and rehearsing classic material, and learning and rehearsing — and learning to improvise within — tunes.

For classroom teaching, I design and teach lessons to deliver the National Curriculum for Music at Key Stages 3 to 5 (secondary schools and colleges).  In line with my support for the goals of Inclusion, Equal Opportunities and Every Child Matters policy, this includes planning for the differentiation needed to engage pupils at every level of ability and from every cultural background.

My classroom approach might be summarised as focused on pupils’ music-making projects, skills and teamwork, which is then conjoined with self-, peer- and teacher-based assessment (particularly formative, re Assessment for Learning).  These have a higher priority than academic and theoretical learning, especially as the usual allocation for classroom music in secondary schools is one hour per week.

Relevant to both contexts: While I am committed to encouraging and enabling people to acquire musical knowledge, appreciation and skills, I feel that talent is not nearly as important as the drive to learn and improve.  To support this, I believe it is part of my role as teacher to inspire students’ drive and curiosity in music (and the world around them) outside of our lessons.  In addition, I believe that praise, patience, respect and reflective practice engender learning, and that demeaning students has no place in education.  In manner, I am generally an expressive and thoughtful person, yet I also enjoy learning from others, including my students, and try always to be sensitive and receptive to others and aware of the impression I create.

I hope this has been helpful and encouraging.  If you have any questions or wish to enquire about lessons, I would welcome your call (020 8530-0710).

Yours faithfully,
Claude Alexander

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+