When planning courses and units for NCEA music, do you think about which standards you will offer and then write your course? Or do you think about what skills you want your students to gain during the year and then match the standards to the skills?
In discussions with music educators in my course “Structuring a Secondary Music Program”, many kaiako plan NCEA music lessons and units based on the standards. The problem is that ākonga are missing out on learning skills they need as musicians. Curriculum-teaching, if it is effective, will elevate students’ mastery of the knowledge or skills on which the assessment items are based.
Here’s what I do when planning lessons.
Performing is at the centre of my curriculum, with the other skills branching off from it. Music is a practical subject. Most people who sign up for music do so to play or learn to play music. All of my lessons, therefore, have a practical component to them. To think of this another way, imagine signing up for tennis. They learn about famous tennis players, who invented the sport and technique, but they rarely, if ever, play a match.
There are four skills musicians need to develop.
Performance is the first skill: playing, technique, practice, musical literacy (whether that’s notation or some other representation), stage presence and communicating the intent of the music.
Matching standards: solo, group, second instrument and conventions used in scores for the current standards. Perform music and concepts for the new.
The second skill is Listening. Students should be able to listen to music critically, both to other people and themselves. Listening and analysing is a necessary skill, especially as a performer. They need to hear intonation, intervals and playing by ear. They should also be able to listen to music and know what instruments are playing, chord progressions, form, and genre. Finally, they should be able to identify the rhythm and timbre and “back engineer” a piece of music.
Matching standards: aural, context, music works and conventions in the current standards and concepts and context in the new.
The third skill is Creating. Combined with the first two skills, they should be able to create music themselves. This includes being able to represent their music visually in some form and understanding musical literacy, harmony, devices, and improvisation.
Matching standards: composing, conventions used in scores, instrumentation, arranging, and songwriting in the current standards. Create original music and concepts in the new.
The fourth skill is Appreciation. It involves receiving and responding to another work. This includes listening, researching, analysing, reflecting and discussing.
Matching standards: music works, context, investigation and research in the current standards. Understanding of music in relation to music contexts in the new standards
The new Explore Music resources have been created to teach these skills. The Hobbit resource teaches the genre of folk-rock and includes all four skills. The Lord of the Rings explores orchestral music through the four skills. The tasks can be applied to both the current and new standards. You can use any of the example assessments available online at TKI with these resources. Please contact me if you are unsure how to create the assessments using those documents.
My other resources also focus on the four skills and are being updated. Click on the title to see the resource.
Examples of comparing two music works are:
You can find these resources and more at https://resources.theteachingpractice.nz/
Remember, if you have any questions or comments, email me!
 Popham, W. J. (2001). Teaching to the Test?. Educational leadership, 58(6), 16-21.