This 3-stage teaching method is commonly used by most music educationists. Here’s a few tips we’ve found work really well in whole-class world music lessons:

1. Say it - When choosing words for rhythms, use your key words, not random food words! For example, a West African djembe pattern such as the one below, would probably be taught by the Master Drummer using the mnemonics in Fig. A. This method clearly teaches the correct sounds but not the rhythm which will easily be forgotten by the students. Alternatively, you could use rhythmic sentences, such as Fig. B., to help your students learn the rhythm. Your students would definitely be able to remember the correct rhythms but are not likely to remember the key facts such; as the name of the instrument, where it comes from or what the piece of music is about. We’ve found it’s much better to teach using rhythmic sentences such as Fig. C. which include the key words. The students then go away not only remembering the rhythm correctly, but know it’s played on a djembe from Senegal and it’s a song which opens up discussions about geography and cultural contexts – e.g. why and when do they play this song in Senegal etc.

3 Stage Teaching Figures ABC.png

2. Play it as body percussion – Being consistent about the parts of your body that you play for each instrument will ensure the students don’t muddle the rhythms or play the wrong rhythm on the wrong instrument. For example, in samba we always:

  • clap a tamborim rhythm with hands held high

  • play an agogo rhythm on the inside of the elbow (to represent the high bell) and as a hand clap (to represent the low bell

  • shake fist for ganza rhythm

  • play repenique/caixa rhythms on tummy

  • play surdo rhythms either by simply stamping feet (if they are just playing the pulse) or on knees if the rhythm is a little more complicated.

File 27-01-2017, 18 32 40.jpeg

3. Play it on the instrument – before anyone plays we advise you do two things:

  1. Demonstrate instrument techniques (as quickly as possible)

  2. Demonstrate your Stop Signal so you can easily stop the class!

Challenge yourself to do this 3-stage teaching method as quickly and concisely as possible. Cut out all unnecessary information and get the students playing the instruments as early on in the lesson as possible. For example, in a 1-hour one-off Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 samba lesson, Inspire-works facilitators expect to have the whole-class playing a simple samba together on instruments, with correct technique within 5 minutes of the lesson starting.

Use cultural information, such as when/where the music is played in its country of origin, in small chunks throughout your lesson as ‘down-time’ to give the students hands and ears a rest.

Further information about the 3-stage teaching method is in Mike Simpson’s Teach & Play African Drums, Samba, Gamelan & Steel Pans books+DVDs, published by Rhinegold Education.

Related resources from Inspire-works: