Subject chats

Drama making and playbuilding

7-12 Creative Arts Project Officer Jackie King speaks with Bradley McDonald from Whitebridge High School and Daniel Kavanagh from Newtown High School of Performing Arts about approaches to teaching making and playbuilding in drama.

Jackie King

The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Welcome to the creative cast podcast series, I'm Jackie King and I'm a creative arts project officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're having a drama subject chat with Bradley McDonald from Whitebridge High School and Daniel Kavanagh from Newtown High School of Performing Arts Hi Daniel and Bradley Thank you for joining us today.

Daniel Kavanagh

No worries.

Bradley McDonald

Thanks, Jackie.

Jackie

Today we're going to have a bit of a dive into making and play building and various approaches to teaching, making and play building in your schools. But before we started, I wanted to just get a bit of a background information on the schools that you teach at. So, Daniel, could you start by giving us a little bit of information on Newtown High School of Performing Arts.

Daniel

Yes. So Newtown High School of Performing Arts has been a performing arts high school since 1990. It is still a local school as well. So we have a performing arts focus and a stream of performing arts where we audition students in dance, drama or music. And we also have a local intake as well, now all the students here are exposed to the performing arts programs that we have. We kind of have this view of once you're in, you're in and everybody is treated like a performing arts student here. So we have quite a lot of students. Our usual intake for a cohort is about. I think our next year year seven is about 191. So we're quite large, yeah, and we have anywhere between three, to four HSC classes for drama each year.

Jackie

That's huge. And do you have drama across stage 4, 5 and six?

Daniel

Yes. So we expose all of our students to all of the performing and creative arts in year seven, so that's compulsory there. And then they can start to choose that as part of their elective path through that. So the numbers and year seven. We have a class for every single year, seven class, and then we normally come down to about maybe three or four year eight classes and then three or four year nine and year 10 and all the way through.

Jackie

Fantastic. So, Bradley, you're obviously not out of performing arts high school. What does drama look like at Whitebridge High School?

Bradley

Thanks, Jackie. Yes. Whitebridge is in the Lake Macquarie Area next to Newcastle. So we're quite interesting as a school in the next? In the last two years, we've tried to grow the drama and all the performing arts by sort of doing for following a model that the performing arts high schools follow. So H S P A. And where Daniel is in Newtown, they allow year seven students to get a chance to look at all the performing arts. So two years ago, we initiated a course called Performance Art, and I've been piloting that for two years, which allows all year seven and then all year eight students to be involved in a trimester where they do some arts and music and then I take them with the focus on dance drama, and I bring in music and art aspect as well. And so that's giving them a taste of all the performing creative arts to help boost those numbers in drama and dance when they become electives later on, which has been beneficial, we've grown Year 8 and year 9 drama this year. We're pretty fortunate that a lot of the executive here are supportive of the arts, because this is predominantly a sports high school. You know, most of our kids are really sporty orientated and the arts have been very difficult for us to grow in the last seven years. But this is an opportunity to allow us to, you know, invest in the arts at this school, which has been wonderfully received by, you know, students, teachers and the wider community.

Jackie

That's fantastic. I love that idea because in many schools, drama can be an elective in stage four, but it's not necessarily something that's taught. I know in the school that I was at Kurri High School. Drama was an elective in Stage four, but then they actually took electives out of year eight, and so we lost that ability to do drama, but we we did get four periods a cycle where we got a subject called CAPA Project, and I guess it sort it sounds a little bit similar to what you're doing, where we made sort of a cross curricular program where we we cover dance, drama, music and art. Is that sort of what you're doing, like a cross curricula sort of projects in your subject in Stage four.

Bradley

Yeah, yeah, there's seven. Last year we looked at sort of a conceptual idea of, you know how do art makers bring an awareness to social issues in the world. So it allowed kids to look at the way that dancers and fine artists as well as dramatic performances give a voice to, you know, particular artists perspective on an issue. So the kids picked quite wide issues and then found ways to represent them. A lot of them were through Play Building, which was great for me as the drama teacher, but some wanted to do songs and tik tok dances and choreography too and and so it was really quite diverse in terms of the project and in terms of outcomes we really weren't so pressed to find or align them to any particular syllabus, but really just looking at how we could bring all the strands of performance through those those art forms and allow kids just to create, you know, with the same sort of conceptual focus. So it's it's been quite good. It was a little challenging with year seven because some of the issues they wanted to explore we may be not usually look at until a little bit late. So then, in year 8 this year when we brought them forward, I've sort of turned it around. And we looked at the way that storytelling has transformed over over time and that has allowed us to bring an indigenous perspective, as well as looking at the way you know literature as well as painting, dance, song chanting, You know any type of storytelling has been able to communicate and part of what it is to be human and the kids have really enjoyed that. It's always brought us back to nursery rhymes and fairy tales. So it started off quite big and historical, and now it's it's really focused about what the stories you had as a kid. What do you love about them? How can we then use them as a stimulus to create? Which is what we do in drama.

Jackie

I love that idea. Bradley. That's awesome. We're going to dive today into the practice of making, which is obviously one of the important things within the syllabus and the essential context of that is obviously play building. So I was wondering if one of you were able to talk about why you feel that is important and how you approach that with your classes if you want to go first. Daniel.

Daniel

Yes, so with us, like I mean play building, of course, is you know it's It's a compulsory part of the curriculum and syllabus, so it is already an inherent focus of the subject. But what we have been doing, particularly without year seven, because we have. Actually. Now we're going through a bit of a restructure in terms of our curriculum here at school. So year seven could quite often get forgotten, everyone's focused on the HSC. But what our current principal has done is she has decided that we're going to focus on Stage four if we're gonna make these big changes to the way that the school operates. So there's been a lot of attention being paid to the work that kids in year seven do. And luckily for drama, people are now starting to ask us a lot about the processes that we look at in our drama classroom in order to help them engage students in their K L A. So there's been a lot of cross curricular kind of content that's being taught. But I know that HSIE are really interested in getting students to use their drama skills because we've got, you know, naturally, we have a bunch of kids here that have reasonably, you know, highly developed skills for kids their age and, you know, kids who are still exploring that. So for us, we don't necessarily look at play building is like a form or as a topic or part of the content. We look at it as part of the process, and it's one of the processes that we look at with the four C's approach that we're taking with our school. And when we think about all the creative arts like Bradley had mentioned before, they are, you know, means of communication. So when we start using that kind of language. It really kind of kind of sparks the interest of teachers of other subjects and also too with parents as well.

Because quite often, parents have a bit of a kind of underdeveloped understanding of what we do in the creative arts. They kind of get well, you're not gonna be an actor, so why would you pick drama? But we we kind of train the kids very old early on to say, Well, I'm using my teamwork skills here and my ability to negotiate how group works in order to do that in English in order to do that in HSIE. So they're kind of learning a lot of those general capabilities as well, So we kind of use it to tick all those boxes. And so we kind of stopped by looking at what the social purpose of theatre is, and that might sound a little bit kind of technical for little 12 year olds. But they come to us from primary school and they're really energized. They've got lots of ideas and lots of things they want to say about the world. And so if we harness that kind of energy then the process of play building itself doesn't become or you're gonna make a play about something and your just showing us how you can use this space and show us your elements of drama. You're actually saying something. So we really have them thinking about Well, what do we want to say? And then we explore the process of play building, and then we'll hear some tools we can use to do that.

Jackie

Wonderful. I love that you've linked in the 4Cs There. I had done a little bit of work with the 4Cs and transforming schools as well. And when I started that, I used to think, Oh, these are just drama games. And I think drama really does delve into bringing out all of those skills, those team building skills, those communication skills. And I love that you're both talking about how it is just a vehicle for telling a story or communicating a message, which is fantastic. So I think we have sort of touched on our approaches a little bit for stage four, but is there any sort of activities or program ideas that you would really like to share about how you teach making or play building in stage four.

Bradley

Yeah, I just think Daniel's approach and their school’s approach is really an interesting way that now people starting to look a drama and you look at the focus of the new reforms in the curriculum that heavy focus on significance. Why does it matter? Trying to get the kids to connect with what skill can obtain here that's going to help me beyond school and a lot of the time in drama. We've done it forever. You know, We've taught kids, actually, how to cooperate and collaborate and think critically to work as a team. And if you don't teach the kids explicitly how to do those things, it's one thing to say going to a group task. But unless you say well, we need to learn how to listen first and offer ideas and then support those ideas and further those ideas, and that's just improvisation. You know, that's just accepting and extending on an offer and trying not to block and and so we've done that for a while. So it's It's interesting that there, Daniel said, as well there are so many other faculties are coming to us going Oh, that's great that you do that and that skill is transferrable. The kids are starting to say that as well, and I've changed the way that I look at the theatre games. I love games. I think in Stage four, that's the most important part is to look at the elements of drama and introducing the technical language that you have the meta language that's appropriate for our our particular K L A.

But I've tried to move away from using the word games and moving just exercises, because the exercises we do are based in theoretical underpinning, you know, So what we do has a history and a discreet body of knowledge that follows it from, you know, hundreds of years from across the world. And so when we start to understand that that exists unto itself, that has allowed us to use these activities or exercises to develop these skills or to understand how theatre has grown or developed or the importance of it, the kids start to think differently because then it shapes how others perceive the subject like parents. Underdeveloped understanding of drama as, Daniel said, is about trying to say or my kid does drama, they do games It's like we do more than that, you know, it's like PE. They don't just kick balls, you know, like there's there's a lot more to our subject. It starts to get more valued when you start to reshape and reframe people's thinking and perspective about what we do in the space and I love building that curiosity around, You know, the stuff that we're doing here is often a loud and boisterous and kids are curious, you know. They come to the door and they stick their head in with a lot of activities. And I've tended to get a lot of things that either shake the foundations and so the kids below us say, Look, you were shaking our projector like, Well, you should choose a different subject. You know, Come upstairs, you know, be a part of that stomping. So I mean, that's mainly my Stage five. I really love my physical theatre in Stage five, but Stage four drama, I did a bit of clowning. I was just writing a few things down.

So I look at, you know, heavily scaffolding steps with play building initially, you know, rather than just sending them off, we might start with freeze frames and tableaus and or a list of ingredients, so you might include this line of dialogue. Start with this photo. I want you to create a character with these particular attributes, and if you start to give them a little bit of ingredients and shape, then they could go away and manipulate that and then present ideas. It doesn't have to be a linear narrative like it's really just about playing and seeing what you could do under a time limit with what you know, a few skills and then start to refine them. And by the end of stage four I've sort of moved on to a little individual monologue task, some kind of group performance or I might look at the Stanislavski and just sort sort of method acting, you know, by the end of stage four to bring in some theory rather than saying that this is just all random exercises, you know, trying to connect some of that that theory together and then saying, Well, now there's different ways to approach this. Once you've got these skills, so year seven's different because of the course I'm running, but the idea and you're ready to cry and get them to enjoy it enough to pick it in stage five. You know, out of the gamble is that with, you know, this school has a lot of sport. And cooking woodwork, engineering, robotics. You know, there's so many up for grabs because we've got 100 and 200 hour courses in year nine or a smorgasbord of options so they only allow the classes to get up If they're, you know, over about 15 to 20 and that can sometimes be a hard push. You know, in a comprehensive school like this, where there, you know, there is really in the community, not a deep passion or love of the theatre. People go and visit.

But hardly anyone reads plays, you know, we see that in English, many kid's first experience with a play script is in year seven English a lot of the time, so we're fighting against the cultural thing as well. But once they they certainly have picked it up in the 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Jackie

So So what do your stage five courses look like at Whitebridge? Do you get many electives up for drama at Whitebridge High School?

Bradley

It changes, over the, I'm here Nine years I've had, I've had two stints at HSPA. But being here mainly for nine years. And in that time we do have every number, sort of every two years we'll get a cohort of kids that either do it at some of the local theatre companies. We've got sort of some Hunter Drama, and we've got Tantrum Theatre, Young People's Theatre in town in Newcastle. So there's some of our kids do that and then they joined together, which is great also they've already got an understanding and that sort of level interest, um to then join us without those skill sets sometimes fall out of love very early. So I reckon every two years we get a wave of kids and I've had two cohorts that have sort of followed me from year 8 to year 12, and it's those kids that you develop. I mean, that was my best HSC year ever. By the time you worked with them every year, building them through because if kids drop in and out of the course, then sometimes they could miss some of the foundational skills. I do a lot of physical theatre, commedia dell'arte and neutral mask, Bahl mask, Greek mask. I love playing with character in year nine and 10. We looked at sort of. We look at Brecht study of playing detail on. Then we sort of do an I P G P, which is the sort of the standard norm to give them a chance to do something by themselves. And I introduced them, not just monologue.

I really try to get, you know, I intend to play with some lights and costume and sound just because normally year 11 are introduced that and kids haven't had a chance to actually try those skills out before year 11 so on, but has allowed me a great opportunity to allow them to run their own race as opposed having class of 25 where resources are scarce.

Jackie

You mentioned some of those drama classes that outside of school drama classes, and I figured that's possibly where you guys would differ a fair bit. Daniel, do you have a lot of students who do drama classes outside of school?

Daniel

Well, yeah, coming from Newcastle. The culture there is that, you know, it's it's great to be a drama teacher because you can rely on all that external experience that the kids have, and it's just, I think, Novocastrians are just so lucky in terms of the amount of opportunities that have there for their students. And it also makes your job easier in the classroom because the kids are getting so much more experience. But down here, there's not quite as much as that of that kind of locally for us. And I was a bit surprised when I came down here. The lack of that culture around like I mean, there is a ATYP and NIDA offer classes as well. There are a few things around, but they're not. It's not as prevalent in our area, and so to kind of take the place of that, we actually run an extension program in the afternoons. Our co-curricular program, when we run drama companies and ensembles and essentially that is like going to a class that young people's theatre or hunter drama or tantrum one of those places and you worked towards performance outcome. So for us, it's the opportunity to give our kids more performance opportunities to do on.

They work with a professional director on a project, and they put that on in our theatre in a professional environment. So that kind of means that we can use that opportunity to help kind of upskill our kids. So they've kind of got that opportunity. You don't necessarily have the time to look at in the classroom, because when you kind of put together a well-structured curriculum gives you a little wiggle room in terms of just giving the kids experiences. Because you want to do is many things you can with every unit of work that you teach. So for us, with Stage five, we kind of dump kids with a lot of information about different forms and styles, So we go straight into all of them. So we kind of do a bit of a history of theater in year nine and kind of go from Greek through to Shakespeare through to commedia through to, realism and naturalism. Then a bit of Brecht we move towards absurdism, and so that kind of carries them through year nine and 10, and we've got the luxury of having them often enough and having students so many times a week here that we're able to give them a pretty decent knowledge of that. And So by the time they get to Stage six, they've got all of that in the back of their heads. And so the performance work they do inherently is more kind of grounded in their knowledge of all of that. So they intuitively start to make choices in their performance work that you don't have to necessarily teach them in terms of, particularly things like stagecraft and conventions and techniques and things like that. They don't know what. They don't have to name them quite often, but they just they naturally do them because, yeah, the stage six curriculum in itself is kind of designed in a way that people can kind of just jump in. We've never done drama before, so that's a big That's a big leap from our students have been with us all the way through year 7 to the kids that sometimes join us in year 11, and they quite often go Holy cow! You guys know so much because we have been pouring it into them from from year nine and 10. And we also have an extension class that we run as well in year nine and 10. So students get like a double of drama. So it's like another elective.

Jackie

Well, that's really cool. So you have three or four elective classes in year nine and 10, and then an extension or extension is a part of that.

Daniel

Extension runs as part of that. So usually it's probably maybe two drama classes and then two extension classes on top of that as well. So and we're kind of in the middle of a bit of a rethink about the way we structure that for the timetable, because it was always constantly reassessing the way that they deliver stuff. But for us, we've found that that's really that's great. So, in a way, like I mean kids here. If they do extension drama, we can kind of get through the 200 hours, of course, in one year. So by the time they get to year 10, they've got more knowledge than they would have had they just been doing drama as just one subject, because a lot of opportunities too then kind of sit back and explore some of those other performance opportunities, look a different processes, spent a lot of time with them on script writing. We go in depth in a few different performance styles and all that sort of stuff as well. And that's a real, real luxury for us to be able to do that.

I think the kids here have no idea how lucky there because there's like, Oh my God, I've got so much drama and like So it is, Yeah, it's great to be able to do that ultimately our bread and butter it is making sure that the the core skills and knowledge that students have in year nine and 10 is carried all the way through. And then everything else just gets to be extra cake decorating.

Jackie

Really, they never realise how lucky they are ever. You've talked about how, and I'll just delve into this because you've touched on it a little bit. How students are able to jump stage five if they so choose. And obviously your stage 5 sounds very in depth, Daniel, given that they're able to do extension as well. How do you sort of deal with the gap if you've got students coming into Stage six who haven't done what your stage five students?

Daniel

Look, the great thing with us is that we have the opportunity for those students to also participate in our co-curricular program. So if they come to us in year 11, they're usually being auditioned as well. So there's an interest there. They usually have done some drama at their previous school. Quite often we get kids auditioning because they say, well, my local school's not running drama next year in year 11 because we didn't get a class. So that does happen a bit, too, and kids do tend to move around a bit when things like that happen. But I kind of look at year 11 is meant to be this for us. The way we see it, it's kind of like this big leveller where you kind of go right.

Okay, so you guys know all of that stuff there, but in terms of what we're expecting out of you now is everybody has to take a step up so you can come in at the side and the thing about the collaborative nature of drama is that kids rely on other kids, so if we have a kid coming in year 11 and they might not necessarily have done it in year nine or 10. I don't know anything about Brecht. The other kids will be able to teach them and be able to explain to them what those techniques are in order for them to get through what we do in that course. So they don't necessarily have to write essays on Brecht or Absurdism in Year 11 because we'll do another unit of something else. But they will bring that stuff in there kind of ancillary learning which will kind of come in throughout the process of working with other kids and that kind of happens through all the making outcomes that we have is that the kids tend to go well, why don't you try doing this in this performance and go down there and then you can use direct address to the audience and they go, Okay, well, what's that? And say, Well, I'm glad you asked I will tell you all about because we know so do take advantage of the fact that the kids can teach each other. And also quite often we'll create opportunities within the curriculum that the kids do have to rely on each other a lot to do that, so it's not just us doing it, but I think any drama teacher will be planning those sorts of learning activities all the way through, so that their kids to become a bit independent in terms of their learning. On that, they drive it forward. And again, that's what makes what we say to the the kids. That's what makes drama an essential subject for year 11 and 12 is because you're learning how to do all your other subjects here in the classroom here.

Jackie

Okay, so finally, let's have a look at making or play building in stage six. So, Bradley, I'm going to jump to you now. How do you tackle making and play building in Stage six? Obviously, they've got the group performance, which is the mandatory part of what they've got to do in Stage six. So do you want to take us through how you approach that in order to give them the best opportunity to move forward.

Bradley

That idea that you need to do activities early on just to build that collaboration and that rapport with one another and get them to realize how much they rely on each other in year 11. We had up here for a number of years, it was a mind play competition run by Hunter New England Health. I inbuilt that because that was a GP task with a great focus. We had parameters. We had our professional healthcare workers come in, Tantrum Youth arts often had script writers willing to do sessions, so that was a really great way for bringing all kids together, whether or not they had a dramatic background in previous stages and focused on a task that then they showcase still quite a broad audience. But that since has been put on hold. So the GP, by picking the groups on bond and then just playing around by making mistakes, looking at different stimulus items, like giving them a bunch of equipment to work with and, then allowing another group to have a free for all, like not giving them any parameters and just watching, watching what they do. And a lot of the time you're just like a dodgem car. You just bumped them back every time they get off track or they're spinning the wrong way.

But certainly having worked in a performing arts high school as opposed to the Comprehensive High School here, the kids sometimes here aren't as focused or determined, and Daniel did touch on it earlier that when the kids come in, they learned from their peers. And sometimes you just need to watch the standard of your peer and how committed they are to learning their monologue or being involved in driving that group project. And a part of them just goes, Oh, they've sent the benchmark here. So I better live up to that because the teacher can have the highest of expectations and says we do. But often the peers have far more influence on each other in terms of mate, I'm here to do well, you know, I've driven. Look at my monologue. And so someone looks at that, and sees the standard and quality. And then, you know, they up their game, they become more invested, and that's great to see. But if you get a class of perhaps more apathetic kids who really need you to drive every moment of it, it can be quite a tiring and testing year. And by the end of it, you've got as many tears as they do and dollars in the swear jar. But you get to that HSC day and you just you just say that was so worth it. You know, the journey and the process is far more important than the product. And if the kids can realize that, I think they take that beyond school and they remember their HSC year because of the way it taught them resilience and it taught them how to be flexible. And those skills that we hope that will serve them well beyond school is far more than whatever you know, parameter they've built around some stimulus in 12 minutes in the HSC.

Jackie

Fantastic and Daniel, I don't know that we did touch on how you approach making for all the group performance, particularly for stage six. So do you want to just take us through your approaches to Stage six.

Daniel

So Well, I think I alluded before we are. We kind of talked about play building, not necessarily as a form, although it kind of can sort of fulfill some of those things. But really it is a process, and so we kind of look at that process through other content. So all the way through, we are teaching them about different forms and styles while using a play building process. And so we really structure that for them along the way. And so we kind of really look at the first phase of play building as rather than using the word brainstorming, which has become a bit, well, bit daggy. And it kind of inspires kind of groans whenever we say in our classroom, because it just means kids sitting around with their logbooks, drawing little clouds and sticks coming off them. And you kind of like, Well, what's the purpose of that? We kind of rebrand it, and I use a lot of the stuff. I read this really great book called Making Theatre, and it talked about generating and exploring is the first. So you don't worry about the piece. You're exploring ideas. You're exploring possibilities. You do it practically. You improvise. You research, you find things. You have those conversations. So we embed activities of lots of different practical sensors throughout that. So it's not kids just sitting down going, What's our idea gonna be because there's nothing less creative then having to sit down, and go oh what's an idea? Because inspiration doesn't work like that, and creativity doesn't really work like that But if you give them enough different activities to explore, they could get right. Well, we've got this big dossier of things we've done. We've put them all down in our books, and we figured out what they are.

We don't have to worry about where it's going yet, but we've got it. Then you move into a phase where you look at selecting and structuring and go. Okay, so the idea where we have kind of looks like this bit this bit in this bit here. They kind of have a bit. They're kind of saying us to us that this is kind of what our piece is about. We're kind of inadvertently come up with that. You know, let's say three things about environmentalism and so that that seems to be a through line. So let's explore that. Let's kind of select those pieces, do some more research. They start to put that together and see what that looks like, and that can lead you right up to like the week before you get them to do a performance outcome, because the last stage of it should be the refining of the process and the rehearsal, because any play built piece should be as slick as anything that you learned from a script. And so we divide our terms when we're doing that content up into those phases so that students are really clear. We don't have to worry about our assessment task just yet. We're just exploring. And if you give them that freedom, which which is ironically, you kind of go. Okay, I'm gonna give you a whole bunch of really structured tasks to do this. But the freedom is you don't have to worry about where it's going it and so we kind of explore it that way and we pepper that language all the way through from stage four up to stage six. So in year 11, when they have a bit of a dry run it going Well, this is the group I'd like to work with, and we might like to do a piece about this when we we do run a task like that for them. But already throughout the other content we've studied in year 11, we've already mixed groups up, and we've paired them with each other, and we've looked at dynamics.

I've got them to reflect on the process because if they can't explain why they're doing something, then the learning that they're not owning the learning. And so we spent a lot of time with critical reflection. Said, Well, why did we do this? Why did we play that drama game? You know, why did we play ninja? You know, also, every now and then it's always great to have a game of ninja. But I always stop them at the end of go. Right. Okay. Why are we doing that? What are we learning by doing this game, and so they always can then identify that. So if you embed that language and that process through them, you give them a sense of safety net. So they know where they are in the process. So they don't sit there at the beginning of the term and go, Oh, my God. We've got to come up with a piece in 10 weeks and we don't know what to do. And they just go. Okay, Well, we don't have to worry about that now. And so, by halfway through the term, if you set those little goals along the way, then it means that the kids can go yep We're on track, and I I quite often get them to set their own timeline. So they sit down and go right by this week. We need to have this by this week. We need to have this, which means we're okay, now we don't need to make. We don't need to have three scenes written now. We could do that later on on. I think this structuring of it because you're treating it is a process I think is the easiest way to stop them. Kind of panicking about because they get that sense, like the more they sit down and talk about ideas, the longer they sit down and talk about ideas. So I don't even I don't let them. Don't let them do that.

Jackie

I love that because it can obviously be quite free. And I love that it's not just a free for all that there is these really structured activities, these goalposts, that they've got a hit to get to their end goal.

Daniel

And I think a lot of teachers think they've gotta let the kids go. But you've got to remember, like even though you're not necessarily the focus of that particular unit or the focus of those lessons. You've got to give them the tools and you've got to give them the strategies to be able to do that. So you're always checking in like I mean, you wouldn't just be sitting behind your desk just watching them just play for like, I mean, we never do that here. We're always checking in and getting them to reflect on things and show us stuff and explain things to us along the way. So it kind of be kind of becomes a bit of like, you know, that kind of process becomes, ah, bit of, ah, project based learning kind of model. Really? Because the kids are solving the problem. How are we going to say something about this idea we have in a group performance?

Jackie

Thank you both so much for sharing your drama expertise with us today. I think it's been a fantastic chat and I wish you well in your teaching for the rest of the year. We're almost there.

Daniel

So near yet so far.

Jackie

Of course, I'm sure the drama teachers who are listening will be able to take a lot away from this conversation. Thanks so much. This Podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining the statewide staff room as a source of all truths regarding curriculum. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter at Creative Arts Curriculum 7 to 12 or email our curriculum adviser, Catherine Ricketts Horvat, using the email address creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au . The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, an audio production by Jason King.

[end of transcript]

Dance performance

7-12 Creative Arts Project Officer Jackie King speaks with Julia Livingston from Camden Haven High School and Carla Cherie from Kirrawee High School about approaches to teaching performance in dance.

Jackie King

The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate off the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all first nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom. Welcome to the creative cast podcast series I'm Jackie King and I'm a creative arts project officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're having a dance subject chat with Julia Livingston from Camden Haven High school and Carla Cherie from Kirrawee High school. Hi, Julia and Carla. How are you today?

Carla Cherie

Hi, I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Jackie

Thank you both. So much for joining us today. I know the countdown is on and it's a very busy time of year leading into the end of the school year. So thank you so much for giving some time to give dance teachers a bit of insight to some different approaches in which you take to teach performance in your different contexts. And I really want to start by saying dance is sort of an interesting subject because it's not one that is taught in all schools. Not all all schools have a dance teacher. So your students obviously lucky that they've got a dance teacher at their school. Could you both? I'll give you a chance each to tell us just a little bit about your school context and how dance fits into your school context? I might get Carla if you can go first.

Carla

Yeah, so I teach at Kirrawee High School in the south of Sydney, and we're a co-ed comprehensive high school were not performing arts high school. However, we're pretty lucky in that we have really strong creative arts subjects, and we have, like, a number of different extracurricular programs, mainly in dance and music. So our school really supports the creative arts, got really good executive team that support us, and we do a biannual musical where the whole school is incorporated in that, and we all collaborate together. We will come together and create the musical. So it's it's great for promoting creative arts. It's great for promoting the school actually. We don't have dance in Stage four, but we have stage five and six, and I guess I try to incorporate dance for the seven and eight kids through an extracurricular dance program. So we run. There's about 60 kids, about 60 kids involved throughout, year 7 to 12, and we run ensembles and companies, you know, sport time before school and after school. And the aim for the extra-curricular program is, I guess, to promote dance for the seven and eight who aren't exposed to it in the elective subject. And I guess for them, it's to just kind of introduce Dance. Dance as a subject. They learn a performance skills technique composition, Within Kirrawee we really looking at the H-PAGE like the high performance and gifted education part. So for the extra-curricular program, is, I guess, upskilling, our students out in the Stage five and stage six dance subjects, so it's providing that extra training. They're exposed to more performance opportunities. So developing their performance quality skills, they work if they collaborate with myself for the tutor, which develops the composition skills. So the extra-curricular program is quite important here it at Kirrawee. And, yeah, it supports the dance subject.

Jackie

And I guess especially as you don't have dance in Stage four, it helps to keep that an interest in that subject and build an interest in that subject. So then you are able to get it up in stage five and six as well.

Carla

Yeah, definitely. It's the way that I kind of reach out to the 7 and 8 kids and and kind of say, Hey, we are here and dance exists and you can choose it as an elective And because they get those to the other students, you know, like the older students in the showcases or, you know, presentation performances or those kind of things. Then they’re kind of seeing where they could potentially take dance in stages 5 and 6.

Jackie

Fantastic. And Julia, your context is obviously quite a bit different because you are Camden Haven High School. Do you just teach the Distance Education at Camden Haven High School? Do you have classes at Camden Haven as well?

Julia Livingston

We are a combined face to face and distance education School 7 to 12 coeducation. We offer distance education for full time students. So students who geographically isolated or have some reason why they can't attend to face to face setting, and we also offer courses via a single course. If a school doesn't offer dance, for example, and a student really wants to do dance for their HSC or in Stage five, then they could attend their regular school and just do dance as a subject through us so that they can still get that experience and get that on their Rosa and HSC certificate. So, yeah, we do face to face classes from year nine through to Year 12 and in D.E. we're also offering stage five. So year 9 10 and then stage six year 11 and 12 and next year we are also offering the Certificate three an assistant dance teaching via distance ed. So that's really exciting for us to offer that new course, and we're excited with the challenges and opportunities that will present so we'll see how that goes. But yeah, we're really excited about that. That course that we're offering.

Jackie

That is a really fantastic thing to be offering the certificate three, and I'm sure it's going to present a whole new set of different challenges for you. But hopefully is a fantastic thing for your students, so you don't have dance in stage four either. How do you go about being able to get students into your stage five elective course? How do you attract students for want of a better term?

Julia

So similarly to Carla we offer a junior dance ensemble for students in years seven and eight, and then we've got a a senior company for students in the yr 9 through to yr 12. We are actually looking at incorporating Stage four Dance in 2022. We are looking at changing our lines to so that they get at least a term of each of the creative arts subjects in year seven and eight, just to give them more experience in what dance is, a subject is, remove the unknown. We've found that since because a lot of our performances and showcases our our company dancers that the younger students tend to think that that's the standard which those students are are exceeding the standard and they are our exemplary students. It's not actually what the Stage five course is about. It's not what dance is about. It's about the experiential learning. It's about getting in there and having a go. It's really being aware of what you wanted to do and just to give something new ago. So we want to get a little bit more experience early on just to remove that unknown so that they don't think that you need to be, you know, a prima ballerina, or be able to hold your leg above your head to be able to do Stage five Dance.

Jackie

I think that's really important to try and give them some kind of taster before they choose electives. Because there is, like for all of our creative arts topics, art is more than just drawing like music is more than just playing the ukuleles. Um, there's more to it, and so you want them to be able to understand all of the different experiences and not just think they've got to come in and be at a high performance standard to start with?

Julia

Yeah definitely.

Jackie

So in terms of getting those students eventually to a high performance standard. We're going to talk through ways today that you approach performance in particular as one of the experiences that in the syllabus for dance. I was hoping that we could start with Stage Five and and look at the different ways in which you teach stage five and then move through to Stage six. I might go back to Carla. And if you could share some of the ways in which you approach performance with your Stage five students.

Carla

I guess, first of all, I guess I have a high expectation, and I set that at the beginning. What I mean by that is like I have a high expectation that the kids present themselves to class. We have uniforms, and it's quite basic and simple. It's tights, you know, black tights. I provide a black singlet or the kids can wear their own leotard. But that way, then there is something that is comfortable. It's safe, and it kind of sets a precedent that they have, like a sense of belonging. And that's kind of where I like to start with them with for us. You know, we have a no socks policy and they, all kind of, you know, if they're all dressed the same and they're all there, they're already to perform. Then there shouldn't be any excuses holding back. And they're all they're all the same kind of starting point. Then the other thing that I have is again that expectation. I have set my expectation throughout the lessons, and I give them goals. So where I want them to be, maybe halfway through the lesson where I want, where I'm expecting them to be, maybe at the end of the lesson and so on, like at the end of the week and then where I want them to be at the end of the term and that way, then they've got this understanding like it keeps them accountable. It helps them with their time management throughout, and in their mind, they know where they're going, perhaps with the performance. One of the other things that I do incorporate with my performance classes or all of my classes. I try to incorporate the language of dance to just so that they're familiar with it. So, they're familiar with the syllabus and the way that I'm explaining using the correct technical words or in syllabus words. In year nine, so Stage five, we tend to get a bunch of kids. Some kids are your kids that have been dancing since they were 3 and then you might get kids that have, you know, just started and perhaps not as experienced. So, my first unit for year nine is a practical unit. So we do performance and we're looking at the development of dance. And within that, we looked at all different styles because I'm not sure about who the kids are that are coming in. I don't know whether what their experiences. I don't know whether their experience with ballet or contemporary. So we start kind of I want to start it and like an even playing field so they're all equals with that unit. I think it's a we want to start with year nine because it exposes them to all the different styles Indigenous Aboriginal dance, where dance came from and how it developed in Australia. And then we look at African dance, ballet, tap jazz, musical theatre.

So there's a lot of different styles that we kind of have a play within that first unit, and some kids might be a little bit out of their comfort zone in one particular style, but they might feel stronger and more confident in the other style. So that's, I guess, where I start. And then as we go on throughout the units, we get into more of the contemporary, which is kind of what the syllabus is asking for that contemporary style. Yes, so I guess I just try to start out broadly so that I'm not crushing anybody or, you know, like they feel confident to start off with.

Jackie

And I think that's a really great way just to see where everybody's at too. Because there's a different range of dance schools, different styles of dance. And while student maybe a fantastic tapper, they might not be a great ballet dancer, for instance. So, to really find out their skills and to give them a place where they can shine, gives every student a sense of success.

Carla

It then allows me to get to know them a little bit more so then I can challenge them a little bit more with their particular style. Yeah, and sometimes I will get them to actually take part sometimes they will take an exercise for me and because I'm not a tapper, use their skills as well. And in terms of the assessment task, they get to create a ah presentation on a particular style, a style of their choice, whichever one they feel more confident in. And they can then demonstrate exercises that we've learned in class or exercises that they may have made up within that style. They get to do a little bit of the performance that we've done in class and that shows off their technique and then incorporated in all of that and then give a little bit of a background understanding of the style and maybe the choreographers that famous within that style.

Jackie

Fantastic. So getting them talking about it as well?

Carla

Yeah.

Jackie

Julia, moving onto your approaches now for stage five and I don't know. I feel like I probably need to talk to you about how you do it face to face versus how you do it through distance ed. But I'm not sure. Do you wanna talk to that? Do we need to talk about it separately or can?

Julia

Well, yeah, I think with distance ed, um, like Carla you don't really know who's going to come into the room as such. We don't know anything about our students when they enrol their purely just a name on a page before we actually start teaching them and interacting with them. So we really have no idea what their experience is, where they're coming from, how many years they've been dancing for, if they enjoy a particular style. So we do something very similar with our distance ed students in that we have a first unit about. I love to dance because and we kind of with all of our programs, we sort of backwards map from stage six. So we kind of go, well what do they need from in Stage six and then? So, you know, backwards maps or what? It's a good starting point for performance in Stage five to lead them logically into what they need to know for Stage six. So we get them to look at a dance piece that they really love that so they find a piece on online, and then they start to comment on that, and then they talk about style, and then we go into looking at the actual technique of that style and how that actually how they enjoy performing it, how it feels when they perform it. So then we start to look at ways in which to prepare their body to perform those particular characteristics of that style. We have been doing a lot of videos now that everyone has a camera on their phone which has just been revolutionary for distance ed. So there's no excuse now. Kids constantly are filming themselves and they're really comfortable with it. Not like back in our day where you hated the camera, but they love the camera and they love everything. They feel really comfortable in being in front of that, which is awesome for us. So we get them to film themselves regularly so that we can actually see them and we can give them lots of feedback and we can start to build a relationship. We start to do regular zoom lessons. So with our Stage five kids, we do a zoom or a phone lesson once a fortnight so that they hear our voices and then they can see us. You know, we're not this random person at the on the end of the screen. We are actually really people, and we care about them and, you know, we're really invested in them. We start out by really building that relationship because if you don't have that relationship, particularly in DE, it's really easy to ignore. You know, ignore the emails, ignore, ignore the phone calls and things like that and so engagement is really important to start off with, and then we just sort of build from there, increasing the skills and the complexity of the understanding specific to what they're doing.

Jackie

I would think that relationship is really important in dance in general, obviously in DE and I know what you're talking about, I was saying before I was a DE student for a period of time, and you back in the day when I did it in the nineties, I never met my teacher. I didn't know what my teacher looked like. I'd get these blue bags in the mail and I would send the blue bags back. And yes. So it's fantastic that the technology now allows you to be able to do a zoom lesson. Do you ever get more than one in a zoom lesson or is it sort of just. Are they getting one on one zoom with you all the time?

Julia

It is pretty much one on one because the majority of our stage five students are single course. So they have. We need to work around their timetable and our timetable, so generally it's one on one. We do offer workshop days primarily for our stage six students, where we get everyone to come together for a face to face workshop. And that just helps to consolidate all of the learning that happens. And they get to meet the other students and share their experiences about being a distance ed students and the joys and the frustrations that go along with that. I think that connection is really important because you need to build that trust with the student. And I find that with face to face is well because students can feel a little vulnerable in presenting themselves in a dance class, particularly if they're all the people in the class, and they may feel that they're not up to that level or whatever. You really need to make sure that everyone's feeling really comfortable, and for that they need to be able to trust in the relationships in your building.

Jackie

Do either of you find sometimes that you get a student who's picked an elective dance in Stage five, but they are a bit reluctant to want to perform. And how do you overcome that? How do you encourage them to start performing and joining in with the rest of the class?

Carla

Yeah, definitely. You know, I tend to get that, and I guess the way that I try to overcome it for them is I mean went I'm teaching in class. I'll teach kind of like the exercises at a basic level, and then I'll extend on those. And the kids can choose kind of whether they do this on a rise or whether they add in that extra turn. So there's kind of those tears there, and the kids can just choose what they decide they want to do or where they want to take that exercise. I try to when they're doing their performance in class, try to. We talk about their capabilities and limitations, which is part of the syllabus and try to explain to the kids that you know we're learning the dance as a whole class, but when performing it, you're performing it as yourself. So you need to. Try to put it back on the kids and go What's, how can you incorporate your own style into the movement so often? If you've got a boy in the class, they tend to be a little bit more like they like to be stronger or they've got more of A like that sharp, hip hop kind of feel I might mention. You know, I've seen you dance and you're quite good at hip hop, so why don't you incorporate some of that into my movement that I've taught you? So I try to get them kind of pinpoint their strength and encourage them? To manipulated a little bit in the movement that I've taught because we know it. Not all dancers are the same, and as you were saying, prima ballerina, that's great, But you've also got feet. You what other movement qualities and other kids that we all need to kind of promote as well. So I guess, yeah, I try to get them to think about what their strength is and how they incorporate that into my movement and just always remember that they don't have to dance the same as the person next to them, because it's yet all about them and their capabilities and highlighting what they do best.

Julia

Yeah, definitely. I agree. We do the same similar kind of thing with our face to face classes. You always give options, and you're always encouraging them to find the most comfortable way for them to move and to really engage with the way that they move, not the way that somebody else moves or the way that I move so and that really creates that ownership over the movement itself, and that increases their confidence.

And I feel like that if when you establish that right from the start of yr. nine Stage five that that starts to remove some of those barriers that those students who may not be 100% confidence starts to break those down a little bit because they feel like that, it's OK to approach things from a different way and to move a different way, and you know, it's totally fine. And I think that's one of the really beautiful things about syllabus, the education side of dance is that we do really understand that everybody is different and everybody moves differently. And there's not one right way. You know, there's so many different ways in, and there's so many approaches and to allow the students the freedom to be able to experience that and to run with their own individuality. I think it's a really beautiful thing.

Jackie

I think that's one of the good things about the Viva voce is that then they can explain how they're able to adapt that to their bodies to their style, etcetera.

Carla

I think you know, it shows that they have a really clear understanding of their bodies and how their bodies move on. They're going to be safe. Oh, and they do that because they know that they can push themselves a certain way or so. I think it just makes the students more aware of how they do it and why they do it, and then how they can increase their capabilities as well.

Jackie

Yeah, I can't imagine another subject that really gets the students to know themselves as well as maybe dance does like, physically know themselves. I think that's fantastic. Moving into Stage six, Carla already touched that Stage six is a little bit more contemporary and needs to focus on almost a particular style. How do you sort of start to prepare the students who maybe haven't had experience in ballet or contemporary?

How do you start to prepare them for that kind of style in Stage six?

Carla

Yeah, so in year 11, I guess we spend a lot of time. I'm on working on our body skills, and I tend to have, like, a technique exercise for almost all of the dot points within, like that. Part of the syllabus that the kids can then really try to train them. I like to think that year 11 is like the preparation year. That's the year they learn it all and then in year 12. That's the year they have to do it all on. And they have to. Yeah, I guess in year 11 I do. I teach a lot of technique exercises where students are learning how to do use the correct technique, and then we build that up in by incorporating the skills that they've learned in the exercises in their performance work. We do two performance works in year 11, and I guess the first one is more focused on technique and, you know, your body skills. And then the second work that we do is based more on their interpretation and their performance skills. And I guess I we do a lot of like self-reflections and self-analysis. So, like you're saying video footage - I filmed there the exercises so that we can share them on Google Classroom so that if they need to look back, they can look back at the exercise, analyse themselves, so see if they can pick up on alignment issues that they might need to work on often they don't like doing it because they don't like to look, you know, watch themselves. But I think they're their biggest critic, right? So they do. Eventually, they do start to pick themselves. Are you gonna go? Yeah, I can see what you mean. So I you know, I use the video footage to help them with the technique exercises, but also with their assessment task.

So I'll often present them with the video from their assessment task and the marking guideline before I've given them their grade and get them to really read the marking guideline. Watch themselves see where they think they may have gone wrong or what they do, right? I often get them to do the three negative and maybe the three positive just so that they are looking at what they are doing well as well. But that process helps them reflect and analyze and then and see for themselves where they might need to improve.

Jackie

I think things like tik tok and what have you where they're filming themselves constantly. Surely that helps to get them filming themselves and being more comfortable feeling filming themselves. Although I know that they don't love to critique themselves, either. It's a different purpose, maybe.

Julia

Yeah, they definitely love to film themselves, but they don't like to watch themselves, So that's a really interesting paradigm. We've got ourselves in that this year, but yeah, the same with us and distance education. We actually sort of work backwards from a core performance dance. So we, each week, we give them a certain part of the core performance dance, to learn, and then we sort of backwards map from that. So we kind of Okay, well, this is the skill that we were learning about today this week, so you know, it might have been a turn. Let's break down this turn. What is it that you're doing within this turn? What? What is the alignment? How does that change throughout each stage of that turn? You get them to film themselves, obviously.

And you know, we talk through the feedback with them during our lessons that we have and give them, like verbal feedback, as well as written feedback on how in ways in which they can improve what they did really well, So we kind of break down those body skills from the dance that we teach them. So each week, we sort of upload, um, snippets of the dance for them to learn. And then that's what the focus of that week's work is. So you know, they really start to pull apart the technique and safe dance practice and the performance quality so that they get like, a little snapshot of that body skill. And an we kind of just build on that each week. Yeah, that's definitely the filming has made a huge difference for us. Yeah.

Jackie

And have they become in recent years more comfortable filming themselves, I guess with all of the different apps that are available?

Julia

Yeah, definitely. You know, they've got their angles sorted. They know they know how to set it up, you know, without anybody else there in the room. They do amazing things with their phones and they could do better things with technology than we can. So leave all of that up to them, and generally they do a great job of it.

Jackie

That's great. I'm just wondering, do you use any particular apps for having students submit performances or things like that? I just know through COVID I used, we used flip grid a lot for having the students. We were able to show them like little snippets of a dance, and we did have a course in stage four where we did a little bit of dancing as well. So we were able to put up like a little video, and then they were, could respond to that video through dance or whatever. So do you guys use any kind of technology or particular apps for having students engage in performance?

Julia

Yeah, well, we use canvas at Camden Haven High School and the distance Education. We have moved on to canvas, which we did that maybe three years ago on it. It has just been the best thing, particularly for dance like in the practical subjects. Prior to that, we would send out booklets and the kids would have to write things. But moving into canvas. It's far more interactive. We can upload videos for them, to learn. They can submit their videos that there's an app on that they can download on their phone so they can film it on their phone, upload it straight from their phone to the app. It's got quiz capabilities as well. So you do a whole heap of different multiple choice. We do use canvas for everything. So for all our delivery of the information and all of their submission of the information, and it has made a huge difference to the engagement with our students and for us to be able to track how they're going, and we can give them feedback sort of far more efficiently using canvas because we can also sort of film ourselves talking through feedback. We can screen record so we might actually have their submission up on our screen and we can talk through our feedback as that as that video is rolling so they can actually see straight away what we're talking about. It’s been amazing for us to move onto canvas.

Jackie

I like that idea and they can engage with you as you're well not engage, like, talk back to you. But they can see you engaging with their dance. That also would help. I would think to build that relationship. Yeah. What about you, Carla? Do you have any sort of app?

Carla

We have moved to Google Classroom so have used Google Classroom prior to COVID. But once I kind of had to get everything online. We've always gone to Google Classroom, which I find really good. The kids can submit their videos.

Composition as well in year 12. It's a great way of keeping a little bit of a digital log book, I guess, of their compositions, and it's a great way for them. To, I guess. Submit a little video and go ahead and do you have any comments and you can give feedback. I also use the I think it was called screencast-o'matic, which is like that where you can screen record yourself and I use a lot of it. I did it a lot with, COVID and I found that because I had to teach my major study over the over Zoom. But we found the kids, and I found zoom hard to do a practical class. So what I would do is I record myself doing the movement. And then I used the screencast-o'matic and I talked over the top of myself and then kind of explain what I wanted there or what meaning like, you know what meaning I wanted or, you know, whether the level or, you know, like so I photo analysed my movement to help the kids learn it themselves from home. So I found that really, really helpful. And I also did lessons on that using my sheets. And so I pulled the sheet up on the screen and I talked over it. And I now have that to use for next year because it's still relevant. But, you know, we still have to teach the same content and so I found that that was really good, but yeah, like the I really love the new technology and being able to for kids it keeps them, I guess, accountable to because, you know, they have a due date. And when it's online, you can see the time and the date that they handed it in on Do not kind of I don't do that anymore.

Julia

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that that's made a huge difference for us in distance education because prior to being on canvas it was like, Oh, yeah, I put that in the mail two weeks ago or whatever and what? We'll haven't got it.

But with canvas, it's like, Well, actually, I can see when you logged and what page you viewed, how long you've actually viewed it for and it's due on Friday. So, yeah, there's no post to worry about here, so you can just upload it straight away. You'll be fine.

Jackie

I like that about canvas. My school used canvas as well, and you can see exactly how long they've been on there for, which is a nice conversation for parents, sometimes as well. What well it definitely was through Covid. How do you find just the last thing working with students and dance schools? Is that helpful? Do you sometimes have to negotiate different things? The student and with their dance teacher as well? How does how does working with a dance, a student who has a dance studio sort of change the way that you might have to approach something?

Julia

The dance schools are awesome. I feel like that they provide our students with a technical base and a consistency in that training, that physical training that they get. I guess the approach and the purpose of a dance school and what we do is different. And that's what I try to get across to my kids straight away is that there's nothing wrong with what you do with the dance school and just because it's different to what we do here. We're just looking at it from a different viewpoint, and we have a different game to play. So I just tell them that I'm here to teach you the rules of this game. It might be different to what you do outside of school, but if you want to win this game and if you want to achieve well in this game, then these are the steps that we need to do to make sure that we're getting to that end point. I find, particularly with composition when students I know we're talking about performance. But when you know students go to compose their own movement and they're like, well, I go first with this in my own choreography in the dance eisteddfod. It's like, That's awesome. We're looking at for something different here. We've got different criteria to meet. So, yeah, I think if you always go back to that criteria and and find those the common ground and then the difference and then you know, teach to that difference, then that's the way to kind of, yeah, make sure that it's all happening harmoniously because it is their world they love. They love their studios. They're really passionate about their studios and, you know, really proud of where they come from and the training that they get. And that's not something that we need to ignore or discount because it's part of them, so we just need to, move it in the direction that needs to be for the syllabus.

Jackie

I like how you said the knowing where they are or using the good and then teaching to the differences. That's really nice. Carla, did you have anything to add to that?

Carla

Yeah, I'm seem a lot like the dance schools. This area are amazing, and I'm thankful for the technique and the skills that the kids are developing there and again. It's the same kind of thing. Like, I kind of have to remind the kids that here at school we have a syllabus to follow. And yeah, we have criteria and ticket boxes like hold them like I've got to be able to take that you've done that and, you know, like I like to say to them getting outside of schools like homework, the dance here at school, encourage it. But again, you've always kind of got to say it's a it's a little bit different here, and we have the criteria that we have to stop by. But yeah, I'm really lucky here.

The, you know, the dance schools a great and allowed the students allow work on their compositions, and even if performances, I think the kids come in and tell. I showed my dad's teacher she gave me this kind of feedback, which is which is really great because when you're the only dance teacher at your school, it’s so nice to be for the kids to get more feedback and from other teachers.

Jackie

That is really fantastic and to have another set of eyes on it as well?

Julia

Definitely.

Carla

Yeah, you know, like often when you've been teaching them, you telling them the same thing. Sometimes it's like white noise. They don't hear. But if someone else says it to them. I've been trying to tell you that, but it's not. It's cool, unlucky with the situation that we're lucky.

Jackie

Someone else could say exactly the same words. But just because it's coming out of someone else's mouth, that makes a huge difference, doesn't it?

Julia

Absolutely.

Jackie

I just wanted to open the floor now and just see if there's anything else that you wanted to add. Anything that you really wanted to say in this and we haven't touched on yet or any other advice that you may have for dance teachers out there in approaching particularly performance. But any of the other areas of danced that you would like to talk about.

Carla

One thing that I like to do is get a bit of feedback from the kids because it's their journey to and it's their pay checks a year or, you know, their chosen, and that's probably got a bit of an expectations well, and so I like to ask them kind of what's going well and what needs to be improved. And often you get a class that's more than happy to tell you. And but sometimes you get that quiet, a class that don't like to speak up. So I get them to do a little task.

I do it kind of a couple of times a year where I just leave post it kind of on the floor, and just want you to do a green post it for what, what you feel like he's going really well. And then, you know, maybe a yellow post it for what you think you need to improve on or with, like, I need to help you improve on. And so I found that was really good because then you can kind of touch on where maybe the kids are feeling like they're not getting enough or where they're finding an interview hard or something like that. Then you can focus a little bit more on that so you can focus on the areas that they might be, and each year’s different. So that's kind of a little thing that I use, and I guess it helps me improve what I'm doing as well.

Julia

Yeah, definitely, that ability to reflect on what you've done and how you've done it and why you've done it is really important. But I also think sort of building your tribe around you like we dance teachers. I mean, I'm very fortunate here that we do have a few dance teachers. So it's really nice to have my tribe around me who I can bounce ideas off. This didn't work. Have you got any ideas or something like that? So I think as dance teachers, we do need to build our tribe around us and find other dance teachers in our area or even connect, you know, online with other people. And keep that support because we're all in this together, somebody else just might have that little bit of advice that that sends it all in the right direction.

Jackie

And if you're the only dance teacher in your school, you're probably the only person who really understands your syllabus, so that makes it hard on, I guess when you want to compare that to like an English faculty where everybody in that room knows that syllabus. Whereas in a creative arts faculty, if you're the only teacher, you're the only one who knows your syllabus or lucky for you, Julia, with a few dance teachers, I don't know too many schools that actually do have a few dance teachers.

Julia

That's right.

Jackie

So that's why things like I think the statewide staff room is obviously a fantastic place where people can get on and talk to each other, and obviously, podcasts like this, where we're able to share ideas. And so when you are the only teacher there’re some ideas out there for people to hear. So, thank you very much for sharing your expertise today. Um, and you have both given some really fantastic ideas, that I'm sure other dance teachers will be able to take on board and run with it. I wish you all the best for the rest of the year and look forward to talking to you again sometime in the future.

Carla

Thanks, Jackie.

Julia

Thank you.

Jackie

This'll podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate off the new South Wales Department of Education and involved in the conversation by joining the State-wide Staffroom as a source of all truths regarding curriculum. Email our curriculum adviser, Cathryn Ricketts Horvat, using the email address creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au . The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, and audio production by Jason King.

[end of transcript]

Visual arts Stage 5 dive

7-12 Visual Arts Advisor Kathrine Kyriacou speaks with Danielle Leonello from Camden High School and Carol McGilvery from Kincumber High School about their Stage 5 Visual Arts programs.

Jackie King

The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all first nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elder's past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom. Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series, I'm Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're having a visual arts subject chat led by our Visual Arts Advisor Kathrine Kyriacou, who is chatting to Danielle Leonello from Camden High School, and Carol McGilvery, who is Head Teacher, Creative and Performing Arts at Kincumber High School.

Kathrine Kyriacou

Thanks, Jackie. It's a pleasure to join you. I'm going to start today by just asking our two amazing visual arts teachers to tell me a little bit about where they teach and about their department. So, we might start with you Carol.

Carol McGilvery

Hello. Hi, Kathrine, Danielle and Jackie. I teach at a comprehensive high school on the Central Coast of New South Wales at Kincumber High School. It's a fairly large high school. We have 1021 students enrolled this year. We also have 48 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The CAPA faculty at Kincumber High School, is quite an active and dynamic faculty. We have five visual arts teachers, two music teachers, a drama teacher and a dance teacher, and the faculty is very well valued by the school community. Visual Arts is a popular choice as an elective in Stage five and Stage six this year. In year 11, we have two year 11 visual arts classes, we've had two year 12 classes in 2020. We also run two unit photo and digital media in Stage six, and we also run Stage five photo media as well. And next year, for the first time, we have a year 11 visual design course, starting in Stage five. So that's the summary of my context at Kincumber.

Kathrine

Thanks, Carol. It does sound like you've got a really dynamic department and a lot going on, I'm looking forward to hearing more. Danielle, can you tell us a little bit about you're setting? I know that you're in Sydney.

Danielle Leonello

Sure. Hi, everyone. So, I work at Camden High School, and it's a school in the Sydney Southwest region. It's quite a large school with around 1100 students and I have a small portion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at my school. In terms of visual arts, we have three visual arts teachers, and visual arts is quite popular. So, in 9 and 10, we have two visual arts classes, one photography class and in 10, we have the same as well. And we always run senior classes as well. So, it is quite a popular subject.

Kathrine

So, Carol, can you tell me the unit of work you're going to share with us? What is it called? And where does it fall in your scope and sequence?

Carol

Sure Kathrine. The unit of work I will share with you today is called- My World, my story- an art making gig hosted by Grayson Perry.

Kathrine

Okay, I love that title.

Carol

We have a focus on conceptual framework in this unit and we address the conceptual framework on number of levels in this particular unit. So having that concept of the world in the title is really important to sort of set the scene for the students in terms of their thinking and their approach to their art making. The unit is the second unit in the scope and sequence in year nine and so we start off in Year 9 elective Visual Arts with a unit on illustration. In that sort of pop art and manga and comic illustration. And then we move into this unit, my world, my story, uh, inspired by Grayson Perry and art making gig inspired by Grayson Perry as a ceramics and a three-dimensional unit. We also look at Hermannsburg, Potters, and we look at a British artist called Kate Malone as well in this unit. I haven't heard of Kate Malone. Kate Malone is a fabulous contemporary ceramic artist who also hosts A Great Pottery Throw Down.

Kathrine

Oh, I know that show.

Carol

Yeah, she's been one of the judges on that show, and I didn't know her either until i sat and watched his show. But I've put some research into her. So this unit, it's about the students looking at the science and the symbols in their world and creating a narrative around the vessel of a classically inspired part that tells us a story about the student's world.

Kathrine

I can see how Grayson Perry connects to that unit of work. Then talk to me briefly about Grayson Perry. Obviously, I love that he's in your unit of work for Year Nine. He's a bit of a racy choice. How do you handle that?

Carol

We're very careful. We filter through Grayson's work, and he's sort of his identity and his approach very carefully. We look at some sort of high quality resources to present to the students about Grayson and there's some fantastic, The Tate Modern in the UK produces some fantastic Tate shots, little YouTube type gigs that are very accessible to the students. There's a lovely one on his studio and how he manages his kilns. And yes, so we're very careful with the plates that we select to discuss with the students because he does tackle some big issues in his artworks, and some of them are not always use a friendly for us as educators. So yeah, Grayson, he's a lot of fun, and his dress ups and his whole persona is lovely for the kids to have a look up to be inspired by.

Kathrine

So, I'm already hearing that what's happening in art history criticism is informing what's happening in art making for your Year 9 students. Can you just talk me through some of the methods and techniques that you're actually passing on to students in that unit of work?

Carol

Yeah, sure. So, Kathrine, we look at some of the ancients in this unit. So, we look at sort of ancient Greek, black and red figure ware, and we look at the narratives around those ancient vessels. We also look at some contemporary illustrators to see sort of some school to work options, but also to have a look at how science and symbols they used in sort of Children's storybook illustration before the students brainstormed their own world and work out what sort of type of subject matter they might use on the belly of their own pot, their own vessel. Look at Harry McClairy and we look a Diary of the Wombat as a way to look out at different approaches to illustration and how to decode those illustrations.

And then the students, they create their own symbolic narrative about their own world. We look at Audrey Coleman and Bruce Whiteley as illustrators, and from that, then we springboard into the concept of the conceptual framework, and the students sort of reverse the conceptual framework in terms of the students filling the conceptual framework out on themselves first as a method of art making inspiration. So, for example, we provide the writing grid on the conceptual framework and asked the students to tell us as much each about their own world as they're prepared to share with us. So, we look at things like hobbies and activities and passions and interests, and the students will fill out the world section on the conceptual framework. And from that, uh, then we would springboard into sort of a brainstorm on a visual representation of their world on then construct that through the inspiration from the children's book ideas and conventions in those Children's books that we had looked at.

Kathrine

Sounds fantastic. I'd love to see some of them. Here is a question for you, one of the tricky things is handling the size of ceramic works and the kiln room and firing everything. I know people are going to be listening and wanting to know how do you manage that? Then, if you've got maybe two year nine classes, all doing ceramics at once, what's your tip?

Carol

At Kincumber High school we're a little bit lucky because, we're like bower birds in our faculty, every time we see something out on the rubbish pile, we all are going collect things. So, over the years, so I've been there for nine years, we've collected so many trolleys that other faculties, little like push trollies, that the other faculties have thrown out. And we used these trolleys.

I think in the kiln room today there were, there may have been seven trolleys full of ceramic work, so we put all of our ceramic work and we store it in the kiln room a lot of the time, and this way it's sort of it's it's protected, you know, the kids, it's a closed space. We don't have a lot of things that break and are damaged because we have these funky trolleys in faculty that we just drive around all the time. We have little labels on, and that's your your trolly, that's my troll, these sort of things.

Kathrine

That's fantastic. Good. A good but perhaps tricky to replicate tip. Carol.

Carol

Yes, we all need to be searching through other departments and searching the streets.

Kathrine

Yeah, can you tell me in terms of that program, and I know we were going to move over to Danielle in a minute. But in terms of that program, um, are there things that you have thought that's really successful? And is there anything that you've changed over the years?

Carol

The aspects that are really successful are that the students really appreciate being taught the diversity off ceramic surface. So, we look at as many different sorts of unusual ceramic surface techniques is possible that we can incorporate in this particular unit. So, the students will start off with painting their designs on with a series of coloured slips and under glazes. And then the work will be fired very slowly. I'm always talking about firing technique in in the staff room and making sure that the ramp rate is really slow that we make sure that things get fired well. But after it's fired and the glazing process is starting to occur, we add tissue transfers onto the surface for the students, so we show how to use those particular techniques, under glaze pencils and then we glaze the surface and then after the glaze surface, then we show the kids how to use Luster's, so they have these gold, really beautiful vessels. But at the end of the project, they've got all these golden sparkly things.

Kathrine

Oh, that's so good. It sounds like a beautiful unit. It's really lovely start into visual arts. Yeah, beautiful. I need, it's hard with the podcast, I need some visuals. I'd love to see some of it. It sounds really amazing. Do you do any ceramics Danielle? I know this isn't what you're going to discuss.

Danielle

So, I like to hook in my student semester one in Year 10 and we do a ceramics unit around Surrealism, and they really love doing that as well. I mainly use oxides under glazing glazes, and you've mentioned a pen in yours and I want to go and order one because they sound really great. You know, we all need to steal some of those technical, take a couple ideas from you, Carol.

Carol

We actually used to do ceramics since Serialism at our school too Danielle. We used to do it a surreal tea party, which was fun.

Kathrine

Danielle, I know you're going to talk to me about one of your units. Do you want to, go back over it and if you could just tell me a little bit about what your unit is called?

Danielle

We just call that unit Frames Keyword Artwork because it's really driven by students given a range of keywords, each relating to the frames. So it's also improving their vocabulary as well, when they go to write about the frames, and they choose one of those words and they design a body of work based around that word. This unit's position in semester two of the Year 10. So in the scope, they've already done so many detailed and structured activities that are developing their drawing skills in portrait in year nine and then still life painting, surreal ceramics and so this unit's just trying to prepare them to think like a single student and to try and drive a body of work about something they're really interested in. So that that's basically mine in a little nutshell.

Kathrine

Oh, that sounds really, really interesting. So, in terms of the content, how do you divide it up? Is there a period whether the students are.. so they're going to create a mini body of work? Is there a period where they're researching?

Danielle

Yeah, Yeah, yeah, yes. So, I always thought of this unit because by this time they have a really strong understanding off the subjective, structural and cultural frames. And we do touch on postmodernism throughout so this really gives them such a concrete understanding of what it is. So I love to start off with, um, postmodern artists. This year I introduced Tony Albert because I saw this amazing video about his artwork called the Brothers the Prodigal Son, and that was made out of glass and lead. And it was like a stained glass window. And I really loved it. So topical. Yeah, and it was so topical for the time with the black lives matter, movement in America and that's really come through here is well, so I just thought like, I think I saw it in the next day. I was like, I have to add that to my program. So, I started off with Tony Albert, but and I taught students how to create a postmodern art work. We've already, like, touched on that before, but I gave them some restrictions. Like some guides. Yeah, some guidelines. So, I gave them, like a traditional stained glass window shape.

They could have researched their own one, but I gave them one of those, and I showed them how to break it down into different segments. And they had to include at least one object or figure. And it was to explore a current issue they felt has been overlooked. And they were very small artworks in their VAPDs. And this is a preliminary? Yeah, a sorry, this is quite detailed. I'm sorry. This'll is one of the first things that we do and some students actually use that idea for all their body of work. So, they will push that idea and make it larger and developed the technique more and so a couple of students actually did this year. So, I introduced the postmodern frame through Tony Albert. And then we look at Daniel Boyd's artwork We call them Pirates out here, and again, we're looking at the role of truth and overlooked histories and reconciliation. And that's something that we really like to bring to the forefront at our school. And we have a heavy focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories. Um, and we do like a sorting activity with the frames. And of course, looking at the conceptual framework. Well, so then I look at the guerrilla girls.

Kathrine

Some of my favourite artist, Danielle. And you know, I think this is the beauty of the way that the syllabus works. You know, when you have a passion for these artists and these ideas, you are actually able then to interject and find spaces to get those things to the students. And I can tell already from your excitement. I love looking at that. You convey that really well. Yeah. So, the Guerrilla Girls....

Danielle

Yeah. So we look at the Guerrilla Girls. I showed them one of their interviews, and I think that's the moment they really understand postmodernism when they look at you know how outraged the Guerrilla girls were at the representations of women and other cultures in galleries and how underrepresented they are, and they become outraged themselves. And I I just love it. So, it's just I just that so that's what I started because they've already looked at the other frames. I really focused on that postmodern of frame. So, then I give students 12 keywords and three of those words related to each frame to, for example, for the subjective frame. There's the words sensations inner world and identity. Another example is in the postmodern frame. There are words like power parody and appropriation. I find these keywords really stick with the students, and it helps them even write about artworks later because as soon as they think of these different frames, these key words come to mind.

Kathrine

I love Danielle that you you're about to give them a period where they have got some freedom and they're going to have a go at making a bit of mini body of work. But it's also carefully structured, and there are guidelines around how they can move within that space because I sometimes think students tend to be able to start work more quickly and be more successful when those guidelines and structures that actually there, um, they do actually help them help them to make progress. I really like that.

Danielle

Yeah, and to support students as well, I showed them work samples from previous years, and they saw and they organized, they look at the body of work and try and allocated to one of the key words. So a concrete example of, you know, what it could look like.

Kathrine

Can you talk to me a little bit about how your art, historical critical studies feed into the art making? So, are they researching artists that relate to their specific frame?

Danielle

Absolutely, Absolutely. So, in the beginning I ask students to choose one of their key words, and it really that goes off flexible. They got instinct. What were they drawn to? What would they like to pursue? Then we go into the computer room and we do some research around that keyword, and they find some inspirational artworks sort of like a mood board. And that's when I'll directly guide them to an artwork or an artist. And I say, Oh, that sounds a lot like this person. Or, you know, why don't you look into this or even focusing on technique or concept. And it really does help their research come along because they are still in Year 10. So, I do that in year 11 and 12 as well, but definitely they would need that supporting in Year 10. Yes, so once they have that research and I give them three weeks to research because that that foundation is really important for them, to experiment with ideas, and I also encourage them to take their own photographs relating to their key word. And that might help spark, you know, some imagery in their body of work. So, I we do three weeks of that. And then it's three weeks off technique development, as I mentioned earlier in the scope, they have already been exposed to many different art making techniques in very structured ways, so they would already be confident in if they want to do pursue drawing or painting or ceramics. There are occasionally some students who don't feel confident in those areas still, or, perhaps they haven't shown as much development in those areas, and I work with them to create a photographic and digital media artwork. So, I'll take those students who is really aren't sure what to do. And I give them some Photoshop tutorials in how to explore their ideas online.

Kathrine

Wow, this is a, uh, a really broad and kind of challenging unit, and it's a unit that really brings together, I know you said it's at the end of the year 10 course, so it's really bringing together all of their knowledge and understanding from really year seven to year 10 and letting them show what they can do at the end of that point, which is, you know, you're putting quite a bit of trust in them. I love the idea. What's the... What have you changed about that unit?

Danielle

So, yeah, I'm definitely structured. How much time to spend at each point, and I have very high expectations of once I've spoken to a student and we've discussed, you know, perhaps you could research this artist, or take a photograph of this. I really do have that expectation the next time I see them, it'll be complete because that's the only way, we're going to progress and get to this point. So I've really implemented very clear markers for success where we should be as its very structured. Another thing that I've implemented, as I mentioned earlier again, is I If I see an amazing artist, I'll just add them to the unit. So that's something I changed this well, and I give the markets as well in terms of when they actually working on the body of work, I've given them idea of size, so I say an A2 size or an equivalent so if they're making a series of small works, I give them the idea of how big it needs to be. Yeah, but mainly what I think successful in this unit is at the end of every unit I teach I ask students to evaluate it on. They all say, like they all say they love that they could choose their concept and they could what We have a bit of guidance, but they could choose their concept and work in the medium they feel most confident in.

Kathrine

So that's what I think, the success of this unit is and you know what? There's actually a bit of a similarity there between the unit of work that you teach and the unit of work that Carol's shared with us because her work, you know, in a sense, although it's quite a different material, it also is about including the student's world and letting them tell their own story, which, you know, wasn't a deliberate thing that we bought together. But you both are drawing on that in your classroom, which, you know, we all know definitely helps with engagement. Thanks so much both of you for sharing an outline of those units.

Danielle

Thank you.

Carol

It's an absolute pleasure.

Kathrine

I know that you both have mentioned the whole range of artists today and maybe a few technical terms, and I'm going to just be a bit cheeky and say, would you mind if we made a little list in the statewide staff room of some of those artists names and some of those terms so that anyone who listens to the podcast might be able to come back and see them there?

Danielle

Yeah, that's fine, Kathrine. I'd be so happy to share all of that. Thank you.

Carol

No problem. Yeah, I'd be more than happy to.

Kathrine

Oh, thank you both so much. Look, I could keep talking to you for ages, but we can't Lots and lots of ideas. I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Jackie

This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by following Creative Arts curriculum 7 to 12 on Facebook or Twitter or join the Creative Arts Statewide Staff Room as a source of all truths regarding curriculum supported by the new South Wales Department of Education. You can contact the Creative Arts Advisor Cathryn Ricketts Horvat, or Creative Arts Project Officer Jackie King using the email address creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au . The theme music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, and audio production by Jason King.

[end of transcript]

Music performance

7-12 Creative Arts Project Officer Jackie King speaks with Alex Manton from Asquith Girls High School about various approaches to teaching performance.

Jackie King

The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all first Nations People, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the creative cast podcast series I'm Jackie King and I'm a creative arts project officer with the Department of Education. Today we're having a subject chat with Alex Manton, who is a music teacher at Asquith Girls High school. Hi, Alex. How are you going?

Alex Manton

Hi Jackie. I’m well thanks.

Jackie

I thought today we would talk about the different ways that we teach music within our schools. So luckily, I'm a music teacher as well, so I thought we could have a really deep conversation about the different ways and different approaches that we have for teaching performance. So I thought it would be a good way to start, to start talking about the context of our schools because I know that is really different for us. So do you want to start by having a bit of a chat about what Asquith is like?

Alex

Yes, sure, Jackie. So Asquith Girls is on the North Shore near Hornsby. We have approximately 800 students which is an all girls school obviously. The area is very much dominated by middle class and there's a strong music community within the wider community. Many of the students that come to our school have already engaged in music in their primary schools, either through specialist music teachers in the classroom, or they've been part of their co-curricular band programs and choir programs at school so we do have many students that come in that already play instruments, and are already having tuition, or who have been learning perhaps piano from a young age. Although we do have many students that haven't had any formal music training or experience as well, so we're really teaching to a broad range of students within the classroom.

Jackie

My experience is a lot different to that. My school is Kurri High School, which is in the Hunter Valley. We are a more lower socioeconomic area, and our students don't come to us with very much music background, so they generally don't have outside music tuition, and they tend to have not done a lot in primary school. They might have been in a school choir in primary school, there might be one or two that have connected with a teacher who plays at primary school, and I know one of the primary schools does do a little bit of rock band stuff but it's only with a handful of students, not a lot. So, they mostly come to us really fresh. We would have a handful of students who do connect with music who might have a family member or someone like that who plays guitar or piano or an instrument, and they've had a little bit of an experience with an instrument. We have a very small handful of students who will come who are amazingly talented, not necessarily because they've had outside tuition, but just because they're intrinsically talented and they have learnt to play an instrument through watching YouTube videos or again connecting with a family member. We generally start their music journey in stage 4 so it is a slightly different context, I guess, to the one you just described at Asquith. So, in saying that how do you approach performance in Stage four?

Alex

Well, I think it's important to remember why we do performance in the music classroom overall. When you think about all the learning areas that we need to teach, for example, in stage four where you've got performing, composing and listening, I always like to think that composing and listening and performance all stem from doing. And so I like to in Stage four, start with a performance or composition activity. So where they’re actually performing music and they get taught, you know a particular riff or a particular song and then all of the music theory and the listening skills are then drawn out of that activity so that it's all interconnected. And I think that's really important for deep knowledge in the long run for the students to understand the context of what they're doing. In stage 4, I think that at our school we do a lot of very explicit teaching of instruments because we have the students come in for the first time and many haven't played instruments and so we do have like a keyboard program and a ukulele program that we start them on. And we do teach them the basic technical skills to be able to play those instruments. We do class performances together, we do small group performances as well as individual performances and assessment on those particular instruments. So yeah, it's very much a mixture of explicit teaching, but also student led where they might work on certain aspects of the playing and I will come around the classroom and help them individually to improve their skills and nd we've always got the differentiation happening. We have three levels that students can work to and they can choose which level that they'd like to do. And I think that's incredibly important for accessibility, for all students and for them to feel like they're achieving all the time because at the end of the day, we want them to feel positive about their learning and achievable tasks is super important.

Jackie

I think we're sort of similar in terms of we want to get the kids to achieve something quickly so that they enjoy it and they want to come to music and that they're happy to do performance, because for them to put themselves out there and perform, that can be quite daunting because they've not experienced it before, and they are putting themselves out there. We've actually started in stage four with bucket drumming for the last couple of years, and we found that a really great way to start the students in music because it gets them performing percussion, and it gets them to read some simple rhythm notation which is accessible to them. We also look at the different levels and we actually call it ‘level up’ bucket drumming. There's seven different levels that the students work towards level seven. But at the end of the unit, whatever level they achieve is what they can do, and it is very much focused on what you can do. So the students in bucket drumming do work sort of self directed in terms of the through their levels, and achieve their level and sort of get that level marked off and go to the next level, so that part of it is self directed, but we also try and have like, a really fun lesson once a week or once a fortnight where we're doing a class bucket drumming and we will try and bucket drum to a pop song or something that's contemporary and within their sort of knowledge or range of songs that they listen to all the time so that they're having fun with it as well because we really wanted sort of introduce music as being a subject that, yes, it has serious content, but it is fun as well to get them performing and to get them really into it. From there were then start to move into instruments. Term two we look at film music and they start playing different themes of film music on keyboard or guitar and move into a sort of rck band towards the end. So do you want to tell me about Stage five? What do you do with your stage five students?

Alex

I like to approach stage five a little bit differently. As it's the elective course, you obviously have students on the most part that really want to be there and although a lot of what we teach in stage four is very explicit, I like to in Stage five, enable the students to discover what they want to play, what instrument that they're most interested in. We do that through a lot of group activities, like composition activities where they write their own songs, or arrangement activities, so if their particular group doesn't have a bass player, well someone's got to learn the bass. It's their job to work out how to do that with the teacher support, so they might use YouTube videos on the internet to look up technique, they might obviously use their listening skills to learn parts or look up tab or chord chats to learn those parts. So, it's very much extending their skills or developing their stage four skills.

I think it's all about exploration and experimentation, but by the end of Stage five, particularly if they're thinking about heading into Stage six music, I encourage them to really think about what instrument they want to focus on; one particular instrument hopefully the one that they’re best that's going into stage six, and I do think that has to be discussion that happens in Stage five at some point, as they really need to start getting those skills happening in Stage five. Yeah, it's a long journey.

Jackie

It is a long journey. I like to really try and focus my stage five students so through similar sorts of things to you; through group arrangement and getting them to experiment with different instruments. But by the end of Stage five, having chosen an instrument that is their instrument that they really focus in on, I try in my prac lessons though, to keep them pretty free. So to focus their free pracs, I like to make sure that they have, like, a goal. And so I've got a goal sheet for every student for the term. This is the overall goal that I want to achieve. This term, I want to be able to play such and such a song, or I want to be able to work on my drumming techniques and be able to play a certain rhythm or something like that. So, they have a big goal, and then they step out there or how they're going to achieve that goal over the course of the term. They write every lesson ‘this is what I'm going to try to achieve this lesson’ and they have a reflection at the end of the lesson, just to give that free sort of space a little bit more structure. So, this is what I'm going to do and this is how I'm going to achieve it. Whether that be work with the teacher, work with the band, grab one of the instrument books off the bookshelf or I’ve got this great YouTube video that I'm going to keep working with, and that sort of thing, and making sure that they have a goal and they're staying on track each prac lesson and towards their goal.

Alex

Yeah, and adding on to discussion about goals, I think Stage five's a great opportunity to create performance opportunities for the students to get out there and perform. Working on in groups, whether it be in assemblies or some sort of MAD night or performing arts night or community kind of performances.

Jackie

That's almost a whole other conversation, isn't it?

Alex

Definitely. But it gives the students an authentic purpose, doesn't it? At the end of the day I think that's where they really grow. Yes, it is so important to be acknowledged by an audience that you know isn’t just us in the classrooms.

Jackie

Getting them in front of people is really important. Yeah, I really try and build that in. We're really lucky at Kurri as we have the famous ‘Nostalgia Festival’, and so, in stage five in particular, we make sure that within that first term, we're working towards everybody performing at the Nostalgia Festival if we can. Our school actually kicks off the Nostalgia Festival with a high tea event on the Friday, and so we have to have a good hour or more worth of music to perform at the Nostalgia High Tea. So, yeah, we always have our Stage five kids working towards that first term to be able to get them up and performing. And I think the sooner that you rip that band aid off and get them in front of an audience, the better. Particularly working them towards Stage six, where they have to perform.

Alex

Yes, that's right. And it just provides so much engagement, doesn't it Jackie when they do have those opportunities. I know at my school the students are really grateful for those opportunities and yeah, they really get a lot out of it. They love it.

Jackie

And finally, I guess we need to cover stage six, although we’ve sort of talked about it just briefly. Do you vary what you do in Stage six at all or do you have any special techniques that you'd like to share with us for Stage six?

Alex

Look, I do, I think obviously, in Stage six, the students need to decide what instrument they’re going to focus on, particularly leading into HSC. Sometimes that can be difficult if the student wants to perform on two instruments for HSC, but they're considerably stronger on one instrument compared to another. So that conversation needs to be had to make sure that's going to achieve their best in the course, which can be a difficult conversation at times. But we've been through that one, I think in Stage six particularly HSC, we do performance workshops. I'm sure many music teachers have their own word for it. So a performance workshop is where each person in the class will get up and perform part of the song that they're working on, and that's an opportunity for peer feedback in accordance with the marking criteria, as well as teacher feedback. Often I'll jump up and explicitly work with the student for five to eight minutes on a particular aspect in front of the class. So whether it be fixing rhythms or working on breathing or you know, whatever technique next to be worked on so the whole class benefits from the discussion. Yes, it is a master class.

Jackie

So we do a similar thing in stage six. I actually call it ‘concert practise’ and I try and keep it, though as a concert, so not so much a master class. I don't really jump in. I want them to do a performance and get from the start to the finish. It doesn't really matter how good it is, getting from start to finish and not stopping, and then the students then give a peer critique or feedback. Again engaging with the marking criteria and making sure that their feedback is based on that marking criteria and the students always doing a self reflection as well. So they’re constantly trying to grow within themselves.

Alex

Yeah. I had a couple of other things to add actually, I think it's important for students to record themselves and watch that back to critique. I think that's a really important part of the process. But even moving into music extension, as we all know the market criteria for music extension is different to music one and two. I think that many teachers within the extension course will often support students in practising their pieces so it becomes very student led with not as much explicit teaching going on. I think there is scope in the extension course to offer more explicit teaching in terms of working on areas of technique. So, preparing a lesson on expression and how you incorporate that across all instruments. How do you incorporate vibrato? How do you pedal well? I think there is room in the extension course to have prepared lessons based on technique, things like breathing or tone production, stylistic elements, performance anxiety, things like that. So, yeah, that's something that I do do in my teaching, but I'd like to extend so that students are really understanding those concepts in a lot of detail. And also finally, is that many of the students will have tutors at that point. In my experience, I think it's really important to touch base with those tutors where appropriate. I feel that it’s like a team and even the parents, you know, like we’re the specialists of music education and the HSC syllabus, and their tutors are the specialists of their instruments. We have to work together to support that student, and the times where I have reached out and helped explain the syllabus a little, you know, a bit more clearly the tutor has been very grateful.

Jackie

Well, I don't know in your area, but in my area, sometimes a lot of the tutors still have that, ‘oh, it's got to be like a concert. It has to have a lot of variety in the program.’ And I'm like, ‘no, it's all marked separately as an individual and event that's right.

Alex

So I think there's a lot of misconceptions or tutors unaware of how its marked and I think that if we can bridge that gap by having those conversations, the student's going to get the most out of the course, and do their best.

Jackie

That's great to hear that a lot of them have tutors at that stage for you. We still don't have a lot of tutors, even for State six, but it's really good to be able to connect with the tutor, and the few that have had tutors in my experience, are always involved with the HSC, like whether they're accompanying or that sort of thing, so it's really good to have that partnership with, them as well, I agree.

Alex

I think one way you can bridge that gap, if they don't have a Tutor, is to get special guests to come in. Absolutely, if you have that within your budget, so that you can facilitate that in the classroom in the form of a workshop and it's great for the kids to get another perspective other than your own.

Jackie

I try to do that anyway actually, if I've got lots of guitar students, get a guitar specialist in or vocal specialists, especially. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Alex. I think it's been a really great chat, and hopefully we can have another chat about music a little bit further down the line, maybe covering one of those other important learning areas.

Alex

Definitely. Thanks, Jackie.

Jackie

Thank you. This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by following Creative Arts curriculum 7 - 12 on Facebook or Twitter or join the Creative Arts Statewide Staff Room as a source of all truths regarding curriculum supported by the New South Wales Department of Education, you can contact the Creative Arts Advisor Cathryn Ricketts-Horvat or Creative Arts Project Officer Jackie King using the email address creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. The theme music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, an audio production by Jason King.

[end of transcript]

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