We are musicians!

As ICT Leader and Year 4 teacher, when I asked all my teachers to try out a SOICT unit of work before Easter, I knew I had to lead the way and get creative. Receiving the packs of resources in September, my colleagues and I looked through the Year 4 units to decide which one we felt all three of us could manage with the software we already had at school, as well as considering what topics we were teaching which could be linked to ICT.

It just so happened that in the same month I was contacted by our local Apple Store (Lakeside, Thurrock) to notify me that they were running their training sessions for children again. We have taken advantage of these for three years now and they are fantastic. The children attend one class at a time for a whole morning and are trained by Apple experts in a chosen piece of software.

It was then that we decided to go for the We are Musicians unit (4.3) of work from the Year 4 SOICT pack, starting the unit with a trip to the Apple store to learn the basics of Garageband. In one morning the children covered everything they needed to know about the main screen of Garageband (probably about 3 lessons worth if covered in class by a teacher). They came back to school ready and eager to put their knowledge to good use.

We then set about a 6 week plan of lessons to revise, extend and put into context their new found skills:

Wk 1 - trip to Apple - learn the basics of Garageband

Wk 2 - Review skills on the school AppleMac Books (these are quite old and the software was slightly different to the new version at the store) - explore the sound loops available on our school computers. We focussed this session on learning how to layer sounds and be picky! Encouraging the children to choose good combinations rather than go for sounds because they liked them!

Wk3 - Start a three week project - we showed the children three film trailers (Up, Harry Potter and Rio) and asked them to identify what kind of music was used for each trailer. Their challenge was to choose one of the films which they think they have loops for and create a new sound track for the film.

Wk4 and 5 - Children spent two weeks putting together sound tracks, combining sounds, reviewing and rediting to ensure that the mood changed appropriately to match the film trailer. Some children managed to get onto adding a voice over to encourage people to come to the cinema to see the film.

Wk 6 - Showcase. Each child had a tick board with the subheadings "layers", "timing", "excitement". Each groups' music was played while the class watched the film trailer. They then ticked the things which they thought had been completed successfully, some children were chosen to comment and feedback to the group.

So what did the children get out of it? Was it a successful start to our SOICT journey?

Well, I've never seen my class so quiet during an ICT lesson - thanks to headphone jacks! They were absolutely mesmerised by the task and although we thought it could be too tricky for them, they rose to the challenge and many showed skills which I would have never assigned to them! They were keen to work in their partnerships and proud of the end results of their hard work. They were very insistent on learning more about the program (I got told off by one child for having an old version of the software!) and some worked out on their own how to record themselves. I just wish we could have spent a whole term on the unit of work, instead of just 6 weeks!
I probably wouldn't change the structure of the lessons that we completed, but would like to do a second unit with these children in Year 5 or 6 to extend their skills use midi instruments to record on Garageband. This year in my new budget I will be upgrading the software that we have so that next time we do the unit we have all the available tools.

What was highly rewarding for me was that my other two colleagues enjoyed this new unit of work just as much and that they were leading the ICT ideas more than myself! They are keen to start another SOICT unit and ditch the Microsoft based units we have been following. I just hope other year groups have similar positive experiences!


4-3, apple, film-trailers, garageband, macbooks, music, Switched On Computing

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