The focus of this pedagogical study was to create a sequential music curriculum using the Orff Schulwerk approach for the multiage classrooms of the Aquila Primary Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. This was to be a working model which would provide the framework for implementing developmentally appropriate practices into the music curriculum for the first/second and second/third grade multiage classes. These practices include (a) integrating curriculum, (b) active child involvement and interaction through peer teaching and cooperative learning, (c) use of manipulative and multi-sensory activities, and (d) a balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated activities.
Developmentally appropriate child-centered learning is the cornerstone of multiage primary education. Orff Schulwerk, based on the work of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, is a philosophy of music education that is a natural extension of developmentally appropriate practice. Speech, song, movement and instrument playing allow children to become actively involved in their music making. There is a sense of community that is built by children cooperating in group activities. Students in a multiage classroom are continually involved in building a sense of community throughout the day and it naturally carries into the music classroom.
This paper reviewed the research of mixed age grouping and comparisons of graded and non-graded classes. Successful implementation of multiage practices in the classroom was reviewed through writers who are active multiage teachers.
A multiage curriculum was developed for common elements based on the Music Education Standards for grades K-4 from the National Standards for Music Education and the St. Louis Park music curriculum. A twelve-week curriculum was developed and piloted using peer teaching, cooperative learning and learning partners. Lesson plans were developed around the elements of rhythm and melody and are included to serve as models.
The first and second grade multiage concepts focus on (a) the review of do, re, mi, and so; (b) melodic improvisation of mi, so, and la, (c); partner improvisations using do, re, mi, so and la; and (d) creation of 8-beat phrases using known rhythms of half, quarter and eighth notes and rests. The second and third grade multiage concepts focus on (a) reading, improvising, writing, and composing syncopation; (b) preparation of sixteenth note patterns; (c) question and answer phrases, and; (d) improvising and writing 16-beat question and answer phrases for piano. Assessment of student progress was made by recording specific activities and behavior through teacher observation, anecdotal records, and student portfolios.
The result of this project is a sequential music curriculum for the multiage primary grades. Recommendations for implementation include allowing extra time for lesson planning and curriculum development to meet the needs of all students. Adequate preparation for teachers is a key element to success in teaching a multiage class. Time needs to be allowed in the day for personal reflection and student reflection at the end of lessons. Starting simply with one multiage technique in one class allows the teacher time to practice and adapt techniques that will meet the needs of his or her teaching situation.