ASPA Education instructors have been working with the Diocese of Wagga Wagga in the south western Riverina district of New South Wales since 2016.
Each school term we visit between 4 and 10 schools, commencing with a Professional Development session for the teachers before the term begins. Students learn 3-4 songs over the course of the term, in preparation for a spectacular combined concert. As with all ASPA Education programs, the focus is not only on performing arts skills but incorporates fostering confidence, team work, memory skills and social interaction. We spoke to instructors Maddy and Alex recently to find out more about the Wagga Wagga program and how the students and teachers benefit from learning with ASPA Education.
How do you go about keeping a large group of students engaged, focussed and motivated and learning new songs and dances during a lesson?
M: I like to use physical and verbal call and response techniques. This means that the students are utilising kinaesthetic, aural and visual learning, even while I’m getting their attention! We do lots of unusual copy-cat sounds, vocalisations and physical movements to keep the sessions entertaining and engaging.
A: ASPA Ed is all about learning through fun – we aren’t afraid to be silly or try a new learning technique if we feel the students are losing focus or energy. We also have a very team-based approach to teaching and if we feel the students are losing interest we’ll work together to try a new song, or dance. Sometimes it’s just as simple as changing where the front of the room is, or the order of the songs, just to keep the students on their toes!
What kind of skills do you think the classroom and music teachers develop by taking part in the ASPA Ed program?
M: By taking part in the ASPA Ed programs, teachers are able to pick up a few new tricks that may be performing arts based. These tricks can be used in their classrooms too. The attention-grabbers we use are exciting, fun and are alternatives to some traditional techniques. The ASPA Ed program is also excellent in encouraging teachers and students to learn together. Both teachers and students learn, make mistakes, and present to each other. This further develops rapport in a fun, engaging program, away from the traditional classroom setting.
A: I hope that the teachers learn that teaching music, dance and drama doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. We teach them to break down songs and routines into small sections that can be tackled one bit at a time and makes them seem less overwhelming. We emphasise that the teachers and students should feel like they’re learning together and that it can be a powerful bonding experience. This is exemplified even more by those teachers that choose to conduct items at the concerts when we work with them to develop their conducting style.
In what ways do you think the students benefit from participating in the program?
M: ASPA Ed is unique in that it successfully engages people of all ages, backgrounds and ability in an all-inclusive environment. The students therefore benefit from learning together and working towards a common goal of the end of term performance in a constructive, creative, explorative way – how fun!
A: Our over-arching goal for the students is to build confidence in themselves; both in the form of having the courage to perform in front of an audience but also through completing and succeeding at a project that they have never done before. Our concerts give the students this goal to work towards. Learning songs and dances can be a great way for students to develop memory skills, through recalling lyrics and moves learnt in previous sessions. The development of fine-motor skills is also an outcome of the REDed dances that we teach, all disguised as fun routines.
For more information about how ASPA Education can work with students and teachers at your school, please visit our School Programs page