Playing with learning

Orff Music CollageYou’ve got to learn something in order to teach it. On Jan. 21, that premise resulted in a group of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District elementary school music teachers engaging in a day of playing new instruments, melting like snowmen and dancing about like flitting snowflakes.

The teachers met for a collaborative inservice led by Elaine Larson, music teacher at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science. Larson is a specialist in Orff Schulwerk — a developmental, participatory approach to teaching music and movement. It comes from the German composer Carl Orff, with “schulwerk” being the German word for schoolwork.

“Orff based his work on a philosophy of teaching music and movement based on what children naturally do. They sing, chant, play games, and they move. When teachers learn Orff, you teach in the same manner you would teach children. You’re actually doing the activities you would have students do,” Larson said.

Orff and a collaborator developed instruments that are now commonly used in the Orff Approach, including miniature xylophones, marimbas, glockenspiels and metallophones, recorders, and different-sized drums and other non-pitched percussion instruments. District music teachers with access to Orff instruments wanted more information on how to use them with their students, so Larson put together an interactive demonstration.

The teachers became students, singing and thunking out rhythmic, ostinatos-based songs on the various instruments, and performing dances to accompany the music. It was a winter-themed music lesson meant for first-graders, with teachers dancing with scarves to emulate snowflakes, and melting into the ground as a snowman in warming weather would. Larson said the teachers were enthusiastic learners, which was music to her ears and eyes. “The teachers in our school district, especially in the elementary schools, are very hungry for more knowledge about this,” she said. “It’s so nice that the district allows us to collaborate like this.”

Larson is planning a two-week workshop for teachers in Orff Schulwerk to be offered at Kaleidoscope this summer, sponsored by KPBSD.

Photos by Sue Biggs

Orff music Elaine:
Elaine Larson, music teacher at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, acts out a melting snowman in a dance as part of an elementary school music teacher inservice on the Orff Approach to music education, held Jan. 21.

Orff music instruments:
Elementary school music teachers practice with Orff instruments in a music inservice Jan. 21.

Orff music xylophones:
Rose Pilatti, music teacher at Nikiski North Star Elementary School, plays an Orff instrument.

Orff music dance:
Music teachers dance with scarves to emulate snowflakes in an Orff Approach music lesson geared toward first-graders.