Thursday, July 20, 2017

Teaching with the Orff Approach

From a fellow music teacher:  
I started classroom music teaching at the age of 40. It was only after I attended an Orff workshop that I knew I had found my teaching style. The rhythm of the words, the patterns and connections, the free flowing creativity, the movement, the instruments---all of those elements drew me to Orff. -MS

I am often asked, especially by new teachers, why Orff?
Orff Schulwerk (school work) is named after composer Carl Orff, who, along with his colleague Gunild Keetman, worked with children in post-war Germany. In the 1960's what became known as the "Orff Approach" spread the US and is joyfully embraced by teachers around the globe!
When I first began teaching music, (cough cough 24 years ago!) I was ill prepared to teach elementary age students. I had planned to teach high school choral music and only had one elementary methods class.  During my student teaching experience I feel in LOVE with the wee ones and knew without a doubt that tying shoes, peeling toilet paper from shoe bottoms, and zipping zippers was in my future.
I felt a huge pull towards those beautiful Orff instruments, and bought a couple without really knowing how to use them.
If you were like me, you probably had the (common) misconception that the Orff Approach, was ALL about those beautiful xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  Add in speech, singing, playing instruments (including Orff instruments), creative movement, improvisation, creativity, active listening, and hands-on music making and you have a very busy, fun-filled, playful music room full of happy, excited children who are collaboratively music making every day! It's a truly beautiful, magical music making experience!
For a history of how Orff and fellow teacher, Gunild Keetman, developed the methodology we now call the Orff Approach, check out the American Orff Schulwerk Association's page here. There is a fabulous 2 minute video at the top of the page, I've included another one below.

Speak, Sing, Say, Play

Teaching with Orff is similar to teaching children language and it is PLAYFUL!  In music classrooms taught by Orff teachers you will hear children rhythmically speaking, singing, saying rhythms with body percussion and transferring that to unpitched percussion and pitched Orff instruments.  You will see students creating their own music, playing and singing pieces in which they have participated in deciding how or what to play.  You will see students dancing and creating movement to accompany a speech piece or a song.  You will also see and hear elements of Dalcroze and Kodaly.

Imitate, Explore, Improvise, Create

Orff is process based, child-centered music education with imitation, exploration, improvisation and creativity at its core. 
Students are taught using the sequence of IEIC; imitate the teacher, then move on to explore the piece of music. What if we played the A section 2 times?  What if we spoke an ostinato over the rhyme?  What if we played the ostinato on drums?  What if we sing the piece in our heads and only sing the parts that have Mi Re Do?
Improvisation begins as students move from exploration into discovering new ways of doing things.  Structure and form are still often provided; play the rhythm of 2, 4, 6, 8 on glockenspiels in C pentatonic.  What is played is up to the performer; the rhythm (structure) is dictated as is the form (play the rhyme in full).
Students in Orff classrooms are often creating; small groups may be creating word chains that will be used as a "B" section in a poem or song. Students may be creating movement or ostinato to accompany songs or dances. I love the creative component and it is one of my favorite elements of Orff Schulwerk.

Don't Just Take My Word For It!

Orff is my passion; we are not called "Orff-Fans" for nothing!  To give you a few more perspectives, I asked fellow Orff teachers about teaching with Orff - here's what they said:

Most children can "Say"..Most Children can "Sing" & "Dance"..All Children learn through "Play"..the best teaching strategies I have ever come across!  -LN

I use the approach to guide my students into independent thinking as they create and note how much they enjoy the process. -KS

Orff allows all children to have musical success at whatever ability level they are personally, all while also having fun! -RW

My favorite thing about the Orff approach is that you start simple, allowing everyone the opportunity to contribute and participate with success. -KD

Have you tried an Orff workshop? I highly encourage you to "give it a go"!  There is a list on the AOSA website, most chapters have between 3 to 6 workshops per year. Go, enjoy, and get ready to change your teaching forever!

Get ready for excitement, get ready for joy, get ready for fun!!

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