Monday, 26 May 2014

Some Music and Writing Sessions

We have just had a great discussion on the list about Writing Retreats – that developed into thoughts on Music workshops. So here are our ideas from this day in May 2014 – it would be great if you could share your own creative strategies for getting students to write – or just getting them to be with each other in engaged and engaging ways. This post looks at Sing-Write; Rich Writing; Make music like Mozart; Free writing prompts; Academic free writing.

Sing-Write and find your voice – from John Hilsdon: 
“I’m planning a ‘sing-write’ (finding your voice) event for the Plymouth Writing CafĂ© in the autumn - and the warm-up we will do is this: 
All stand in a circle
Breathe together, in through nose and out through mouth in time with the leader for about 30 secs
Shake arms
Shake legs
Shake head
Relax all muscles and shake whole body
All say brrrrr (as if it’s cold!) and make the lips vibrate! If they won’t put a finger lightly on each cheek and try again
Make the brrrrr go all the way up to the highest note you can then all the way down to the lowest note
All sing the sound ‘ng’ like in the ‘dong’ of a bell – (leader leads with the note to sing this together)
Repeat - different notes - following the leader
All say “blah blah blah” and start to wander around the room in any direction saying this continually – try different notes and changing the ‘tune’ whilst still saying blah blah blah!
All sit and close eyes
Have one minute of silence with eyes closed
Take pen/paper and free write whatever comes to mind for 3 minutes.”

Be with for an hour: Rich writing: A variation on the sit in silence for a minute:
On our Art History MOOC - one rich writing activity that we had to do was to sit with an art work for an hour. We had to find a piece that was interesting or meaningful for us and then be with it - we could make notes or anything - but we had to quietly be with it for a whole hour. We then had to write 300 words on the artwork. 

I chose to sit with the picture of my mum (on the wall in the photo below) - and found the exercise both moving and really useful. After the hour I had more notes than I could use in a 300-word write up. It was a really rich experience.

More Music - From Craig Whittaker: Make music like Mozart 
Ask your delegates to think of a sound that they can make. If they claim to be having difficulty, then examples of sounds could be clapping, popping, shrieking, humming etc.

Have them all make their sound as they walk around the room, and just enjoy the noise.

Encourage them to play with the sound - to change it or make it louder, or more unusual.

After a couple of minutes of this, ask them to stop, and to think what colour and shape the sound is. (Provide plenty of coloured markers and a white-board or flip-chart for this.)

Then invite someone to draw their sound on the board, and to repeat it at regular intervals across the board. This will form the base-line around which the rest of the composition will be built. Have them make the sound to illustrate what it will sound like.

Repeat the process with other volunteers until you have a composition of around five to seven sounds.

Now appoint a conductor who will cue the performers when to begin. The resulting sounds should pleasantly surprise the delegates, and illustrate the principle of synaesthesia.

Even more Music:
For those whose interest in MUSIC have been piqued: when we had a music session led by Dave Griffiths of our CELT with our students he developed our music as follows:
  • initial sound-making – with voice or rudimentary instruments or real instruments
  • call and response
  • round singing (London's burning)
  • into groups composing music in response to a picture - and performing for each other.
  • A finale activity was to choose the audience before whom we had to perform - we chose Glastonbury - it was fabulous!!!
 More Free Writing
* Choose a postcard sight unseen from a pack – turn over – see picture – write
* Choose an object from a sack – write
* Have two pieces of paper in front of you – focus on something you can see, hear, feel, smell – write… If you stop writing, write the reason for stopping on the second piece of paper. Reflect on the activity.

Academic Free writing workshop
Set up a session of one to one and a half hours long.
Ask students to have two sheets of paper in front of them - one for writing and one for writing why they are not writing.
After reassuring the students that their writing will not be marked - put up a relevant assignment question (either one that they have been set - or a relevant one that they might have been set) - ask them to write without stopping for ten minutes on the question - and to write the reason why they have stopped (for they will) on the second sheet.

After ten minutes structure three reflections:
* What was your reaction to that process?
* Why did you stop writing?
* What can you take from this process into your other academic writing?

What is interesting is that whilst for academics the writing issue often is: 'Students can't write - their spelling, punctuation and grammar are awful.' The issue for students is overcoming a fear of writing - so space to discuss their feelings about writing can be the freeing activity.