Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lessons of the Institut

Something to note is that when I have time, I plan to add more pictures to the preceding posts as well as refine thing a bit and correct errors, so readers might do well to check back at some point.

One principal lesson of the Institut is simply learning the nature of what it is they are teaching. I’ve been reading Keetman’s Elementaria concurrently with the course. The principles from this book are in essence what they are keeping alive in Salzburg. The teaching contains the elements of the Elementaria while structuring them into model lessons that would be inviting to children. I am really glad I decided to thoroughly review this book while taking the class. Everything made more sense.

The Elementaria has a great emphasis on movement – greater I think than any of the other Orff media. The core of the book concerns movement; the book points itself towards the movement content. There is a compendium of movement activities in the abstract that are organized in a useful, sequential manner plus an appendix of possible movement activities for beginners. When I look these chapters over, they are too abstract to use directly with children. The activities need to be brought to life with imagination and flair, and this is what was modeled for me at the Institut.

Secondly, I am very glad to have finished my levels with a couple of different approaches, and to have taken some advanced courses before attending the International Summer Course. I would not have wanted to have the course be my first acquaintance with the Schulwerk without a solid background in process and curriculum. As an American, I think could have easily become confused.

Why? Because the Schulwerk as Orff and Keetman first envisioned it assumed the exposure of children to a body of rhymes, folk songs and games common to that culture. The Murray and Hall/Walter volumes bring this same assumption to the English adaptation. In America, I believe, we have lost contact with our traditions and can no longer assume children carry this sort of background to the classroom. As Whoopi Goldberg’s nun discovered in “Sister Act 2”, not every child knows “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

This means we have to teach the tradition simultaneously with the curriculum to make the Schulwerk work for us. And we are already crunched for time. So process and curriculum – efficiency - are essential to achieving our goals as American educators. I found myself a little jealous of people from other cultures, still in touch with their own folk traditions, for it seemed they could take advantage of the lessons of the Institut with less prior exposure to the Schulwerk. With less need to reestablish their traditions, they can get down to the business of learning and teaching with greater ease.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve, thanks SO much for blogging about your experience at the Summer Orff Institute. You are a wonderful writer and I enjoyed reading all your posts. Your students are so lucky! Balloons, Penguin dances, world drumming....Vermont will be rocking!

I would love to hear from you during the school year to see how your experiences have translated into your everyday teaching responsibilities. Take Care!

Becky from Orff Classroom to Stage...