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Senior Years

Years 5 - 6

Parson Bird - Tūī  by Emily Cater

Poetry and Stories

In the senior years we develop more complex rhythmic speech arrangements made up of multiple parts including:

  • parts that emphasise the pulse

  • parts that match the rhythm of the words

  • complementary speech ostinato parts and

  • colour parts

We build confidence in taking the words away so that we are left only with the rhythmic patterns on body percussion or percussion instruments.  We work with a three part poem about Robert Winter, better known as Barney Whiterats, who was a travelling swagman in New Zealand in the late 1800s. 


In the senior years we begin to learn the sol-fa hand signs for showing pitch.  We practise conducting using these hand signs in small groups.  We are already familiar with the terms ‘doh’ and ‘la’, and now we learn the other sol-fa note names (doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, doh).  Having developed confidence in earlier years singing up and down a scale and lots of simple stepwise songs, we practice singing and identifying different intervals: thirds, fifths and an octave.  We also sing some songs following scored notation.  We use some songs in the old broadcast to schools publications where everyone can have their own copy to follow as they sing along.  We continue to sing simple rounds and learn some songs with two parts. 


In the senior years we enjoy singing and dancing more complex rhythmic circle dances with challenging body percussion and changing partners.  We learn a number of African dance songs such as Bala Pata Zum and A Let a Go Go arranged by Julian Raphael.  Stodala is another favourite circle dance that involves lots of body percussion, turning, changing directions and changing partners.


In creative movement we improvise contrasting movement sequences in patterns of 4 to match a piece of music in 4/4 time such as hold a shape for 4 counts, make two different shapes for 2 counts each, make four different shapes for 1 count each, take 4 counts to slowly move into 1 shape.  We improvise movement based on contrasts such as curved and angular, percussive and sustained, slow and fast.


In response to poetry and stories we create movement motifs that can work like movement ostinati, small repeated movements to represent an idea or emotion.  We also use canon as a choreographic device to develop a dance based on environmental images inspired by poetry, story, or legend such as an avalanche, a hurricane, tumbleweeds, or waves

Listening and Analysis

In the senior years we play more passing games but in different timings including ¾ and 5/4.  We create rhythmic passing patterns with small beanbags to embody the different beats before passing it to the next person.  Dave Brubeck’s Take Five is a favourite piece for this activity. 


We develop our expertise and understandings about the elements of music by using musical terminology to describe what we are listening to.  We discuss:

  • the instruments we hear

  • the colours/moods/emotions the music makes us think of

  • descriptive words, landscapes or pictures that come into our heads as we listen

  • tempo, dynamics and rhythm patterns or percussive qualities that we hear. 


We respond to the music through writing tasks using our musical vocabulary and we do some research to support this work. 


In year year 5 we do an album study of a NZ collection of music, Te Kū Te Whē, by Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns.  We use the drama convention of ‘writing in role’ as museum curators for an exhibition on traditional Māori music to develop the voice of the expert in our writing.   In year 6 we do a listening study of two pieces from The Planets by Gustav Holst, Mars and Venus.  We learn about the Roman mythology that inspired Gustav Holst to write these pieces.  We complete a piece of persuasive writing to convince other people to listen to these pieces of music that could go on a CD jacket cover/i-tunes avatar.  We learn how to conduct in 5/4 time, with the accent on beats 1 and 4 as it is in the piece Mars (1 2 3 4 5) and perform some of the rhythmic ostinati from the piece stressing the accents in the right place.  We transfer the ostinati to body percussion and un-tuned percussion.


Contemporary NZ Music

To support our work on taonga puoro in year 5 we listen to Gillian Whitehead’s Hine Raukatauri about the goddess of music and dance that uses putorino, karanga manu (bird callers), pūrerehua, and tumutumu (percussion).  We also listen to Helen Fisher’s ‘Te Tangi a te Matui’ which combines Māori and Western sounds and material.  This piece is based on a karakia used to welcome people onto a marae and uses an orchestral flute to represent birdcalls and the tradiational kōauau sounds.  We also listen to a couple of pieces from the album ‘Tuwhare’, where New Zealand singer songwriters put together arrangements of poems by Hone Tuwhare.  We listen to Wai perform the poem ‘On a Theme by Hone Taiapa’ to hear the use of poi as a rhythmic instrument in a piece of contemporary music.  We also listen to Don McGlashan and David Guerin perform the poem ‘Rain’ (“making small holes in the silence”), and Hone Hurihaganui perform Papa-Tū-Ā-Nuku (“the land wriggles in delight […] we love her”).


In year 6 as part of our study of The Planets we watch a performance of ‘Planet Damnation’ by John Psathas played on timpani by Diana Loomer and do some comparative analysis between this piece and Mars.  We reflect on how both composers use powerful rhythmic patterns on percussion instruments to create tension and unease.  We also learn a little bit more about the composer John Psathas, who lives in Wellington, and some of his other work including ‘View from Olympus’ that was played at the opening and closing of the Olympics in Athens in 2004.  John Psathas writes lots of rhythmic music for percussion instruments just like what we play on at school.

Percussion Instruments

We continue to transfer rhythms from speech and poetry to body percussion and then to un-tuned percussion instruments.  We use our knowledge about the qualities of the different instruments to justify our instrument choices in creative work.  We use percussion instruments to add bursts of colour to our poems and to illustrate stories and poems in soundscape work.

Barred Instruments

By the senior years we are able to play more complex arrangements on the barred instruments with more challenging rhythmic ostinati and melodic lines.  We play some pieces in the Dorian mode, and try improvising with this different scale.  We compare the tonal palettes and qualities of ‘doh’ based and ‘la’ based pentaonic scales in the traditional mode (Ionian) and in the Dorian mode.  We continue to develop our mallet technique with fun games and exercises and during this time we begin to read rhythmic patterns using beat charts and traditional notation (crotchets, quavers, semi-quavers, minums, and semi-breves and their equivalent rest symbols). 

Once we can play an instrumental arrangement confidently we explore different performance possibilities in terms of form.  For example we might start with a soundscape followed by spoken text or song to which we might then add a layer of body percussion before ultimately playing  the full instrumental arrangement.  We experiment with different types of beginnings such as a layered entry and different types of endings such as fading out or stopping on a final note in unison.  We take turns taking the lead as conductor and/or playing a drum to keep the pulse.

We use the music of Jon Madin and Gerard Van de Geer and arrangements by a number of Orff teachers working in New Zealand.  In year six we also learn a piece written by Gareth Farr, a famous New Zealand composer, written especially for the students at Eastern Hutt School!  This rhythmic piece, Tiki Ta, was commissioned by previous Eastern Hutt music specialist Angela Campbell who knew this composer through playing Gamelan with him, and others including Jack Body, in Indonesia.

Te Ao Māori

As part of our listening and analysis work in the senior years we learn about the legends of Tāwhirimātea, Hinepūtehue and Raukatauri and how they are related to early Māori musical instruments.  We do some research on taonga puoro from the family of Rangi (melodic instruments) including the pūtorino, kōauau, pūtātara, and the family of instruments made out of gourds.  We also look at some taonga puoro from the family of Papa (rhythmic instruments) including tumutumu (stone/wood/bone struck with strikers), hue puruwai (gourd shakers with loose seeds or pebbles inside), pūrerehua (flat discs spun on cords to create the sound of the wind), and poi (a ball of dried flax on a string that is swung and tapped by the hand to make rhythmic patterns).


In movement we learn about the wiri movement, which can represent heatwaves shimmering on a hot day, sparkling sunlight on the water or leaves rustling in the wind.  We hear a story about Hineruhi the goddess of dawn/sunrise whose dance is said to create the sparkle of light reflected in morning dew and her companion Tānerore who dances with light on a hot day, representing the shimmering rising heat waves and origin of the wiri movement.  We use the theme of pōwhiri to do some creative movement and body percussion work using Māori movements, complemented by poi and rākau.  We explore the elements of pōwhiri including the karanga call, the concept of two groups becoming one through shared waiata (song)/breath(waita and hongi)/korero (speech)/kai (food), and the acknowledgement of who we are/where we come from including the recognition of our ancestors.

In our instrumental work we return to the theme of rain that we explored playfully in the junior years and play an arrangement of Tōmairangi by Hirini Melbourne and arranged by Orff educator Christoph Maubach.  This piece involves creating improvised accompaniments in both movement and music.  We explore the kupu for different types of rain to support our improvisation work in music and movement including uanui (big terrible rain), uaroa (long continued rain), uawhatu (hailstorms), kohu/haumaringi (mist), and tōmairangi (light dew).

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