Thursday, 28 June 2012


On Tuesday we had an incredibly intense, purposeful and highly productive critique session.

The quality of the burning questions asked by presenters was excellent and the feedback given was precise, honest and we really got the sense that for the first time the students really had a sense of shared ownership of each others' work across the whole porject.

We are still working on Step Up Step Back.

Mr Mead pointed out that it felt like being in Margaret Noble's classroom. Both Mr Dead and I were privileged to observe an incredible critique in her class in High Tech High last year. The students in that class were 17 and 18 years old.

Examples of Burning Questions:

My notes, these really show the depth and quality of feedback that was offered.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Power of drafting

At the end of the day, after the debrief when the students had left, we found something that made us happy. A great example of resilience, determination and success.

The picture of on the left handside is a draft number 3, and subsequent ones struggled to make a great deal of improvement.However somewhere between draft 10 and 13 something changed. It is fantastic.

Student led conversation Draft 2

We are clearly a little way off having a room where everyone feels able to contribute without concern. We are still relying on a core of students to lead.

This conversation happened at 9am this morning and we worked hard as a whole class to deal with and change some habitual behaviours from some of the class in terms of sharing the load. We intend for this blog to be a record of the learning to which students can refer when making their final presentations, so this is very much a warts and all post. We will get there.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Rubric for the music

Here is the rubric for the music compositions, built entirely from the students' comments when critiquing the teacher model.

Friday, 22 June 2012

An entirely student led conversation about the week

Our students finished the week with a conversation about how they felt it had gone. We asked them to step up and step back, and for the most part they did so, at least to begin with. 

Here is the conversation:

We will be asking them to do something similar on Monday and expect the conversation to be of even better quality than this one.

Analysing the birdsong

This afternoon we took the audio samples of the birdsong recorded in the field. We slowed them down and dropped the pitch using Audacity and then the student worked out the contour and rhythm of the melodies by ear.

Theses melodic fragments (in blue) will form the main motif for their ambient music.

Students' compositions will be in Ternary Form ABA1 and so the students developed imitative variations on the theme (green) to be used as a contrast in the Asection.

Critiquing the teacher model

Today we started by critiquing the teacher model.

Listening skills were clearly improving and the quality of technical language being used was very impressive.

Mr Said has some homework to do to redraft the model as the pigeon sample was recorded at a kennel that was too quiet and is noisy. He was told by B that it sounds too jumpy as the white noise is invasive in the mix.

J also asked Mr Said to consider spacing out some of the blackbird samples in the A section as the overlaps were too busy and detracted from the ambient mood that is the desired effect.

Below are the student responses. They were first asked to describe the piece both qualitatively and quantitatively. We then dug a little further for what made this a good model based on our knowledge of the birds and ambient music.

Blackcap redrafting.

Great work here by Sophie, unprompted, dedicated and  showing great attention to detail. The improvement from first attempt is wonderful. Possibly most impressive is that she can distinguish between a male and female Blackcap. We love this.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Questions from the community...

Could you leave some questions for our students in the comments on this post please?

We will post their replies here too.


Thanks to Mr Middleton for spotting this.

Just to show the wonderful diversity birds offer!


Negotiating skills- identified by students.

Why should we care about birds? How do we know this?

Why should we care about birds?

People should care about birds because if we don’t then we will corrupt the food chain, bugs will mass in population and then farmer’s crops will be eaten and then we will have nothing to eat. Also birds of prey will drop in population because they will have no other birds to eat.

Because they can help the farmers!
They help the environment.
Many people like their song

Why should people care about birds because they can be nostalgic and are important creatures in the environment, for example some trees couldn’t be planted if a bird hadn’t eaten the fruit. They also reduce the insects and help farmers produce more crops because the insects that eat the crops are getting eaten by the birds.


They are good indicators of a healthy ecosystem because if the birds in the food chain are dying then there is something wrong with the rest of the chain; .

Rarer birds encourage tourists to Britain so that they can listen to their songs.

They should also be cared about because they relax us by singing their songs because we have evolved next to them.

They fertilise trees by eating seeds then pooping them out.

They pollinate plants.

Chickens, which are birds, produce eggs that feed people.

They can let you know where bad weather is by flying in the opposite direction to it.

People should people care about birds because they help farmers to keep the insects away like grass hoppers, because they eat them so whilst they are eating them so they are helping us too because they are getting the insects of the crops/plants so that’s helping us not get diseases. Also they help us grown trees because they eat fruit and drop the seeds in the floor so then they grow trees and if we didn’t have trees we couldn’t be to breath.  They help tribes in difference  countries because they keep the number of the posing insets down so that they hardly harm humans. We need the birds because they help lay seeds by eating the fruit and pooing out the seeds .

We think birds are interesting because there are more birds than we thought and we think the way they hunt for food is interesting because kestrel was cool when it was.Hovering and it could see infrared and they see the trail of the urine from all the animals

How do you know this?
We know this because we have looked on different websites and found out all about how they have dropped in population and are nearly extinct. Also we have read loads of documents and graphs about what birds on amber, red and green.

We know this because we have looked at some articles that were produced by BTO and RSPB.

We found out through research and studying food chains that birds destroy pest species that could ruin farmer’s crops
We found this out from looking at and researching food chains and listening to a sad story about DDT
We know this because of research over the 4 days of this project.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Signs the students are really starting to care...

I have a video which echoes Darren's earlier post but will have to ask my kids tomorrow if they are happy to have it posted. They stand in absolute silence with patience, waiting to see a Heron that never arrived, we did see some Swifts drinking from the water though. A real wow moment.

Not bad for 20 mins work...

After listening to Eno over the last couple of days, our students started work on a "practice ambient composition" as a class. This was done though a very quick Musical Futures style classroom workshop.

The melodic fragments are based on a slowed down audio sample of a willow warbler which was recorded by our student in the field:

Which birds are you considering?

We are considering using the black cap, the chiff chaff and the skylark. We like the sound of the black cap as it sings a nice melody and we have a high quality recording of it. The chiff chaff‘s name resembles the call it makes. This is why we picked it. We chose the Skylark because it has a nice high tone of song.

Listening- follow up

The students were "in the zone" for todays twitch. They explained this as being due to a couple of reasons. 1. Listening is an individual responsibility but has consequences for the group. So, you can't listen even if you want to if someone else is not.
2. Setting a target of the bird they wanted to see or hear or record before we set out helped them show determination.

Nice work one and all. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Resource- Telling Blackcap and Garden Warblers apart.

Resource Telling Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs apart.

Resource- Why do birds sing? What are the connections between bird song and birdsong?

Resource- Bird songs

The Skill of Listening: Student reflections.

This is not only  essential for our everyday learning but  is a key component of this project.

So how have they improved since yesterday?

  • My skill improved by not being distracted by "S", if she wasn’t there I will listen well.
  • My listing skills improved only a little bit because I have been talking too much at times.
  • My listening skills have gone even better from day 1.
  • I dont think that I have listen today as much as yesterday because it was the fact that I was outside of the school grounds
  •  They haven’t changed.
  • My listening skills have not changed much since yesterday because I was making a continous effort to keep quiet.
  • I think that my listening skills have stayed the same because I did and always listen well
  • My listening skills have changed because I am more aware of the sounds around me than I was before.
  • I know that this has happened because I can hear the birds more.
  • I feel my listening skills have improved from yesterday by being quiet when I am told.

How would you explain the change or lack of change?

  • I think this is the case because I was ready and not talking and I was following the 5 rules of twitching (bird watching). I was also trying my best to listen to the birds and the teacher. Though at some points I was getting a bit overexited about being out of school grounds.
  • I was able to get more and better recordings today because everybody was quieter allowing me to listen better to the songs
  • It helped me learn a pigeons call. Since I listened to the teachers I didn't get lost. I found out when a bird was singing.
  • I have been a lot more  confident so therefore I were listening a lot better last but not least i were standing still more and listening to the birds more carefully and the projects going to need high quality sounds.
  • I was being silly.
  • Improvement will come from ...  following the rules and planning things.

It is important to realise that this skill will not change over night, but being aware of how we can improve will be essential in developing your skills over the project. It is interesting that responsibility is a thing which you believe will help.

So, what have you found interesting so far?

  • That birds communicate through singing.
  • To identify different type of birds 
  • The most interesting thing for me is that I have discovered that there is so many birds out there when I didn't even know about them.
  • The most interesting things I have seen today were two swans on the water and a skylark above me. I also found this group of birds flying above me interesting as they sang a nice tune.
  • I found the most interesting thing is the mute swan landing.
  • To listen to birds and music they have singing it’s very peaceful and exploring the whole world like [woodlands] with birds singing.  
  •  listening to the bird song interesting because it's something I haven't heard before
  •  The most interesting thing I found today was the yellow hammer and the recording of it too!
  • There are more birds than I thought there were.
Nice work everyone, we are using specific names and are beginning to see what we have on our doorsteps. It's good that some of you are beginning to connect  skills, the wildlife and the use of technology.

Bird picture quiz Round 1

Here come the warm jets                 12points
Another Green World                       13 points
Before and After Science                    2 points
Kite Stories                                       13 points
Another day on earth                          4 Points
Tiger Mountain                                16 points
Appollo                                             14 point

Monday, 18 June 2012

What is ambient music?

This morning we introduced students to the ambient music of Brain Eno briefly; here are their thoughts so far:

What was interesting was the students' response to music that was clearly modern and lacking in lyrics. Some drew comparisons to some film scores and began to imagine human narratives that might be suitable for the sounds they hear, whilst most were able to identify that the primary means of communication in the music is colour and mood.

This is something we will explore in the practical music classroom workshops later in the week.

Tomorrow we will introduce them to the teacher model.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Student views- What has went went well? What are our next steps day one.

What have we done better this afternoon?
We got a bit more work done and did it better.
Concentrated better. Than last time.
we have found more birds this afternoon.
Is that we learned all the different type of birds and we listened carefully
We were quieter than we were this morning.

What helped us make this improvement?
We focused more.
Team work because at the start we didn't have Callum.
This was because people weren't talking
Researching different species of birds

The feed back.

What must be better tomorrow?
Our behaviour must be better.
The work because we didn’t get much done 
We still did not see as many birds as we like.
I think tomorrow we need to start to look for the birds more carefully
We need to work better as a group.

What will help us achieve this?
Think long and hard tonight about what we are going to do.
we will be more concentrated
we could do better tomorrow by not talking while we are recording. 
Listening out for the birds more carefully
Help each-other