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Orff Music Programme

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Music teacher Michelle Flint talks about the success and increased engagement of her students using the Orff Music Programme at Cambridge Middle School. The programme encourages curriculum integration, and has a strong emphasis on students' understanding the purpose of their learning.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Facilitating shared learning

The New Zealand Curriculum (p34) states that:

"Students learn as they engage in shared activities and conversations with other people, including family members and people in the wider community. Teachers encourage this process by cultivating the class as a learning community. In such a community, everyone, including the teacher, is a learner; learning conversations and learning partnerships are encouraged; and challenge, support, and feedback are always available. As they engage in reflective discourse with others, students build the language that they need to take their learning further."

What are the arts about?

Te toi whakairo, ka ihiihi, ka wehiwehi,
ka aweawe te ao katoa.

The arts are powerful forms of expression that recognise, value, and contribute to the unique bicultural and multicultural character of Aotearoa New Zealand, enriching the lives of all New Zealanders. The arts have their own distinct languages that use both verbal and non-verbal conventions, mediated by selected processes and technologies. Through movement, sound, and image, the arts transform people’s creative ideas into expressive works that communicate layered meanings.

(NZC, p20)

  • Which learning areas in your school are delivered with an inclusive, child centred approach? How could you increase this across the school?
  • How do you know that your students understand their learning journey and the purpose for their learning?
  • In what ways do you make links within and between curriculum areas?

Have you seen ...

Learning areas – A possible pathway for curriculum review
This section of NZC Online explores the ways the learning areas can be an integral part of your curriculum design and review. it includes review questions, relevant research, and links to useful resources and examples.


My name is Michelle Flint and I’m head of department music and performing arts at Cambridge Middle School.

My entire music programme comes under the encompasses really Orff Schulwerk which is a teaching pedagogy that was developed by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman in Bavaria in 1924 – a long, long time ago. This pedagogy, this approach teaches children to sing, dance, use movement, body language, body percussion to actually create and explore in a really imaginative way.

Last year I approached the University of Waikato and found that they were offering Masters papers in Orff Schulwerk – at that point I’d never heard about Orff Schulwerk before so I went along to the first workshop in January last year and had a really amazing time and then did Orff two in July, and while I was there it opened my eyes to the connections between speech, song, dance, movement, body language, and instrumentation. While I was there at the workshops I was able to create and explore in a really fun and imaginative way. It’s a really inclusive programme, it’s a child centred approach, and I thought great, this is what we need for our school.

So my teaching programme now has changed completely in that it’s more hands on. The students now know their journey, the learning journey they’re on, they know the purpose for the music making, which is really really important before we didn’t have any way, any direction that we were going on, now my children do have a journey. I take them on a learning journey. We discuss what it is that we want to get out of our music because it’s really important for students to know the direction that they want their music to be, a reason for their creativity, a reason for their music making.

A really exciting part of my teaching now with the Orff approach is using poems or rhymes as a starting point for teaching and learning. So the children develop ostinato patterns, which are repeating patterns from words within the poem, which we can create and build up to make layers. Lots of ostinati layers that goes along with a melody that we create. We then take this repeating pattern, after using our voice, we then take it onto body percussion and then onto untuned instruments and then onto actual instruments so the students are actually understanding about composition – understanding the form of composition and at the same time they’re getting a rhythmic and an aural awareness.

As Carl Orff himself said, Orff Schulwerk is for the school and it’s meant to be integrated into the whole school curriculum. And if us as Orff teachers can actually integrate with other teachers, and collaborate with other teachers, then their programme can become part of our programme. So when children are actually using these rhymes to create, we can use rhymes that they’ve made themselves – it might be a poem that they’re working on in their own classroom. They can bring these poems with them and that can be the starting point for our teaching and learning.

Currently I’m working with a group of five students who are our lowest maths achievers. They are year eight students but are really struggling with their maths. So since the Orff approach again is for the school I figured it would be really nice to use the connection between maths and music to see if we can help there with development. We’ve only started this and we’re only actually 15 sessions into the maths work, but those five students come to me every week and we’re using this model word idea to help them understand about whole notes and half notes and quarter notes and eighth notes, and then we’re actually taking that into maths and musical maths. So they’re able to split, subdivide, and understand these fractions of notes. The students are clapping them, they’re using untuned percussion and they’re going into percussion, so one of them might play a whole note while some of them play a half note and a quarter note and an eighth note. We then take that onto the whiteboard and we start adding and subtracting whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, adding notes together. So it’s really helping them with their understanding of division etc. So again it can be used not only for poems, but we can use music for maths since it obviously stimulates other learning areas as well.

So really then, the Orff approach, it does empower students of all ages particularly adolescents, mainly because it’s hands on. It’s literally from the minute that students walk through the door, it’s practical, practical, practical. And not having to sit down and take notes, they’re not having to listen to theory, they’re actually physically and actively involved in their music making from the minute they walk through the door to the minute they leave which is really, really important.

Published on: 30 Mar 2011