After 16 years teaching music, Holly Pursino knows her way around a classroom. She’s been at Canopy Oaks Elementary School for more than a decade but even a veteran teacher like her can learn a new trick or two.
This summer, she participated in a specialized professional development workshop and she’s been using her new-found skills since the beginning of this school year.
The Orff training she experienced was made possible through an Arts Education Grant from the Council on Culture & Arts. The Orff approach is a developmental teaching method and Pursino explained “it’s all about experiencing music first, then adding instruments, poetry, literature, movement and other things. I learned so much to bring back to my classroom. It was wonderful.”
Pursino immediately began incorporating the techniques into her existing lessons and developing new ones but her underlying philosophy remained unchanged. “I like to teach the same concepts schoolwide, but of course at different levels so every year students are reintroduced to them and they’re expanded on.”
Kindergartners offer a special opportunity for Pursino to start from scratch and build excitement about the world of music. Currently, her youngest students are focused on tempo and Pursino is using a variety of instructional methods to make the concept concrete.
In addition to singing a new song and using body percussion to tap out different rhythms, the kindergartners also played instruments, listened to a story and used hobby horses and scarves to express the differences between fast and slow, all in one class period.
Lyla Roberts is a kindergartner who readily expresses her love of music. “It makes me feel happy,” she said. “I like it because you get to play instruments like the xylophone and sing and dance and have fun.” Her classmate Joseph Marschka agreed. “It makes me feel good. We do fun stuff.” His favorite part of the tempo lesson was the scarf dancing and hobby horse activities. “Galloping was fast and walking was slow,” he explained.
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