Integrating folk music into the primary music curriculum

I. Abstract 2

II. Introduction.. 3

III. The Example. 4

IV. Commentary. 5

V. Contact 7

I. Abstract

This example of music teaching in a primary school in Slovenia illustrates typical practice focusing on an integrated approach, using Slovenian folk music. This approach is being promoted to stimulate new ideas and methods for dissemination in Slovenian schools. By means of an intercultural approach it also promotes opportunities for cultural diversity.

II. Introduction

Music education in Slovenia follows the principles of holistic and interactive musical learning. With a range of music from different times and cultures, the curriculum gives an important emphasis on Slovenian folk music in order to develop pupils’ sensibilities and a positive attitude towards national musical heritage and their cultural identity. As teachers are the key agents in the delivery of the curriculum in schools, the role of folk music in the teaching-learning process depends on them. At this point we run into a problem: Slovenian teachers often neglect folk music and dance because they are not familiar enough with them and do not have enough knowledge to teach them. This is also due to the fact that folk music is not given adequate emphasis either in university teacher training programs (where it is usually an optional subject for primary teaching) or in programmes of in-service teacher training. At the same time, the folk tradition is disappearing from everyday life. So we can conclude that pupils have less and less opportunity to develop their cultural identity particularly in an ever more globalised world.

The example presents an effective approach based on active learning through the interaction of listening, creative movement and dance activities. It was developed gradually in music lessons over four weeks. The work was devised and taught by a class teacher in the 3rd class of primary school (children aged 8).

III. The Example

The content is a music fairytale with the title “Shepherd and Bewitched Princess” based on folk music from different regions (Pomurje, Štajerska) of Slovenia and from Rezija (Slovenian ethnic minority in Northeastern Italy). Folk music from Pomurje included: “Majoška”, “Akacušut”, “Drmač”, and “Točila san čarno vino”; “Mašarjanka” (from Štajerska); and “Rezijanska viža” (from Rezija ). In their creative responses to the music, children spontaneously used some elements of Slovenian folk dances (for example twirling and stepping in the piece “Rezijanska viža”) or adapting Slovenian folk dances (such as the Mašarjanka and Špicpolka). They internalised musical language and expressed it through spontaneous movements.

The musical aims were to develop:

·      attentive listening of Slovenian folk music pieces;

·      expressive responses to the character of the music and the musical elements through creative movement and dance.

The aims, related to psychomotor and affective areas, were to develop:

·      spatial awareness;

·      coordination;

·      communication skills;

·      interpersonal relationships and

·      independent learning.

First, pupils listened to the fairytale. Then they expressed parts of the story events and figures through creative movement while listening to Slovenian folk music. They were divided into groups to create common movement for one part of the story. After this creation process the groups presented their work and reflected by answering questions like: how were you feeling? what were you satisfied with? what additional suggestions do you have? what changes could be made? etc. Through the self-evaluation process they made suggestions for improvement and included them in their presentations. Finally, they connected all parts of the story in common group presentations. They staged the fairytale along with music accompaniment and the teacher telling the story (see the attached video-recording ). After the performance in class, pupils also invited their parents and presented their work to them. They gave performances also at some neighbouring primary schools and at the Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana.

IV. Commentary

During the performance pupils expressed great interest and joy in movement and dancing to folk music.

“I’ve heard on the radio the same music as that I was dancing to as the witch. (…) I had enjoyed very much while I was dancing in the fairytale”

(pupils after their performance, 25/01/08).

“Nice performance. Will you soon make something similar? (…) It is right that children get familiar with folk music. At our home we almost never listen to it. (…) I was moved. It was as though I was looking at myself at that young age. Old folk music is so simple and so rich”

(parents after the performance, 25/01/08).

“Interesting combination of tradition, present time, up-to-date and “primitivity”. That really attracts pupils! It is obvious how they enjoyed themselves. (…) Most important is that all children from the class participated and that all felt the structure of Slovenian folk music. (…) Super idea. I was excited about the pupils’ response how they used folk music and dance. As if they had known them forever”

(teachers after the performance, 14/03/08).

“Interesting approach – from didactical view in that way folk music is much closer to the child and more appreciated. (…) So much interesting and diverse music! … Combination of fairytale and dance is excellent starting point for interdisciplinary connections”

(reflections of student teachers after seeing the performance, 21/03/08).

The key outcomes were that pupils:

·      listened attentively to the folk music and distinguished faster from slower tempo, louder from softer dynamic, repeated ideas and contrasting parts of the structure;

·      expressed musical elements through creative movement;

·      appreciated and used folk music;

·      developed their coordination;

·      explored, chose and organised movement ideas;

·      used movement skills and orientation in space;

·      developed their self-esteem, self-confidence, attentiveness, independent learning, interpersonal relationships, and communication skills.

The example gives an insight into Slovenian music education and culture. It encourages teachers to include national music in the teaching process as pupils in every culture should feel and know their musical “roots”. Through internalisation of folk music pupils develop their cultural identity and step by step become aware of cultural diversity in a globalised world. They can open themselves to the richness of musical language and develop their own identity. It also raises questions about the role of national music heritage in music curriculum as well as reflecting on pupils’ interest for folk music in relation to other music.

The example shows one possible way to compensate for insufficient attention to folk music in Slovenian music education. It offers possibilities for dissemination into everyday teaching practice through programmes of in-service teacher training. Since the study year 2006/2007 this model has been presented in the music programme for in-service teacher training at Faculty of Education University of Ljubljana. In the framework of the theme “Slovenian folk songs and dance” teachers become familiar with a range of Slovenian folk songs and dances. There is also the challenge for dissemination in other cultural contexts by means of multicultural approach.

V. Contact

Contact Person:


Shepherd and Bewitched Princess