A Brief Understanding of the Orff Process

Orff is not a method of teaching music.  There is no prescribed “sequence” or repertoire of pieces that teachers must follow.  Orff is more of an approach to teaching music.  To best understand the process it is important to experience and participate in a variety of activities where different stages of the learning process appear.

The different stages of learning include:

1.  Imitation: Students work on developing basic skills in rhythmic speech, singing, body percussion, playing instruments, and movement by following the teacher’s example.  You can find imitation happening simultaneously, delayed (echo), or overlapping/continuously delayed (canon).

2.  Exploration: Students can discover and explore the possibilities available to them in both sound and movement.  This helps students feel their own personal musicianship rather than copy a teachers musicianship.

3. Improvisation: Extending the skill as to the point where the children can initiate their own patterns spontaneously.

4. Independence: Students find the ability to improvise, analyze, and communicate on their own.

5. Literacy: Learning to read and write what they have created.

Some objectives you teach will use only one or two of the learning stages above.  Some may use all of the learning stages.  Orff teachers must be certain that they are not simply using one of the stages for every objective they are teaching.  Children need to be challenged to think in different ways and using different stages as a starting point in your teaching will give you so much more freedom to explore within yourself and your career.

Teachers of the Schulwerk should never feel “stuck.” There are endless opportunities for exploration in your own process.  I teach six 4th grade music classes.  If  I use the same process for each class I will burn out by the end of the week and the lesson will have lost some magic.  I try to remember to change up the process and try new things with each class even though we are often on the same song or objective.  Try it and see how it changes your teaching!


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