Practical advice for teachers on how to undertake The Last Aliens with your pupils under Covid-19 restrictions
The latest guidelines published by Education Scotland states:
‘Music education activities bring many benefits to children and young people, including for health and wellbeing; social, physical and cognitive development; creativity, communication, team work, and discipline. These activities are also important routes to equity and inclusion, and are the basis of further education and employment for many. For all these reasons, it is important to find safe ways of undertaking some form of these activities wherever possible, until they can recommence safely in full.’
There is a lack of evidence about the role and relative risk of singing, and playing musical instruments in the transmission of COVID-19. There are however a series of practices which will reduce any risk associated with these activities. Adopting a precautionary approach, the sub-group’s advice is that music activities should take place only in situations where they comply with the low-risk criteria as laid out in the guidelines document.
Here are some tips on how you can continue to engage with The Last Aliens whilst complying with the Education Scotland guidelines. As these guidelines will be regularly updated with new information, it’s important to keep checking them for changes that will hopefully make things progressively easier for you and your pupils as the weeks go by.
Step 1: Identify an ideal space for learning movement and singing
If possible, work outside or use a partially-roofed area so that there is effective air flow. If the pupils are watching the video, (all facing in one direction) ensure that you stagger their positions as they should not stand or sit directly behind one and another (in keeping with social distancing rules). Each pupil should have 2 clear metres in front as well as to each side; that way, they should all be able to see the video. It’s a good idea to rotate their positions if you can, at least once in the session, by bringing those at the back to the front and moving those at the front to the back, so all pupils have the chance to be closer to the screen for a portion of the session time.
If an outside or partially-roofed area is not available, the next option is to use the largest space available and reduce the number of pupils you are working with at any one time. This room should have at least 2 entrances that can both be open to allow free flow of air through the space.
Step 2: Start with the other cross-curricular activities in the learning pack
Singing is only one of the many activities that pupils can undertake when engaging with The Last Aliens.
Always start with the cross-curricular activities in each part before moving on to the learning the songs.
Step 3: Familiarise pupils with the tunes
Play the songs (full versions with vocals) in the background when you are doing some of these other tasks in order to get the pupils accustomed to the music. There’s no need to do anything else at this stage. If you haven’t worked on a Scottish Opera project before, you’ll be surprised at how effectively the tunes will lodge themselves in the pupils’ heads using this approach!
Step 4: Learn the choreography
Keep sessions to 20 minutes maximum to avoid over-exertion causing droplet spray.
Our teaching films are designed to illustrate the choreography for each song. When using these, ask the pupils to mime the words (not singing out, but reciting in their heads). Remind them to focus only on the movement at this stage.
Step 5: Use the audio guide vocals to memorise the words first and then the tunes
Do this safely in three stages of learning, each roughly ten minutes.
Whisper the lyrics rhythmically. Start with barely a sound – almost miming the words. Build up gradually with alternative lines. E.g. Lines from the opening of the first song:
(whisper): They’re here, they’re here,
(mime): The news we’ve all been waiting for.
(whisper): They’re here, they’re here,
(mime): The signs are there – we can’t ignore
Do this twice, then move on to whispering each line (no miming). Do this once.
Hum the tune and ask the pupils to ‘sing’ the words in their heads as they hum. Try this up to three times.
Sing the lines softly in short bursts of verse /pause/ chorus/ pause/ verse etc (no more than 6 lines at a time). Do this twice.
Only at the end of the session, should you ask the pupils to sing through the song once from start to finish without stopping.
Once the pupils are familiar with the lyrics and the tune, position them in a circle facing outwards (if working outside or in properly ventilated area – socially distanced) and try singing the songs. They should look straight ahead. This is actually a very good exercise to encourage confidence in knowing the words thoroughly, as they can’t see the pupils on either side. Also, this encourages them to listen more carefully for the count into the music to begin. You can do this from the centre of the circle so the pupils are facing away from you.