In January Choreographer Mark Smith tested his Alan Turing inspired workshop in schools in Milton Keynes.
3M Maths|Movement|Music. Funded By Arts Council England and Bletchley Park.
Amazing the concept/theory of intersecting maths music and movement and use code and cyphers to bring a new angle for children to learn and engage (about these topics) in a fun way is actually happening! These workshops are demonstrating that Mark Smith’s 3M theory /concept can be turned into a learning practice for schools with the Maths input of Thomas Briggs Bletchley Park and Mu- sic input of composer Michael England. Today Steph and Joseph a lot more confi- dent. Thomas on form and it felt like a team at work. Oakgrove school provided great spaces to work with three large class rooms, one empty but for a piano and the other two teaching rooms had tables pushed aside.
Children – although known as difficult to work according to Teacher were noth- ing but absolutely engaged. It started on time! Their was ability mixed with enthusi- asm, and good peer support. The day before the 3M team delivered the first ever 3M workshop to year 8’s at Lord Grey Academy. The 3M team implemented changes after a feedback meeting about Lord Grey. This followed much learning from the first session, that was also had a delayed start time. At Oakgrove, very quick intros opened the session with everyone getting a chance to introduce them- selves and connect with the children. The room was packed. Thomas asked people to write their name in the air. Finally he asked them to write first name with one hand, and second name with other hand; half say its tricky and difficult. Thomas led this session well, They were asked to do this three or four times, large and really small, revealing a little about the personalities we were to meet. Afterwards it was clapping in time. Thomas kicked off with a basic beat, Joseph made it more com- plicated and Steph’s sounded like a tango, all the children got it fast; so Thomas said, “let’s make it harder, they up for the challenge”. Thomas started with 1 2 3 and gave the children a number and asked them to remember what number they were, this numbered nicely got the children into groups at the same time. Group 1 clapped Thomas’s easier beat, requiring little or no musical ability. The children looked disappointed. Group 2 Joesph’s and Group 3 Steph’s. The clapping beats were then layered up, remarkably the pupils kept in time. After the warm up ses- sion, the group went to work. Each group was given a secret word. The children responded really well to keeping the words secret, hiding the paper under their jumpers and keeping quiet /stum when asked. I stayed for Steph’s music group, Steph proposed to ask the group to write the musical code for the word Bletchley Park, to help the group work more as a team and make session less dependent on 1 to 1 input.
Steph kicked off with showing the children the musical code that they would use to play their name on the piano. The children were asked to get into pairs and do the musical code. Transforming their name into a musical score. Steph partnered one pupil, so no one was on their own. The results were great with one pupil choosing to make their name more musical by using the code fully and using the crotchets and quavers on the left hand side of the code when others just puts large black dots on the stave. The probem with the musical code is that if your name has letters that are in the same column, it does not change the note repre- senting your name because the position on the stave remains unchanged, so Steph often has to make last minute adjustments before playing a persons name on the piano. Naomi luckily uses most of the musical code, without too much adap- tion. It sounded good and had lots of depth of character on the piano, using lower notes. It was good to see in this session that the use of the music code is evolving and demonstrating what is possible by pupils with an aptitude for music and can really use musical code, for example if children who can read and play basic music. The girl who presented crotchets and quavers to Steph went on to play in the per- formance “Bletchley Park” at the end rather that Steph who went on to accompany their two other groups performances of Bombe Machine and Bletchley Park. When deciphering the performance at the end many of the children got “Bombe”. I went into the Movement workshop and Joseph was illuminated, he asked as the chil- dren arrived, “What is your secret word”. This game play and fiction key to getting the group going on a task and all feeling part of it. Joseph starts with small physical gestures for letters in the alphabet using Sign language as a starting point and gradually moving the children to bigger shapes. Joseph asked children to make suggestions and the pace of the learning of the shapes and the routine was in- tense, with Joseph adding ta ta ta’s to give space to the shape making and creating a much needed pulse for the movement. The movement group grew in confi- dence. It was rich in energy and expression, and I think a wish to display a code, to be deciphered. All the children did the movement workshop with Joseph, at the end of the sessions, children commented that they could read the code because they know certain letters, that they had learned. This a mini break through, just like the Bletchley code breakers spotting consistency and commonality in the code when listening to messages (traffic) to start deciphering. Demonstrating what you can do with a little knowledge of pattern and method to start to break the code. Thomas Briggs from Bletchley Park, had a lot of fun using the existing knowledge that the children have of times tables, 2 x2 3×3 and so on. Thomas said his work- shop could go on an on, infinite it is and when watching the children get into it I can believe it, because like maths it is both open – (the space to solve problem) and fixed (with the answer to 2 x 2 being 4 )at the same time. Thomas asks a child to pick a sound to make rather than say the answer 4. The first child picked “eat” to replace “4” and as it progressed his utterance of “eat” in rhythm became more like the sound of a gulp with the utterance of eh. The comedy of this could be seen and heard by all, and encouraged children to go next, eager to have a go. One boy suggested “sis-sis” to replace 6 reminding me of the rhythm in speech of African Patwa sounds, he was a person of colour with locks. Something to listen out for in later school workshops. He quickly gave up on this but he was spot on in terms of creating a sound track out of the times table. Also “sis-sis” would involve move- ment as he said it pushing Thomas workshop further into the other topics of move- ment and music. But Thomas is about beats rather than music and he is inspired by the beat of morse code and dot dash. That he replaced with the physical gesture of “stomp” with your feet “clap” with your hands. As the session get more complex with each child recounting their own times table and adding their sound to replace a number, whether it occurred in their time table or someone else’s. Thomas com- mented that this is how dancers and musicians work all the time and they use counting to do this and get their performance right on time.
Thomas asked the group for the secret words and moved on to his variation of FIZZ BUZZ game this time with a sheet with two columns on the left is the alphabet and on the right a picture of a clap and a picture of a boot in various sequences. As this progresses it was easier for Thomas to point at the picture and the children do the action, rather than Thomas speak the instruction. For example clap stomp stomp stomp clap and the children do the instruction. They are kinda reading music ! Linking Thomas maths workshop to the Music workshop and demonstrating a use a further use for codes. The result Alan Turing coded into stomp clap. Interest- ing to note A is stomp clap and N is clap stomp. Tricky just like trying to write your first name with your left hand and your second name with your right at the same time. i think this exercise also reveals the Neurodiversity in groups.
Everyone returned to the plenary at the end eager to perform, and present their secret word, there was the sound of people asking each other questions try- ing to get clues. The performances began and Yes! The code broken. The Children were given a good round of applause and pat on the back, and put their hands up to answer the questions What did you like? what did you learn? And would you like to do this again? The feedback said it was fun and they learnt something and they want to do more, more details to follow, wow what an amazing hour.
Download info sent schools about workshops
Watch 3M – Mark Smiths film about working with professional dancers and composer Michael England with Movement, Maths and Music