A Day in the Life of Orff Certification: Day 1

Orff Level I – Day 1

What I Expected To Happen Today

I was thinking today would start like most classes of my higher education career: the professor hands you a syllabus, reads the syllabus to you as if you are illiterate and somehow managed to get into the class anyway, and then talks about expectations and blah blah blah…snore.  We’d probably talk a lot about who Carl Orff was, what Orff Schulwerk is, take lots of notes, and, if we’re lucky, we might get to sing a few songs.


What Really Happened Today

I came in and after brief introductions of the teachers we were singing, doing body percussion, and moving.  No syllabus, no long-winded discussions, no snoring – just diving into music!  One of the phrases of our first song has these words – sing, say, dance, play – and that is what we did all day.  My class, under the direction of Roger Sams, sang a name game with movement, read a children’s book, added Orff instruments (xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels) to the book, created our own movements, worked in pairs, critiqued in small groups – and that was just in the first three hours!

In the afternoon we had a recorder class where we reviewed how to play the recorder and I picked up a few new tricks on how to get students to play with a good sound.  We did a lot of improvisation with only two notes and Roger showed us a couple pieces where different groups could sing, play percussion instruments, and recorder simultaneously.  Little did I know that two notes could sound so good without a CD behind them (something I have been very reliant on these first years of teaching)!

Next, Roger had us focus on nursery rhymes/poetry.  We spoke a poem, figured out the notation, played a simple ostinato with it, learned a B section where we got to improvise, performed the poem complete with ostinato and improvisation sections, and then created our own ostinati to go with the poem.  It is great to see how much can be done with one simple piece.  I am very guilty of teaching a song or doing an activity, connecting it to a curriculum concept or two then throwing it aside to teach the next thing.  Usually my students work on a song for only one or two lessons unless there is a concert coming up.  I am finally starting to learn that less is more – spend more time doing as much as you can with a small number of songs.

The day ended jubilantly with folk and square dancing – so much fun!  I have not attempted folk dancing with my students yet, but after today I’m thinking we might have to give it a try this coming year!  All in all, it was a GREAT day!  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!


Roger’s Nuggets of Wisdom
(those small phrases that seem to pretty much sum up Orff Schulwerk)

“Milk the literature” – I already mentioned this a earlier, but Orff Schulwerk is all about taking a simple song, rhythm, or poem and getting as much out of it as possible.  Your music should not be disposable – use it for as many concepts and as many lessons as you can!

“Creativity is the reward” – Other elementary music methods and philosophies may have different objectives, but with Orff Schulwerk the main end goal is for students to be able to create their own music and movement.

 “Praise the weird” – In order to achieve that creative spirit in your classroom, you need to highlight the weird things your students create and do.  If you want to crank up the creativity, you have to let students know it’s not only okay to be unique, but it is preferred!

Erin Clevenger

Erin Clevenger has been teaching K-5 music in University City, Missouri since 2011, has completed Orff Levels I and II, and is active in the St. Louis Orff chapter. Before that Erin had a variety of professional experiences, including substitute teaching for a variety of grade levels and subject areas, teaching general music to fifth and sixth graders, working with teenagers with developmental disabilities, and teaching English at summer camps in Italy. Erin attended Truman State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Voice and Master of Arts in Education.

See all posts by

Leave a Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Filed under

Sign up for latest Orff Tips, Lesson Plans and Advocacy Tools

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
PP1 Lead Magnet

Empower your students to create their own music in this free 3-day challenge with Roger Sams. (Lessons delivered via email)

Why Studio 49

Learn about the legendary factory that started it all and why so many teachers like you love our instruments.