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An upwards facing curved arrow depicting PYP moving to MYP Music

PYP prepares students for MYP; MYP prepares students for DP.

It seems like that’d be a really easy statement to make, but it’s actually very contested in some areas. 

IMHO, It depends on what your criteria are for success. Are you demanding memorised facts and skills or are you looking for deep understanding?

The PYP guide asks teachers to teach less, but in greater depth and using creativity and critical thinking skills.

We can end up with students who know less stuff than their peers, but yet are highly creative, really deep thinkers. They understand how multiplication works. They can take mathematical problems and work them from 10 different directions because their minds are open and they are courageous risk-takers who enjoy challenges. But they may not have the multiplication tables memorised to 12. If your criteria for success is having memorised the times table, then you’d be worried.

On the other hand, if your child is in a system that is focused on rote learning, there’s more to memorise but the actual learning is easier. You don’t have to write reflections, evaluate your learning, offer constructive feedback, or look at a problem from 10 different directions – you just have to memorise your times table and do a test once a week. I have had several former students tell me, “My new school is way easier because we don’t have to think – we just have to memorise and do tests.” If your criteria for success is having a deep understanding, then you’d be worried.  

A little girl is happily playing guitar while a little boy stresses over studying from a book

So let me state – for the record – that I think PYP and MYP are both very challenging because you have to think more than memorise. 

The jump from PYP to MYP to DP Music is natural.

In the past, there were complaints that the different programmes did not transition well to each other.

Some people said PYP and MYP Music were too easy (?!?!) and didn’t lead to the rigors of DP. My answer is:

  1. PYP and MYP Music are hard!  Anybody can memorise their key signatures and do weekly tests. How many kids can orchestrate their own music, run rehearsals for 40 peers, and then conduct their own creation at a concert for 500 people?
  2. DP Music is based on compelling creations and performances that are responses to in-depth score analyses from a diverse range of inquiries. That’s the perfect ending to PYP and MYP Music!

Some schools even do PYP Music, then IGCSE, and then DP Music in the mistaken belief that you needed to boost the skills to get ready for DP Music. This is really misguided, especially now with the new DP Music guide. 

  • PYP Music is based on the inquiry cycle (the creative cycle) in which students inquire deeply on a topic while putting together creations or performances upon which they reflect and evaluate, thus improving their Learner Profile and Transdisciplinary (ATL) skills. 
  • MYP Music is based on the creative cycle (the inquiry cycle) in which students inquire deeply on a topic while putting together creations or performances upon which they reflect and evaluate, thus improving their Learner Profile and ATL (transdisciplinary) skills.
  • DP Music is based on the creative cycle, in which students inquire deeply on a topic while putting together creations or performances upon which they analyze, reflect, and evaluate, thus improving their Learner Profile and ATL skills.

When I was doing my DP Music Category 2 training, I asked the two heads of IB Arts whether DP Music was just a grown up version of PYP and MYP Music, and they said yes. 

My Conclusion...

I believe in musiking. It’s life-long and it’s authentic.  Children who hate the trumpet and who are forced to sit through band classes learning classical music over and over may or may not enjoy music when they leave school.  Children who are taught the skills of musiking may continue when they leave school.  So, for me, I want my kids to have the authentic, independent skills needed for putting together their own ensembles once they leave school.  On the other hand, music research has shown that students cannot think critically if they do not possess basic knowledge and skills.  So we need to give the kids a good balance.

* In grade 4, Bonnie (the former PYP Music teacher) looked at my grade 5 planners and figured out what they needed to know when they got to me
* In grade 5, I do heavy work on skills using ukuleles and recorders. Then I run the “pretend we are in grade 6” and the exhibition unit. 
* In MYP, we start off every unit with knowledge exercises that are linked to practical work. E.g. in the Classical music unit, we learn Pachelbel’s Canon chord progression and then go searching for current rock songs based on that chord progression.  In the World Music unit, we learn African drumming by playing African drum beats
* When the kids are in grade 9, I bump up the skills portion even more and I add a heavier theory portion.  We still do the creative cycle; we still hit all our Criterion requirements, but it’s 90% hands-on skills
* In grade 10, the kids are using Kamien and are getting a very heavy dose of theory, composition, and arrangement. Now they are ready for DP 

Through all of this, I want the kids to be in ensembles, working independently.  This is why our school has such a high rate of Garage Bands and small ensembles.  The kids are so used to working independently in music classes that they have no problem walking into a practice room and putting together a rock band, completely by themselves.  To me, those are the skills you need in life.  When you are a 40 year old going through a midlife crisis and suddenly you want to put together a band with the guys are work, you need to know how to put together an ensemble – not how to play G# on a recorder in a Baroque style.