The Implementation of the “ORFF-SCHULWERK” Approach in Music Lessons

by Güher Pekinel, June 2016

„Orff-Schulwerk” is the idea and the concept of an artist who is not a pedagogue or a teacher. The goal is to take advantage of all the different fields of art in order to bring out people’s intrinsic creative powers through rhythm, movement and speaking. The method is built on a child’s natural talent, rather than on accumulated knowledge; it utilizes “Children’s Lore” meaning traditional songs, movement games, stories and dances from their own regions.

Carl Orff established the approach for Bavarian children in the South of Germany without the goal or intention to spread it over the world, but before even a quarter of a century has passed, the approach was noticed by many foresighted pedagogues in Europe, America, Australia and Asia and adapted to their own countries. Based on the approach, pedagogues can use the musical, linguistic and movement material and turn them into their own presentations in both traditional and creative ways.

The approach prevents the tendency in music lessons to forefront the few „talented“ children, so the less “talented” children stay passive and withdraw themselves. On the contrary, the most important aspect of the concept is „acceptance”. Everyone should be accepted equally with their own voice, to be encouraged and to be able to express themselves. The core of the variety of lessons using the Orff approach is to offer everyone a role according to their own music and movement level. The children feel more comfortable learning a new and often abstract musical skill and keep them from feeling evaluated or judged by their classmates and teachers.

When applying the Orff Approach at school, the main determinant is not the student’s level of education, but, more so, the teacher’s pedagogic talent and skill.  Even if “Orff-Schulwerk” presents an open approach and is not a predetermined, teachers need access to the approach and know its variety. Contents cannot be simply slipped over, especially not, if children should be involved with their ideas and creative inputs. In this case the teachers’ professional skills and flexibility is required. The pedagogues must be educated with “development seminars” in order to enrich their experience in line with their students’ perceptual capacities. The method needs extraordinary teachers who can grab students’ attention and support their self-confidence and enjoyment of play.

Another important part of the method is to create an atmosphere in the classroom similar to the children’s world of play. When we observe children, we can see how they move of their own accord when they hear music; how they hum tunes while drawing, sing while jumping, and tell themselves stories through a song. In this environment the already existing creative power in the human being, based on rhythm, movement and speech is revealed to learn, explore, experiment and create. Talking leads to melody, text leads to stage-dance presentations, and music brings out dance. The students are not stuck in traditional lesson structures where the brain is just used to repeat and follow and not given enough opportunity to express its rich creative potential. The moment children realize that they don’t have to just imitate and memorize, but that they can discover and shape things on their own, and their acting is accepted and valued, the road is wide open.

During the school year there is no systematic stepwise procedure to be followed, but there is a myriad of music and movement games that can be used during the music lessons, the Orff Teacher schedules how and when to use this games according to the day’s goals. From a teacher’s aspect “Orff-Schulwerk” is a process of breaking down each activity into its simplest form and then presenting those steps one at a time to eventually become a complete performance.

During all these lessons the brain’s emotional right side and the cognitive left side are used together, which speeds up the learning process. The approach contributes also to the individual’s social psychological development. Some of the targeted social psychological behavior and skills are: independent decision-making, responsibility, solidarity, social sensitivity, increased tolerance and sense of worthiness.

To sum up the intention of the “Orff Approach” there are some main pedagogical principles defined. Learning together and from each other is one important principle. The music and movement education takes place in the group. Next to Information transfer and the personal development, the relationship level between students-students and teacher-student is in constant flux

Secondly music and dance take the children into all the anthropological dimensions (psychomotorical, emotional, cognitive and social). Children who play music and dance discover trough production, reproduction, improvisation, quotation and imitation their creativity and their ability to create.

Furthermore the approach considers music, dance and speech as a whole. The Movement games and activities for body awareness in space, time and flow, lead to movement improvisation and dance forms. They are the artistic ways to express the individuals’ internal movement and rhythm.

Another principle is simplicity. The children learn that music can be made with simple instruments, the “Orff-Schulwerk” music is largely based on simple but forceful variations on rhythmic patterns and played on simple instruments. Small percussion instruments (like hand drums, maracas, triangles) and from Carl Orff especially for the approach developed melodic instruments like the Xylophone and the Metallophone are known as possibilities to convert the inner movement into sound. The instruments are used in the group as well as for individual improvisation and composition.

Last but not least one of the main aspects is improvisation. Music and dance improvisation reveals and expresses the individuals inside. Next to improvisation, aesthetics must be counted as another main principle. Educational activities are always undertaken with the intention to create and present music and dance artistically. Therefore the degree of aesthetic responsibility is high and must be applied both to the chosen content and the proposed learning outcomes. These lessons stimulate not only the paraxial concepts of music like rhythm and tempo, but also the aesthetic qualities of music.

Over all the approach teaches the children to enjoy art as something that adds meaning and depth to their lives, it teaches independency and togetherness, responsibility and order, the clarity of simplicity and the miracle of variety, and how to live together instead of against each other; it strengthens imagination and the desire to create, it relays skills and basic techniques in artistic mediums, it explains the value of your own tradition, and inspires bravery to find the new.