Celebrate Music In Our Schools Month®
Ideas for Early Childhood and Elementary Music Classes
By Amy M. Burns
March is the official month designated by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) for the observance of Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®). This event first occurred as a statewide celebration in 1973. From there, it grew to become a day, then a week, and now a month-long celebration. The purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education and to remind everyone that schools are where all children should have access to music. In 1985, NAfME started The World’s Largest Concert as a highlight for MIOSM. This concert is a sing-along that has reached an estimated six million students, educators, and supporters of music. In 2012, the concert became known as the Concert for Music in Our School’s Month. To learn more about participating in this concert, click here. However, there are other ways to celebrate MIOSM. Here are a few ideas that I have used and some that I discovered by reading posts from numerous music educators through social media.
At the beginning of each month, I teach a Parent and Me music class at my school for the younger siblings who are not old enough to enter the PreK program yet and for those young children in the community. This class is for children ages six months to three years. During the month of March, I am going to give the parents a CD of the songs (public domain) and lullabies that we have been singing in class. The CD cover will have Music In Our Schools Month on the label. This will help the parents reinforce the songs by playing the CD (or uploading it to their streaming service) in the car or around the house. It reminds the parents how music can have so many positive effects on their children from soothing their crying, to lulling them to sleep, to them becoming tuneful, to so much more.
In the same respect, one can text the parents a MIOSM text that includes links to websites that have recordings of songs, links to information about MIOSM, links to music books, links to children’s song books, and links to wonderful recordings that the parents could purchase to play for their children from classical to contemporary.
Since MIOSM is about music advocacy, I always tell those in my music education workshops that if there is a way that music educators can get their music classrooms onto the parents’ smartphones, then the advocacy for music education will quickly follow.
Bulletin Boards: The first place to begin is to update your current bulletin board (if you are on a cart, then a bulletin board within the school) with a MIOSM theme. This theme could include any of the following: Students’ and teachers’ favorite songs, student compositions, students’ and teachers’ favorite composers, students’ drawings to music, students’ and teachers’ reflections on what music means to them, a survey from the teachers that shows their musical backgrounds from instrumental to dance to vocal, and so much more. The possibilities are endless.
Getting Teachers Involved: Expanding from the bulletin board idea, ask teachers to participate in MIOSM. Have them post a music note on their classroom door to show support for music in the schools. I adored an idea I read where a music educator asked the teachers to hang a poster in support of MIOSM and if they did this for the entire month, they would receive a small prize.
Sing-Alongs: If you could not participate in the Concert for Music in Our School’s Month, then there could be the option to hold a school assembly sing-along to raise awareness of MIOSM. This sing-along could have a variety of songs from patriotic, to folk, to previous concert songs, to pop songs, to anything you think that your students would enjoy singing. In addition, open up the sing-along to invite the local community into the school to enjoy it as well. You can turn the sing-along into a wonderful concert event where between the songs, you continuously talk about music in our schools. I do this at the beginning of each school year for the students in grades kindergarten through five and it is a great success. I sing and play piano, while my good friend accompanies me on the drums. However, if you prefer not to play live, make a playlist of the songs and have the audience sing along with the recordings. In addition, make a simple powerpoint for the lyrics so that they all can see them and sing along with them.
Performances: If you cannot invite your community or parents into your classroom for an informance, then record your class performing a musical activity. This could vary from performing an Orff arrangement on Orff instruments, to performing a recorder piece, to performing a movement activity, to the students singing as they accompany themselves on ukuleles. If it is possible, post the recording (audio or video) on the school’s website or email or text the parents a link where they can view the video or audio recording.
Community: Along with the sing-along listed above, survey the teachers and community to research their musical backgrounds. Invite them to join in on a musical activity by singing along with the students or accompanying/playing along with their instruments.
Bring Your Parent to Music Class: Every winter, I invite the parents (or relatives) of my students in grades PreK through one to come to music class and experience the class with their child. During this class, we sing, perform movement activities, perform on classroom instruments, read music, and experience cross-curricular connections. I have been doing this since 2007 and the parents look forward to this event every year.
School’s Sounds System: Play music over the school’s sound system every morning during MIOSM.
Prizes: Through the school’s communication system, whether it be a website, email, or placing a display by the front door of the school, create a musical trivia game where the students, teachers, and parents can answer questions to win small prizes.
Cross-Curricular Connections to MIOSM:
Reading: One of my favorite activities from one of the Orff workshops I attended, was reading, moving to, acting out, and performing on instruments to Robert Munsch’s book, Mortimer.
Writing: Have your students write a poem about music and use GarageBand, SoundTrap, Soundation4Education, or Incredibox.com to create and accompaniment for the poem. Give the students guidelines so the poem stays more on the serious side, and video the students creating and performing the musical poem.
Art: Create a coloring sheet about MIOSM and music advocacy for young students to color and take home.
What about spring break or testing?
For many private schools, spring break occurs during the month of March. For many public schools, standardized tests occur during this month as well. Though March is the official MIOSM, truly any month can be dedicated to music in our schools. Therefore, pick the mon th that best works for your curriculum and promote it.
Where can we get more ideas?
There are numerous places to find ideas for MIOSM. Here are a few:
- NAfME website
- Facebook Music Teachers Group
- Facebook I’m a General Music Teacher Group
- Publishers have given out free resources during MIOSM
- Teachers Pay Teachers
Though every month is MIOSM, it is wonderful to see our national organization promote this month and to bring awareness to music advocacy. To learn more about MIOSM, please check out NAfME’s official website.
Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM). (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2016, from https://nafme.org/programs/miosm/
About the Author:
NAfME Member Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award and the 2016 NJMEA Master Music Teacher Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com