End-of-the-Year Activities in the Music Classroom
By NAfME Member Andrew Bruhn
You have finished the last concert of the year and now you are left with one or more class periods before summer hits. If you happen to teach middle school like I do, the thought of all that “free time” is enough to cause panic attacks and sleepless nights! There is nothing more dreadful than a room full of middle schoolers with no structure!
Here are some ideas that worked for me to keep the end of the year positive and successful both for my middle and high school students. I have found it helpful to have a change of pace after a concert and busy year, so I try to do many different things that keep things fun, but also remain music-focused.
In no particular order:
- Movie: Everyone loves a good movie, and luckily there are MANY that relate to music in some way. They can be musicals (Sound of Music; Annie; Hello, Dolly; etc.), dramas (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Music of the Heart, etc.), or something like Fantasia! You will score extra points with the kids if you provide snacks.
- Solos/Ensembles: Have a day during which students get to perform in front of the class. It’s a great way for them to perform music they want to perform, and a chance to see and hear some students who might surprise you with their talents! I always celebrate their efforts, because it is incredibly vulnerable to make music in front of your peers!
- Awards: I and/or my students make a ballot of some fun, serious, and ridiculous awards. We vote on them, and I make up awards and present them during class.
- Games: Divide the class into two teams and go head-to-head with a music theory challenge. Identify note names, rhythms, rests, solfege, terms, etc. I have a small dry erase board on which I write and turn it around quickly so they can answer, or I just ask a verbal question if no drawing is necessary. Someone tallies the scores, and the winning team gets candy!
- Rhythmic dictation: This can take an entire class period depending on the ability level of your class, and how far you want to push it. You can begin by having everyone clap quarter notes, then show them how that is written on the board. Do the same with eighth notes. Then do some easy one measure or less combos where you clap a rhythm and they write it down. It will take them a while to get it down, so be patient and help guide them through by giving an example(s) and showing them how you would figure it out. After the kids get the hang of it you can divide them into teams like above if you desire.
- Rhythmic dictation II: Another level to this game is to divide into two (or more) groups. Each group forms a line. You (the teacher) write a simple rhythm that you show only the first person in each line. They then tap that rhythm on the shoulder of the person in front of them sending the rhythm through the line, and the last person in the group must write the rhythm. If the rhythm is correct, they get a point. You then write a new rhythm, the line order rotates, and you do it again. The line with the most correct rhythms wins!
- New music: I stay away from things too serious, but they will keep working if you choose good music to keep them motivated. I never let my students choose music, but I DO listen to their suggestions, and this is a great time to find something they suggested that is appropriate for their ability. It might be a pop song, or something from a movie, etc.
- The classic picnic: It is a great way to spend time with your students in a less structured environment. Keep costs low by having the kids bring food in. See if the gym or schoolyard is available for games!
I hope these will give you some ideas for how to end the year on a high note, and save you hours of Googling ideas!
About the author:
NAfME member Andrew Bruhn is a versatile musician, actively working as a choral conductor, composer, and trumpeter. He received his Master of Sacred Music degree in choral conducting from Luther Seminary and St. Olaf College, where he studied conducting with Anton Armstrong, Christopher Aspaas, and Mark Stover. Andrew is currently Director of Choral Music at Rockford Christian Schools in IL, where he teaches 6-12th grade choirs, class piano, and AP Music Theory. Mr. Bruhn spent two years as the director of the Luther Seminary Choir and Luther Brass in St. Paul, MN, where he also worked as a church musician and choral music educator. While in Minnesota he sang and recorded with the Twin Cities’ group Magnum Chorum. He recently served as the conductor/clinician for the District 8 ILMEA Elementary Chorus. The American Choral Director’s Association has published Andrew’s writing. His music is published by Choristers Guild, GIA, and Concordia, and has been featured in workshops and festivals throughout the country.
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