Ways to Celebrate Music In Our Schools Month® in Your School
Shine a Spotlight on Music’s Role in All Students’ Education
By NAfME member Elizabeth Caldwell
Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) is a wonderful opportunity to generate buzz for the music program, get everyone in the community thinking and talking about the many different wonderful ways to enjoy music in all its forms, and—most importantly—draw attention to the important role that quality music education plays in every student’s schooling. But let’s face it: March is also a very busy time of year for most music teachers and a chaotic time in school in general, what with concerts looming, standardized testing, unpredictable weather, and on and on. Here are some ideas to generate genuine reflection and celebration of the importance of music in our schools without requiring a tremendous amount of extra work on our part as music teachers!
Busker Performance Program
One of the best ways to literally bring music out into the broader school community is through a busker-style performance program. The basic idea is to have students, and other members of the community, perform in the entryway / lobby / some other common area with high traffic for a few minutes every day during the month of March. I do it first thing in the morning as students are entering before the “late bell,” but you could also do it at the end of the day or some other time when people are moving through the area freely—for middle or high schools it might be a passing period. There is no place for an audience to sit, no stage, and no pressure. I tell everyone that they are not performers on a stage but rather buskers—street performers—making music for passersby to enjoy on their way in to school.
I find this is a wonderful opportunity for students who may not otherwise have a way to showcase their skills, or are too nervous to perform in a more formal setting, to share what they can do. I’m always surprised by at least a few of the performances! And my favorite moments are when siblings, friends, family members, or colleagues come up with a performance together. You can read more about how I run this in my school and more detailed tips to run it yourself in this blog post.
With everything else going on in the building, I find it’s much easier to run most activities within my own class time. My two favorites that I’ve been doing for MIOSM every year for over a decade: Disco Duel and Rhythm Battle!
Disco Duel is a “just-for-fun” activity that we do each class period, with the students competing against each other in small groups. Cards with the name of a movement (like “cowboy,” “DJ,” or “hop”), along with a matching picture, are on the whiteboard in a few columns (I usually do 3-4 columns). To play the game, students perform each movement for 8 beats, reading from the left column, top to bottom, with the beat of the music that I play. BUT I start each group at a different time (I relate it to a canon for older students), so that when the first group finishes the first column, the second group starts. When all the groups finish, I pick the winning team that did the best job of performing the moves correctly and staying on the beat for the correct number of counts.
Rhythm Battle is a contest between the classes in each grade level. The winning class in each grade gets a prize! I choose a song with a clear, steady beat, and we start class with this each time they come to class. They sit down, I start the music, and I put up a slide on my projector that says, “Rhythm Battle!” When the intro is ending, I count off 4 beats and click to the next slide on “four.” There is a 4-beat rhythm on that slide. If the class claps it correctly, I click to the next 4-beat rhythm slide on the 4th beat, and they have to continue clapping with no pause. They keep going until they make a mistake. When they mess up, they go back to the first slide and start over. Whatever their longest run is before the song ends, that is their class score for the day. I have a score board for each grade, so we keep track throughout the month, and the class with the highest total score at the end of the month wins.
Even though I run these activities within regular music class time, I find they still generate a lot of “buzz” within the building because the students can’t stop talking about them! They’re also a great way to change up the normal routine at a time of year when everyone is getting a little antsy. You can read more details of how I run these games in this post.
Music Suggestion Box
This is one of the simplest ways to make each day more musical and get the entire community involved—put a suggestion box out in the lobby or school entrance and invite anyone to submit their favorite songs that they’d like to hear over the loudspeaker each day during the month!
Bulletin Boards and Hallway Displays
Of course, there are lots of ways to promote the importance of music and get the community involved in celebrating their favorite aspects of music as well! One of the easiest ways to do that is by choosing a topic and having each student write their answers on a small piece of paper. There are so many ways to do this, but here are a few ideas:
Ways to “musick”:
Music in our lives:
Musical facts about staff members (have staff members fill out a survey in advance about their involvement in music, their favorite songs, etc., and then have students guess each day who they think the “mystery musician” is):
I hope you found some new ideas to help you celebrate Music In Our Schools Month with your school community without getting overwhelmed this year! With the new theme and format for the 2018-2019 school year, I have some new ideas up my sleeve that I’ll be trying out—read part 2 now!
About the author:
NAfME member Elizabeth Caldwell has been teaching elementary general music and choir for over a decade and cannot imagine ever doing anything else. She is also the author of the website, Organized Chaos Music, where she regularly shares organization strategies, lesson plans, and other ideas to encourage purposeful creativity in the music classroom. She holds her B.M.E from Wheaton College (IL) and her M.M.E. from Boston University, and was named Teacher of the Year in 2018. She has presented on lesson planning, restorative behavior management, effective recorder teaching, world music, National Core Arts general music standards, and other music education topics at conferences around the globe, and teaches an e-course on lesson planning through her website.
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