Planning your Holiday Concert

The holiday concert in your school is great PR for the entire school!  It shouldn’t be up to the music teacher to do all the organizing.

Planning and Delegating Responsibility: At a staff meeting early in the fall, discuss how the holiday concert will be handled. Administration should make it clear to staff that this is a school event – not the music teachers big show. All staff should be expected to help with planning, and all should be expected to attend. A coordinator for the concert is required – usually the music teacher – , but if the school is supportive, the music teacher in the school isn’t burdened with doing everything

The following tasks could be delegated:

Backdrop: One teacher or parent can take responsibility for preparing and putting up the backdrop. Simple backdrops are good. You can purchase white tarps from Home Depot. If you make your backdrop somewhat generic, you can recycle them. We painted “Happy Holidays” on half of the white tarp and stapled garland around the edges. The garland probably won’t last forever, be we don’t have to redo the sign each year. If you don’t want the same backdrop every year, create 3-4 different ones and cycle them through. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each year!

Sound System: One teacher or parent is responsible for locating a good quality sound system, with 4 mikes: 2 for the choir, and at least 2 for soloists. If the school doesn’t have a good sound system, try renting one. If you’re in a rural location without rentals, a local dance band may have a PA system they would loan you or rent to you. Have a backup plan! Borrow a karaoke machine to have on stage so you have a backup in case your sound system crashes in the middle of your concert.

Risers: One teacher or parent should be responsible for borrowing and/or setting up risers.

Stage Helpers: A couple of stage hands for the night of the concert should be found. There is always something that needs to be adjusted, and the concert co-ordinator doesn’t have enough hands to do it all. I often have a few responsible fifth graders become my stage hands. Some of the kids that really don’t like speaking parts, make great stage helpers! The stage helpers should remember to bring some emergency supplies in case of accidents:

* paper towels (vomit, leaky bladders)

* big garbage can, big garbage bags

* clorox wipes, rubber gloves (vomit)

* broom and dustpan (broken flashlight candles)

* kleenex (bleeding noses, runny noses)

Scene Rehearsal: Even when there is a music specialist every classroom teacher should provide extra rehearsal time for their own classes. The music specialist can make a tape or CD of the class’s song, for rehearsal purposes so the classroom teachers can help. (Themes & Variations Christmas programs allow you to do this – please check copyright regulations on other publications before copying anything!) Classroom teachers can use music or physed

time to rehearse songs and dances. When they have them learned, bring in the concert coordinator to help with entrances, exits and staging. Ask all staff members to prepare the children for the “what if’s” that can happen. If you are the music specialist, allow time to go through this with all children who will be in the concert.

* “What if – you have to puke?” (Get to the garbage can at the side of the stage if you can!)

* “What if – you have to go the bathroom?” (Use bathroom before show. Don’t drink pop!)

* “What if – you feel woozy?” (If you feel woozy when on stage, just sit down and put your head between your knees.) At least they won’t fall off the top riser!

Costumes: Meet with the concert co-ordinator to plan costumes for each group. The co-ordinator or the classroom teacher should determine determine what costumes and props are needed. Decide who will be sending notes home to parents with details of what their child should wear. Keep it simple! The easier the better. Sometimes just a hat will give the class the look you want.

Program: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for printing the program and for handing it out at the door (or choosing students to do this) at the actual concert. Publicity: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for sending notes home giving the date, time and location of the concert.

Supervision Backstage: The concert coordinator will be in the wings, coordinating entrances and exits. Two teachers or aides will be needed backstage to ensure that groups are ready to go on, on cue. All classroom teachers will be needed to supervise their children off stage. This is probably going to be the toughest hour of the school year. I had 90 children backstage one year. I played Concentration, Stella Ella Olla, and Topnotcher with them and managed to have fun while we waited. Directions for those 3 games are in “Singing Games Children Love” Volume 1 and 2, published by Themes & Variations. Videos don’t work well, unless you have a very large screen and a loud sound system. Taking children back to their own classroom and playing board games seems to be a good solution also.

Concert Setup: The concert coordinator will need some release time from regular classes to organize the setup of the stage area. Be sure to ask in your newsletter for parent volunteers to help with this. The backdrop needs to be put up, and all student art work that you can display, should be put up. A final check needs to be made that all

props are ready to be taken on stage from the wings. There are 2 things that parents hate at a Christmas concert - not being able to see their child, and not being able to hear what is being said and sung. Check and double check your sound system, and use risers so your students are all seen!

Photos/Videotaping: Ask a staff member to find a parent volunteer to take photos and videotape the concert. You might have a staff member that takes great photos and give her the job.

Cleanup: One year I forgot to delegate a clean up crew, so guess who ended up cleaning up? Don’t forget to have teachers and parents who are responsible for taking down the backdrop and art work, loading instruments and props into vans, and returning them to school or to classrooms.

Concert Co-ordinator: You still need a concert co-ordinator to bring the whole show together. Email makes communication with the staff a lot easier than it use to be, so use it frequently so that all staff knows what is going on. This is the co-ordinators checklist:

Concert Date: ____________________________________________

Location: ____________________________________________

Time: ________________________ Grades Involved: _________________________________

Staff Member in Charge of: Verified/Done:

Backdrop: ____________________________________________ ____________

Sound System: ____________________________________________

Risers: ____________________________________________

Stage Helpers: ____________________________________________ ____________

Costumes: ____________________________________________

Program: ____________________________________________

Publicity/Notes to Parents: ____________________________________________ ____________

Supervision Backstage: ____________________________________________ ____________

Concert Setup: ____________________________________________

Photos/Videotaping: ____________________________________________ ____________

Cleanup: ____________________________________________

Concert Etiquette: Sometimes parents need a little education about concert etiquette. This may be especially true in schools where parents rarely attend concerts. Talking during performances, leaving the concert early, having CEL phone conversations are not infrequent complaints about parents in school concerts. To help to educate your

parents, you might consider having a couple of students or the first class on stage read a poem at the beginning of the concert.  In the Holiday Concert Scripts Collection the Concert Etiquette rap is given with two extra verses – one about babies crying and taking them out and one about parent paparazzi – parents who rush to the stage to photograph their child.

Holiday ConcertHoliday Concert Scripts - This is a collection of 14 scripts for holiday concerts written by teachers from all over Canada and the USA.  It includes song suggestions, but you will find it very easy to use or substitute your own song choices.  A PDF file of all the scripts will be available so you can easily cut and paste and create your own concert.

http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/productinfo.aspx?productid=HOL   (This is the Canadian site – go to musicplay.ca for the US site)

Do you like to do an inclusive program?  Celebrate Around the World includes a concert opener and a finale, a simple script, and 10 songs – Day of Eid, Diwali, a partner song using O Hanukkah, a partner song with Joy to the World, a great song about Snowing, Kwanzaa, and Gung Hay Fat Choi for Chinese New Years.  This collection has beautiful vocals and orchestrations. You can use it in December — or ANY time of year!

CelebrateCelebrate Around the World - This collection of 10 composed and traditional songs could be used as a holiday concert or could be used any time of year as a multicultural celebration.  Songs for Day of Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter (Snowing), Chinese New Years, Kwanzaa are included.  A simple script is included as well as an interactive vocal PDF to print or to project.  (Includes linked audio)

http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/productinfo.aspx?productid=CEL    (This is the Canadian site – go to musicplay.ca for the US site)

November Assembly Ideas

November 11th is Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day.  There are some really good selections in Musicplay.     Musicplay 1 – Just One Candle

You could use Just One Candle for Nov. 11th, and then use it again in your holiday program!

In Musicplay 3, there is a lovely piece by Sandra Klassen, Remember Flanders Fields.

If you don’t have Musicplay 1 or 3, these selections are available from www.musicplay.ca as single song kits.  When you enter the website, select song collections, then single song kits.  ANY song that we hold the copyright to can be made available as a single song kit.  The Kit is $15 and includes a piano/vocal score, a vocal reproducible and performance/accompaniment CDs.

Other Favorites for Nov. 11th include

A Wish For Peace (also titled A Christmas Wish) from the Happy Holidays collection.  (also a single song kit)

There are several performances on YouTube of this song:

Edwin posted the words for his choir to practice with – he’s one of the teacher’s who suggested the word change to make this song work for both Nov 11th and Christmas concerts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBl4zmdso2I

This is the Christmas version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVgBsL3t80E

In Flanders Fields - Craig Cassils has written two arrangements of this poem.  One is in Songs of Peace

This arrangement was on CBC news in 2011!  Great performance with choir and movement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn7gqpnVdRo

The other Flanders Fields is in the collection, “We Remember.”  I really like both arrangements.

I love the song “Take One Minute to Stand” by Beth Jay from this collection and made a video last year.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfJtqB4dJL8

Developing the Child’s Singing Voice

 Developing the Child’s Singing Voice     I recently read this question on a music teachers facebook page:  I’m teaching grade 1 and 2 music. I had 2 of my classes for the first time today and did some call and response tone-matching activities. I was shocked to find that 75% of the students could not sing in their head voice. At least 40% of those students couldn’t reproduce so-mi in a singing voice at all! Any ideas on where I start to help these students develop singing/head voices?  In this newsletter, I’ve got some suggestions for warmups, vocalizes and activities to get your kids matching pitch.

Start with the speaking voice and work on high and low sounds.

Alphabet Echo:  Say the letters of the alphabet in lots of different voices – high, low, silly, scary, monster, and have the kids echo each letter or group of letters.  (A or A B C) It’s a fun warmup and for your preK and kindergarten students will reinforce letter recognition.

Vocalise:  Do lots of vocalises with them.  I bought a toy fire engine and play the siren for the kids and have them make siren sounds.  I’ve found one Fire Engine storybook, and would welcome suggestions of fire engine stories that you’ve found!

I love the slide whistle! Have them echo the sounds that you make on a slide whistle.  Do this with your entire group, and then try it with individual students.  In John Feirabend’s research, he’s found that children need opportunities to sing alone as well as with the group.

Make vocal exploration cards, or have your students make them,  and have kids sing the shapes on oo, ah, bbb.   We’ve put some vocal exploration cards on www.musicplay.ca in the Free Downloads section.  If you want printed versions of these cards, they’ll be available soon.  (Sometimes buying them printed is cheaper than getting them printed in color yourself)

Say poems in low and high voices – for example:

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?

high voice – I’ve been to London to visit the Queen

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat what did you there?

High voice – I frightened a little mouse under a chair.

Dramatize the poem!

Have the kids create ostinatos to chant with the poem, and have them chant in low voices, then high voices –

For example:

meow, meow, kitty says meow

Grandma’s Glasses Source: Musicplay K and 1

High Voice – These are Grandma’s glasses. This is Grandma’s hat.   This is the way she folds her hands and puts them in her lap.

Low Voice – These are Grandpa’s glasses. This is Grandpa’s hat.  This is the way he folds his hands, and then he takes a nap.

I use stories to get kids using different voices.  Retell the story of the three bears, and use low voices for Papa Bear, a middle voice for Mama Bear and a high voice for Baby Bear.  Have the kids say all the spoken parts with you.  “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Papa Bear.  (low voice)

The Three Bears in Musicplay 1, The Billy Goats Gruff in Musicplay for Kindergarten, and The Three Little Pigs in Musicplay 3 are all good for this activity.

The absolute favorite low-middle-high activity is the

Three Little Monkeys poem.

Three little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The low monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

Two little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The middle monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

One little monkeys swinging from a tree   Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The high monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

“Missed me, missed me – now you gotta kiss me!”

I have great puppets to use with this poem, and you can find them at www.musicplay.ca - search for puppets.

Other songs/poems to use for high/middle/low practice:

Eensy Weensy Spider – Great Big Spider, Teeny Tiny Spider (in Musicplay 1 and Action Songs 1)

Boom Chicka Boom in Musicplay 5 is a good chant to use with your older students.

Leader:                                                      Class echoes:

Boom chicka boom                                      echo Boom chicka boom

Boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom  echo

All right?                                                      All right?

Oh Yeah!                                                      Oh Yeah!

One more time                                              One more time

Little bit louder                                              Little bit louder

Create ostinato patterns with body percussion to accompany the chant.  For example:  Pat left, pat right, clap, snap

 

After the chant activities do lots of echo singing. Echo so-mi, la-so-mi, so-mi-do, so-fa-mi-re-do patterns.

Do 3-4 minutes of these warmups every time you see them and you’ll start to build some flexibility in their voices.

Give them 5 or 6 classes of this and you’ll see a big improvement!

Rhythm Instrument Fun

Rhythm Instrument Fun!

Rhythm Instrument Fun!

When you have an activity using non-pitched percussion or rhythm instruments, it can get noisy and out of control if your children don’t know or don’t follow your procedures. When giving out instruments, I explain to the class that I’m going to put the instrument on the floor in front of them and they are to wait until everyone has an instrument and I tell them it’s OK to pick up and play. The analogy I use is if you go to a fancy restaurant, you don’t start gobbling your food the second it’s placed in front of you. It’s polite to wait until everyone has their meal, and then you all start eating at the same time.

That’s the procedure, but the kids are still eager to play and I hate to make them sit and wait and I want them to have the experience of playing. As soon as the last instrument is given out I use this poem:

Play the Instruments Quickly

The kids are very quickly engaged in the activity, they are exploring ways to play the instrument, and there is no chaos!

When that activity is finished, and they have to wait until the next activity is prepared, the rule is: If you play before I say I’ll take your instrument away.

I will take away an instrument, but usually give it back for a second try. Certainly, the behaviour is better from all the students if I do take away one instrument.  Remember Barbara Coloroso’s saying:  Say what you mean (If you play before I say I’ll take your instrument away.), Mean what you say and do what you say!

There are many ideas for using rhythm instruments in the new collection, Rhythm Instrument Fun. Get more information on the collection at www.musicplcay.ca.

Classroom Management

Music Classroom Management   We want music class to be something the kids look forward to, and it’s a very active learning environment.  How do you maintain the “fun” yet have your students behave in a way that allows for maximum learning.

I’d appreciate your suggestions and input!  Tips:

1. Engage the students - When students are engaged, they aren’t causing problems. When are students engaged?  When they are “doing!”   The teacher needs to remember to talk less and do more!

2.  Pacing - My lessons are fast paced.  When students have very little down time, there are far fewer behavior issues.

3. Barbara Coloroso says it so well:  “Our children are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Children need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do.”

4. Praise the Positive  A pat on the back goes a lot further than a kick in the pants.  Catch someone in the class doing something right and make a positive comment.  It will often encourage the rest of the students to behave more responsibly.

5. Remind them about the Rules    Set your classroom rules early in the year and revisit them as needed throughout the school year.

Class rules - 5 Ps You Get What You Get

 

Rules Rhythms

6. If students don’t meet the expectations, have them reflect on their behavior.  Here are two sample reflection forms.

Behavior reflection

 

Bad Day in Music Class

Old Mr. Rabbit

Old Mr Rabbit

Game Directions:  Two children make a bridge with their arms raised. All the other children walk in a line through the bridge. On the word “cabbage” the gate comes down trapping “Mister Rabbit.” “Mister Rabbit” joins with the teacher to make a new bridge. The next child trapped joins the first “Mister Rabbit.” Continue making bridges until there are only a few children left.

Teaching Process/Suggested Activities: Tell the story to the children, having them sing each time the song occurs. Have a discussion about why it’s important to eat vegetables with the children. The story also touches on the them of “sharing.” Have the children think of times when they might share something with someone else.

Why include the story?  The more children do something, the better they will get at it.  Repetition of a simple song will help children to learn the lyrics, the melody and to be able to sing it in tune.   Playing the game is a great way to get many repetitions of the song.  However, it may not be possible in every teaching situation to play the game.  Using the song in the story gives an alternate way to repeat the song several times.  Kinesthetic learners will respond to the game.  Aural learners may respond better to the story.

Musicplay Digital Resources: In the Musicplay Digital resources, the PowerPoint includes the music notation for the teacher, and

the lyrics are illustrated with large, colorful photos. The movie includes the illustrated song lyrics.  If you have Musicplay teacher’s guides and would like to add the digital resources, grants are available to assist with purchase.  Download application forms at www.musicplay.ca

Old Mr. Rabbit Story

Old Mr. Rabbit lived in the meadow near Farmer Brown’s farm. Old Mr. Rabbit loved to eat lettuce, carrots, and cabbage from Farmer Brown’s garden.

Farmer Brown knew he had to eat a lot of vegetables to stay

healthy. He wasn’t happy when Old Mr. Rabbit came and ate all his cabbage!

Old Mr. Rabbit, you’ve got a might habit   Of hopping in my garden, and eating all my cabbage.

Farmer Brown built a very high fence around his garden. He hoped that the fence would keep Old Mr. Rabbit out of his garden. But Old Mr. Rabbit dug a hole under the fence, and helped himself to some lettuce, carrots and cabbage.

Old Mr. Rabbit, you’ve got a might habit Of hopping in my garden, and eating all my cabbage.

Farmer Brown thought that maybe a dog would scare away Old Mr. Rabbit. He got a new puppy named Sam.But Sam liked rabbits. When Old Mr. Rabbit came in the garden, Sam the puppy wanted to play with him.  Farmer Brown was not happy.

Old Mr. Rabbit, you’ve got a might habit   Of hopping in my garden, and eating all my cabbage.

Farmer Brown didn’t know what to do.

Mrs. Brown liked Old Mr. Rabbit. She said to Farmer Brown “Why don’t you plant a bigger garden? You could plant an extra row of lettuce, carrots and cabbage for our rabbit.” So Farmer Brown did.

Old Mr. Rabbit, you’ve got a might habit  Of hopping in my garden, and eating all my cabbage.

Old Mr. Rabbit left lots of vegetables in the garden for Farmer and Mrs. Brown. They all enjoyed their lettuce, carrots and cabbage and they all stayed healthy.

 

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear

I saw Sister Lorna Zemke at TMEA and she had a really cute idea to get kids using high and low voices using a mouse and a bear puppet having conversations.  Sometimes I got blank when I’m trying to make something up, so I decided to write a story that would use the high and low voices.    This should give the primary teacher some conversation ideas to use between Squeaky and Brown Bear.  Folkmanis Puppets has wonderful bear and mouse puppets – enjoy the idea!

Squeaky and Brown Bear

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear lived in a cave in the forest. Every day Squeaky would wake up first and ask Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.   It’s a sunny summer day.

Brown Bear would wake up, and stretch and he’d say, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny summer day.”

And off they’d go into the forest.  Brown Bear would eat lots and lots of berries and Squeaky would nibble on seeds that they found in the forest.  They’d play outside all day.  They played hide and go seek.  Squeaky was very hard to find.  Brown Bear was so big, that he was easy to see!   They played tag.  Brown Bear was much bigger, but Squeaky could run very fast.  Sometimes they’d go for a long walk to the stream and Brown Bear would catch fish.  They played all summer.

Then fall came.  They still played every day, but Brown Bear was getting so fat that he couldn’t run as fast.  When winter came, Brown Bear got very tired, and just wanted to sleep all day.  Squeaky woke up in the morning and listened to Brown Bear snoring.

He loudly asked Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”   Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself.  He colored pictures and hung them all over the cave.

The next morning, he woke up and heard Brown Bear snoring.  Again he asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself again.   Every day Squeaky would ask if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.  And every day Brown Bear would open one eye and answer, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Squeaky made letters and food and animals out of playdough.   Squeaky built houses out of blocks.  He played with cars and trucks.  He played house.  Finally, spring came.  One day when Squeaky woke up, Brown Bear wasn’t snoring.  He was already awake.  Squeaky asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.  

Brown Bear opened both his eyes, yawned and had a big stretch.   In a very tired voice he answered, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.”   So off the two friends went into the forest to play.

Instrument Ideas

I got an email from a teacher who is going to Cambodia to work with children.

I’m going to be teaching a workshop in Cambodia in a couple weeks for Friends International. They have about 5 foreigners who head up cultural activities and care for the children that they support. They have asked me to do a half day workshop on making instruments from recycled materials and then some songs and activities they can do. Do you have any great resources for this? I would definitely like to pull a few songs from the “Singing Games Kids Love” books, but other than playing along to recordings and soundscapes, I’m a bit stumped for good ideas of what they can do with their homemade instruments.
1.  Play instruments along with recorded music – classical, folk tunes, pop tunes
- I do a play along almost every music class with my preschool aged kids, getting them to play the beat
- I find different ways to play:  loud/quiet, finding any different timbres the instruments can make
With older kids, I’d teach them some basic rhythms, and have them play a series of rhythm patterns with the music.
If you have the Listening Resource Kits, take a look at any of the instrument playalongs in them.
2.  Substitute instrument sounds in familiar songs
The wheels on the Bus go round and round – we play on the round and round
With my littlest ones,we use only one instrument for all the things on the bus.
With older kids, I’d choose instruments that fit the sounds of money, or doors opening and shutting.
Use body percussion as well – doesn’t have to be instruments.
Other familiar songs that work like this:
Let Everyone Clap Hands Like me – let everyone play sticks like me
If You’re Happy and you know it play the sticks, x x
3.  Add sound effects to storybooks
* Mortimer is a must do
* Mmm Cookies by Robert Munsch is really good too
* Up UP Down by Robert Munsch I do as well
I’d like to write some stories for kids to add sound effects to – I need some that my littlest (3 year olds) could play with. If you have any brainstorms let me know!
4.  Older kids love the Pop song play alongs.
We’re working on a publication, but it will be a few months.
Artie Almeida did this to wipe out – really fun with sticks on buckets or some kind of drum
5.  Create Rhythm Compositions
- create rhythm canons – have different groups of instruments start at different times
- create 4 bar rhythm and add an ostinato.  Put the ostinato on one instrument, and have the rest play the rhythm.
6.  Check the lesson plan section of the blog for more ideas.

 

 

Winter Rhythms Lesson Plan

Target Concept:   – notate the rhythm of the words

Grade Level:  Grades 2-5

In this activity, the students sort the words into the rhythm that they match. This is a great way to have them begin notation of their own poems and songs.  Have them add some words of their own.  I think I should have added cough, cold and flu to the list!  Try to steer them away from words that use a pickup or anacrusis, as these are more difficult to notate correctly.  (eg.  Diwali)

When the students have sorted all the words into the correct rhythm column, alone or in groups, they should choose 4 or 8 of the words and create a word chain with them.  They could say the word chain, and add rhythm instruments to create sound effects, or they could play the word chain on the instruments.  I like it when the students say it once, and then play and say it.

You could create a theme to introduce the word chain compositions:   Winter time is snowman time, Winter time is fun.  (ss mm ss m, ss mr d)  Then, have each student or pair of students perform their word chain as a variation.

If you teach elementary music, get information on the Musicplay K-6 curriculum at www.musicplay.ca.

Winter rhythms