Music ensemble directors the world over are now, or have already, started the process of setting up performances for their groups. It is a bit of a joke among ensemble directors that our holiday season starts around September, prepping music and scores for December shows. That's just what we do. For me, selecting the right songs for performance events is the most difficult step in the process, mainly because I want to choose music that my students can learn from, enjoy singing, and be proud to show off to family and friends. Some directors reject the idea of making their performances 'entertaining.' To this, I say that we cannot ignore the truth - people attend our events because they enjoy them and are...entertained. Why not PLAN for the entertainment factor? We have to plan our shows, not only for our students, but also for our audience. For me, one way to do this is to set up themed events. Why? It gives the audience an idea of what to expect when they get there. If I say that the show is "Music From the Movies," I have already established a connection between me, my performers, and the audience. As an ensemble director, having a theme also makes it a little easier to choose my repertoire from one event to another. This is me scrolling though music on JWPepper...
Already having a theme in mind allows me to zero in on a much smaller set of songs. Besides, I am a textbook introvert who thinks deeply about every decision 100 times over. This is one way I allow myself to not be overwhelmed with too many options.
To help us all prepare for our programs, I am sharing a listing of 20 concert themes that all together don't suck. They are categorized by season with a few general year-round options thrown in as well. Using a theme does not mean that every single song performed in the program is all in on the theme. The theme might only be reflected in one set, but make sure it is the best one so you get lots of this...
I challenge us all to think a little outside the box while also remembering that our shows serve as a large part of our community engagement. With that said, I will spare you all a soapbox moment and simply say this: from the perspective of diversity, programs hosted in the winter months should be as inclusive as possible. A Christmas concert, or even Christmas Around the World concert, is not considered diverse or inclusive. Doing these types of events will only, really, truly connect with people who celebrate Christmas (read here: Christians). I am NOT saying avoid Christmas or Christian tunes because they DO make up a large portion of important, relevant choral repertoire, but please know thy audience...and know thy school district policies!
Now, click and snag my CONCERT THEMES THAT DON'T SUCK freebie! Share in the comments some additional thoughts and ideas that have worked for you so we can all have awesome concerts that don't suck!
For many of us teachers, the school year is in full swing. All of the planning and preparations finally lead up to the first day of school and beyond. For me, the hardest part of preparing for school is not the lesson plans or choosing the repertoire - it's setting up my classroom. I don't want to overdo it. But, I also don't want my room to look boring, lame, or otherwise 'short on swag,' as I once heard a student say in reference to another teacher's classroom. My challenge has often been balancing my ideas to fit my kiddos. My elementary music teacher friends have these bright and colorful rooms that are so vibrant and inviting. My high school students would not care much for bumble bees with their names on them (...neither would I for that matter), but they do like having something interesting to look at, too. So, for this week's Well Fed posting, I want to see what's going on in your classrooms! Click HERE to head over to the Well Fed Facebook page (link will open in a new window), click LIKE and drop a pic of your home away from home. After you drop a pic of your own classroom, share the Well Fed page with your fellow music ed friends so they can do the same. How cool would it be to see a slideshow of awesome music rooms right there on Facebook!!!
Here's a pic from my classroom - well, technically the door to my classroom. I have always been hesitant to decorate the outside of my door because I worry about my decorations falling off the door or being tampered with! This year, I decided to go for something relating to the non-musical growth and development of my musicians, giving a nod to my school by making the BE portion in our school colors. Every day that I arrive at my door and don't see my word strips on the floor is a good day because it means my adhesive is doing its job!!
I look forward to seeing a snippet of your classroom life, and maybe even getting an idea or two (...or ten). Have an awesome day, week, and even better school year! Head over to FACEBOOK and drop that pic!!
Harry Wong, in his book titled The First Days of School, reminds teachers that there are 7 questions students usually have on the first day. One of those questions is "Will I be treated like a human being?" An activity that I do to address this question is a Ring Around the Room allowing students an opportunity to share their thoughts on six different questions & statements and to start the process of team building.
I write each item across the top of a piece of Post-It Presentation paper (like the one shown here). The pages are placed on the walls, spread out all around the room. The students are then numbered off into 6 groups that rotate around the room discussing each statement, then leaving written feedback for me. Each group has an assigned SCRIBE to write as the other group members feed them ideas. I only give students 2 minutes with each statement, which seems to be plenty of time for my quick-thinking high school kiddos. Any longer than that and their conversations get wildly off topic.
This activity serves a variety of purposes. First, it lets me see how well they work together in groups right from the very beginning, which is crucial information for me as a music ensemble leader. By the end of the rotation, I can see the class leaders, the quiet ones, and the "do I HAVE to do this?" ones. Second, it gives me essential feedback. By this point in class, I have shared my expectations for them. Now, they can share what they expect from me, from their classmates, and from themselves. I especially like asking them why they think music is important. As a music educator, I can clearly tell my "What Music Means to Me" story. It does my heart good to hear my students share their own personal thoughts about music and its importance.
For the students, this activity gives them a great Brain Break away from the typical lectures about procedures and class requirements. Students like to know - and need to know - that they will be treated fairly and their voice will be heard. I cannot promise I will bring them food everyday (this class seems to REALLY like food!), but I can promise that their request has been heard and noted for future reference.
What types of activities do you use with your big kids in the first few days of school? Share in the comments! I would LOVE to hear your ideas!!
With the start of the new school year comes one issue that I hear many teachers complain about: losing their voice during the first two weeks of school. Why does this happen? I'm no doctor - but I am a vocal coach - and I take vocal health seriously. There is a reason I devote class time to this topic with all of my chorus classes. As musicians, we understand that we have to take care of our instruments. However, If a pianist damages their piano, they can buy a new one. When a vocalists damages their vocal cords, there is no voice store to purchase another. Regardless of what subject you teach, your voice is an 'instrument of mass instruction' and you need it to be healthy. So, let the voice coach in me offer a few quick pointers.
DO ALL OF THESE THINGS!
AVOID ALL THESE THINGS!
What do you do to preserve your 'teacher voice'? What are you NOW going to do to keep your voice in tip-top teaching shape? Drop a comment below!
I use a countdown app on my phone that allows me to set up fun, cute countdown clocks. I looked at my countdown clock this morning and it said
10 days left to the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!
I have had a wonderful summer vacation, but I can see the start of school on the horizon. It’s everywhere from the back-to-schools ads to the bus drivers practicing their routes. I am sure that many of you reading this are at this point as well. As I start getting myself geared up for another year of teaching, I want to share FIVE things we all can do to prep for this new school year. Let’s count it down!
5. Do something you enjoy that makes you laugh and smile. The school year schedule is hectic. Don’t spend the last week(s) of summer in 100% work mode. Read that book that you keep telling yourself “I’m going to read this when I get the chance.” Take a day trip to that landmark you keep promising yourself to go see one day. Spend some uninterrupted QT with the ones you love. Plan a night out with some teacher friends and the first person to mention school buys the first round of drinks!
4. Reflect on the year before to plan for the year ahead. In a perfect world, I would have sat down with pen and paper and written out a formal end-of-year reflection as soon as school was out. But instead, I walked out of the classroom and left it all behind with my sights set on all things summer. With summer now coming to a close, it is time to think about what is up and coming. My method is simple: sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of classroom elements that were integral to the daily function of the room. Assess each item. Did it work? If so, give yourself a gold star! If not, it’s time to brainstorm. What can I do to make this element better? Does it need to be eliminated or reworked and tweaked? It is important to note here that this only applies to elements that are under your control as the classroom teacher. This is not the time to write about unacceptable cafeteria food or stale coffee in the front office. BE PRODUCTIVE!
3. Engage in some PPD and TPD. I LOVE PPD and TPD time. What is this, you ask? Pinterest Professional Development and Twitter Professional Development. Anytime I need a fresh idea, I turn to Pinterest (by the way, you can find me HERE in the world of pinners!) One word of caution if you are new to being a Pinterester: it is not only addictive, but can give you an inferiority complex if you’re not careful! Just because your favorite Pinterester has the time to bedazzle all the choral binders does not mean that you should, too! Repeat after me: the goal is not to be 'Pinterest Perfect.'
Twitter is great for connecting with music educators from all over the world. Search by hashtags, and then find and follow interesting and noteworthy people (and again…find me HERE in the land of tweets!) Be sure to check out #MusEd #MusicEd #MusicEducation and #MusEdChat just to name a few. Do a Google search of ‘music education hashtags’ and you will find dozens of them.
2. Work on pacing guides & on lesson plans for the first day of school plus two weeks. I believe in having a plan, and that starts with a pacing guide. Past that, focus on a plan for Day One. The first day of school is a tone-setting day. The first two weeks allow for everyone to establish and reinforce routines and procedures. If you go into the first day of school with the first two full weeks already mapped out, you will sleep so much better at night.
1. Pray, meditate, or do some other activity to settle your inner self. Remind yourself why you started teaching in the first place. Read something inspirational. Practice deep breathing. Let’s face it-teaching is stressful. Let us all go into this brand new school year with a fresh mind and fresh perspective. Do not allow for last year’s stresses or concerns to follow us into a new school year. Spend some quiet time lifting up prayers and good thoughts for students, fellow teachers, administrators, and parents.
What types of things do you do to prepare for the start of a new school year? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear about your awesome back to school routines!
I am a music educator and lover of all food stuffs! Thank you for spending some of your day with me here on my blog. Read more...