Transitions

The xylophones have been moved back to the music room.  The boxes of scarves, drums and puili sticks are shoved off to the side and will be put away soon.  The songs and poems from the big performance are tucked neatly away in a folder marked, Winter Performance 2012.  We did it!  And it’s time to move on.

In the days after a big school performance the whole energy in the music room shifts.  We are all exhausted, children and teacher alike, from working on the same materials for many weeks.  After the concert that intense energy evaporates.  This is a transition time, and the children need time to reflect, to have some choices, and to try something new.

The very first time I see the students after a performance I ask them two questions.  First of all, I invite them to reflect on their experience.  I ask them to think back to how they felt as they stood up to walk onto the performing space.  They offer a range of emotions: they felt nervous, scared, proud, awesome, embarrassed, happy.  I can see their faces relax as they see their classmates name emotions that they shared.  The word “stagefright” is discouraged.  It is such a loaded, negative word.  I prefer to have them talk in a more personal way about how their belly was fluttering, or if they were feeling shy.  I then assure the class that it’s okay to feel all of these things, and that anyone who performs experiences those same things, all mixed up together.  As we talk through the experience most of them realize that these uncomfortable feelings lasted only until the song or the dance actually started.  There is something about actually doing the materials of the performance that focuses the mind and leaves anxiety behind.  The reward is feeling the warm energy of the audience, and feeling proud at the end.

The second reflection activity is for the students to remember one song or dance that they enjoyed watching.  An answer of, “I enjoyed everything” is not accepted.  They are encouraged to recall details, perhaps some of the lyrics of a song, or a few words of a poem.  Maybe there was an instrument or prop that caught their attention.

The next part of the transition is for the students to have some choices.  Music class turns into a Request Day.  They can ask for a song or a game that we haven’t done in a while.  It is fascinating to see what they remember and want to do again.  In my classes this week, they asked for materials from earlier in the year, but to my surprise, they also requested games and songs from much further back.  Several first grades wanted to play Little Bird, a game they learned in Kindergarten.  A second grader wanted to sing a song from last May, an original end-of-the-year song that they sang as a thank you to their teachers.  They remembered every word.

Then it’s time for something completely new, and there is nothing better at this point than a new singing game or play party.  Some of my favorites are Down in the Valley, Punchinella, Little Johnny Brown, I Let Her Go-Go, Bow Belinda, and Chickens on the Fencepost.

Fellow music teachers – how do you handle the transition from the big concert back to regular music class?  I’d love to hear your ideas.  You can use the comments below to share.  (If no comments are visible, then click on the word: Comments, below the title of this post.)

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4 Responses

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  1. Our Winter Concert is right before school ends for Christmas Break. I don’t see the kids until we return in the new year. Having such a strong break, I like to change course completely.

    Our school’s way of teaching (Waldorf) believes that the winter months are a time to go inward, and really expand our knowledge. In keeping with this, January and February are times where I focus strongly on theory. Scale theory, rhythmic notation, circle of fifths, and all those other kinds of things. I’ve just finished teaching my upper grades children how to apply a diatonic step pattern to figure out all the major scales. They LOVE it. And I love it when the light goes on, and sparks fly between their violin and recorder and voice music. “So, that’s why there are two sharps on our fiddle piece!!!!”

    Once the flowers begin to poke through the ground, we take this new knowledge, and explode into new music. This year I have wonderful songs about color where we weave fabric into a quilt, choral poetry, dance, and all the other things that lead us to May Fair.

    So, I guess, to answer your question, The seasons quite definitely control our transitions.

  2. Liz

    I like the idea of going inward in the winter for more theoretical study, and then emerging and integrating in the spring. Lovely!

  3. Elisabeth

    We watch the video of the concert and reflect, and then… “request day!” Games, songs, dances, and anything they want to do for a class.

  4. Liz

    Elisabeth – does the video keep their interest? Do you have a video done by professionals?

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