Last year, my kindergarten students performed in a spring music program for their parents in the music room. I didn't prepare a program of songs and activities ahead of time. Instead, a few months before the performance day, I sat on the floor with the kids and asked them, "What are some activities we have done in the music room that you would like to share with your parents?" From there we voted on the activities and created a program together. I created a slideshow for each class so I could remember what each group wanted to share. I also added the learning targets to the slideshow for each song or activity.
The program was well received. I was really proud of my students. Still, I knew there was more work to do. I had asked the assistant superintendent in my district if she would be willing to watch the program with a critical eye and help me answer that very question. Afterward, she had some great advice. She loved that the students created the entire program and she heard me speak of the learning but wondered if I could let my students voice their own learning in the program.
I loved the idea. This year, I made it my goal to add more voice. I started with a basic keynote for all three classrooms of kindergarten. I entered learning targets such as steady beat, singing voice, high and low sounds, etc. Then, I asked the students what they thought we could share and wrote down everything they said on a note pad. Sometimes a suggestion was a fantastic idea and sometimes an idea totally missed the mark. We were brainstorming so I collected all the ideas.
I made three copies of the keynote so I could personalize the keynote for each of my three classes. I started to list the ideas from each class by the learning target in their class keynote to prepare for the next few music lessons. If an idea missed the mark, it didn't make it in the keynote. Sometimes a student noticed their idea didn't make it on a slide. This was a great time as a class to talk about the idea. Sometimes with more explanation, we were able to find meaning in the suggestion and add it somewhere in the program. Other times we decided the idea didn't work well for our program.
Last year, I had a child that insisted we sing a song about the Titanic. He could not let the idea go. While I explained we were planning to do activities we have already done this year, he just couldn't let the idea go. I shared the story at a music team meeting and another music teacher suggested the folk song, "Our Gallant Ship". I taught the song and game to the kindergarteners the next time I saw them in class. We discovered the high and low sounds in the song and called it our Titanic song. I had one classmate beaming from ear to ear when we decided to add the song to our program. What I didn't expect was the joy the other students felt for their classmate. The effort to honor one student's voice was a big deal for the whole class.
Then it was time to rehearse and practice our activities. We moved our flip form risers to the front of the room and gave each student an assigned place to stand and sit. We created a little moving space for ourselves in front of the risers as well. I set up a few chairs on the other side of the room so my students could see where our audience would be sitting. This helped us to see what our workspace looked like.
From there we practiced each activity. Once we had reviewed an activity, I asked students, "What did we learn from this activity?" As students responded, I tried to dictate word for word right onto the keynote presentation. When I was finished refining each activity, about half the class had a comment written somewhere in the presentation.
I wanted to record each child’s voice saying their comment. I’m not sure if the audio will distract the kindergarten students during the spring sing or not. If we practice with the audio, I think they can handle it. I think it’s worth a try. Of course, I also have to weigh if it’s worth the time trying to get audio for each student. It may take more time than I want it to.
After the program, I had a grandmother approach me with the loveliest compliment. She was a special education teacher and administrator for many years. She is now retired. She told me I made her miss the classroom. She was amazed and overjoyed with her granddaughter’s program. She, too, agreed that kindergarten kids can be empowered and share their learning with others. And when they do, it’s a very powerful learning experience!
My kindergarteners were engaged in this entire process and together we created an end product. With support from me, they were able to select repertoire, practice and reflect on their work, personalize the program to their interests and needs, and make their thinking visible. My students were excited to share their creation with an audience. After all, it was their creation!
Have you tried something like this in your classroom? Please let me know and share. I am always looking for new ideas or next steps to try for the following school year.