This post got a much-needed update in March, 2023!
Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM®) is a great time for educators to showcase the fantastic things happening within their music programs. Throughout March, music departments all over the country put extra effort into making music front and center in their districts. This year I’m going to ask you to take that one step further. During MIOSM, instead of just making sure your program is front and center, I want you to make sure your students are at the center. Empower your music students!
Empowered music students are not only engaged in music making, but they own the learning process. Learning for them is personal, meaningful, and valuable. If we are going to truly showcase music in our schools, shouldn’t we give students the opportunity to lead this process? Here are some ideas to showcase empowered music students during MIOSM.
Showcase Student Voice
Empowered music students have a voice, and they also know that their voices are heard. Many teachers during MIOSM will have students respond to a prompt (often the MIOSM slogan) and hang all responses on a bulletin board. This is great! All students get the opportunity to share their voices in a place that is visible to others. The MIOSM slogan this year is, “Music Is All of Us.” Consider asking students to write a sentence or two about what this phrase means to them and display their responses.
The next step is to share their voices outside of the classroom as well. If your school is active on social media, consider sharing some of the student responses there. Remove last names or other personal information, take pictures of the responses, and start posting! You could also consider amplifying student voices on Flip (formerly Flipgrid). Instead of having students write their responses, ask them to record a short video on Flip. You can share the videos with parents and the community using Flip’s Guest Mode or Mix Tapes. Wakelet is another easy way to share Flip videos. Not only are you giving every student a voice, but you are helping to ensure all of their voices are heard.
Connect to Others
I often see great displays where the music teacher has interviewed other teachers and staff members, asking about their musical experiences and preferences. What if this year, instead of the teacher conducting the interviews, you encourage students to do it? Work together as a class to come up with a few standard questions to ask and give each student a template. Encourage students to be creative in who they interview! Consider coaches, scout leaders, teachers and staff in the school, family, and more. Students could display paper interviews in the hallways or on bulletin boards. Interviews collected digitally (using Google Forms or a similar tool) can be put together in an ebook and shared throughout the school community.
Another suggestion using Flipgrid, have students conduct video interviews. Imagine the power of watching a video of a student interviewing an adult in their life about their musical experiences, likes, and interests. Giving students the opportunity to talk directly to others about music will make the project much more meaningful.
Student Performance Opportunities
While writing and speaking about music are great, actually playing music is even better! Give your students the opportunity to perform in school and allow them to plan the performances. In one of my former schools, we had an event called “Musical Morning.” Students volunteered to perform in the lobby during arrival in the morning. Students could play an instrument or sing, but they must prepare for the performance on their own. It was such a great experience! Students always impressed me with what they come up with, often working with a partner to create their own arrangements or composition. Musical Morning was an easy event to coordinate and it truly allowed students to own the music-making process.
One year, we mixed things up even more by inviting the faculty and staff to participate in the Musical Morning! The students were treated to a variety of performances, including vocalists, instrumentalists, and cultural dance. It was a great way to show students that music isn’t only for kids. If before school is not an option, why not try a cafeteria concert? Set up in the cafeteria’s corner during lunch for students to perform while their classmates are eating.
Students as Teachers
MIOSM could be the perfect opportunity to invite parents into the classroom. Empower learners by having them teach their parents about music. Students could teach their parents how to assemble or play instruments (band, orchestra, or classroom.) With parents as part of the class or ensemble, students could
Consider leveraging student age when thinking about MIOSM activities. Ask your older students what could they do for or with your younger students? Could they lead a favorite song or activity from when they were in that grade? Could they perform for the younger students? In my school, the students frequently listen to “song tales” (books or stories that are sung) in general music class. Students of all ages enjoy these stories. Imagine the power of a 4th-grade student singing a song tale to a 1st-grade class? Or have an 8th-grade student lead warm-ups for the 6th-grade band. There are so many options!
One disclaimer to add – my students frequently have leadership/teaching opportunities in my classroom. If this is something brand new for your students, ease into it gradually! You may not want to have a student lead warm-ups for the first time in front of a group of parents, but that’s just my two cents! In addition, students will feel most confident about things they have adequately prepared for.
Ask Students for Their Ideas
Don’t forget, you can always ask the students for ideas – how would they like to celebrate MIOSM? When I asked my students for their ideas, many simply wanted more music throughout the day! They suggested a whole school sing-along, dance, the opportunity to listen to music and more. I appreciated that one of the biggest things they wanted to do was to make more music! Next, I plan to ask the students where and when during the school day they could see music being beneficial. You will need to have a supportive faculty and staff, but encouraging students to share their music where they see most appropriate is empowering. Students will need to understand some things are not feasible (during a math test, for example!) but other teachers might be open to something that had a purpose. Several students suggested we have a MIOSM Flipgrid where they could share their favorite songs. That is something I will definitely set up for them.
Whatever you decide to do for Music in Our Schools Month, be proud of the amazing things you do within the program, and the things your students do. Make sure your school, district, and community are aware of them too. Encourage students to take the lead in some of these areas. Even the youngest musicians can be empowered, and I believe it’s our responsibility to help them!
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