Get In-Tune with your Elementary Music Concert Programs: Singing Games Night

What is an Informance?:

Informances focus more on students demonstrating the process of their music making opposed to a final product. An informance will very much look like what you do in a typical class with students. Some informances are organized to occur during the school day where parents are invited into the classroom. I've always done them in the evening in place of a traditional grade level concert to allow working families to attend. I personally do this approach to concerts for my younger elementary students (Kindergarten - 2nd grade) and switch to more traditional concerts in 3rd grade. 

How do you get buy in from administration? staff? families?:

When I first proposed Singing Games Night to my administration in lieu of a traditional grade level concert they were a little perplexed. It took a lot of explaining what the evening would look like as they had never experienced an informance like this prior. Some of the major points that I brought to administration were:
  • Developmentally Appropriate Concerts: Younger students are designed and fueled by movement and play based learning. That's what is done in my classroom. Standing on stage on squished risers to keep seemed to go against their nature.
  • Developmentally Appropriate Singing: Building a strong foundation and confidence in singing and head voice has always been important to me. It's easier to develop from a younger age and it just becomes the norm as they get into older elementary grades. Many of the scripted musicals do not reflect ranges that keep students in this voice and it becomes more shouting at the audience as opposed to tuneful singing. 
  • Prep Time: Doing an informance requires very little prep time. I don't have to stop my teaching to drill concert music which allows students who need that routine and structure to continue to have it in music. I don't need to organize a dress rehearsal or relocate my middle school teacher off the stage for them to practice. 
  • Family & Community Building: This was my biggest bullet point. Our school has been working to create a community that includes students, teachers, families, and community involvement. Singing Games night is open to students and families of any ages. I've had students bring their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, little siblings, older siblings, and more. We teach them HOW to play together. My older students love to come back and play the games from their younger years! 
After my administration, I went to teachers to get their support. I did receive pushback from some veteran teachers who were used to a traditional concerts. However, once I explained to them what the night would look like and the why, many were supportive. They just didn't know how to answer parent questions and once I clarified, all was well. I also have to remind myself, this is not for the teachers. This is for the students and their families. 

Speaking of families, there were some concerns. Parents wanted to be passive audience members watching their kid. The idea of play was overwhelming and uncomfortable to many (which, made me realize that maybe this night was really what was needed). My singing games night are not nearly as well attended as my traditional concerts. However, from those that have attended, they shared how much they enjoyed playing with their kids and families and seeing the joy and laughter it brought. 

What does a Singing Games Night look like?:

I am fortunate to have a full size gymnasium in my school. We fit all 900+ students and staff for assemblies between bleachers and the floor. However, for singing games, the purpose is to play so I do not have the bleachers put out. I want as much open floor space for movement as possible.

Most of the games that we play at Singing Games night my students have already played. That allows them to teach their families how to play the game. I love watching my first graders feel empowered to teach and become the experts on the games. 

We open the doors to the building 15 minutes before the night officially starts. My first year, I had sectioned out the gym for each of the four classes. This year, I decided to just keep it open and allow families to mingle as they pleased. Usually the kids play in the gym until it's time to get started. I prefer to be at the door welcoming families so I can begin to associate students with their families. 

I sometimes use the Singing Games night to teach families what we learn through these songs and games. So I will pick a singing game that represents a concept we learn or focus on, play the game, and then explain how we use that song. Most parents don't know what our day to day music class format looks like so its a chance to inform them on the why. 

I try to always start the program with some welcoming, whole group game and then jump into "content." I also take a few moments to establish some group norms: 

  • Participants do NOT have to take a turn if they are selected. They can always do a no thank you and that is fine. 
  • Adaptations for physical abilities are acceptable and I will try to provide some options for families. 
  • The purpose of this night is to play as a family and as a larger community and I encourage family members to take part in that. I review some research on how play is modeled in adults and not something kids will just do without modeling... 

The Program:

Here are some of the singing games that I've used during this event. 

That's a Mighty Pretty Motion
Source: 150 American Folk Songs
Steady Beat Motions & Improvising

Here Comes Mrs. Macaroni
Source: Over the Garden Wall
Steady Beat Motions & Improvising

7 Jumps
Source: Dance Music for Children Volume 1
Whole Group Movement & Listening

Apple Tree
Source: Music in Preschool
quarter note & beamed eighth notes

Bee, Bee, Bumblebee
Source: Music in Preschool
quarter note & beamed eighth notes

Come Back Home, My Little Chicks
Source: 100 Little Songs and Rhymes

Bobby Shaftoe
Source: An American Methodology

Here Comes a Bluebird
Source: 100 Little Songs and Rhymes
beat v. rhythm

Bow Wow Wow
Source: 100 Little Songs and Rhymes
quarter rest

Soy Una Serpiente
Source: Canta Conmigo!

Source: 150 American Folksongs
call & response

Grizzly Bear
Source: The Book of Beginning Circle Games

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