Make Practicing FUN!

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  
~ Vince Lombardi

The quote above not only applies to athletes – but musicians too! During the holiday season, music teachers have to teach a lot of repertoire very quickly and efficiently to young learners.  Keeping our young students engaged and interested in the process can be a challenge.  Below are some ideas and strategies on how to keep practicing FUN for upcoming performances:

Play Watching and Listening Games: 

Start a rehearsal off with some of these fun activities to get their brains and bodies engaged:

  • Follow my hands – wait for the clap!
  • Brain Gym:
    • Arms rotate in opposite directions
    • One arm up and down, other arm reaches up, then side, then down
  • Follow my fingers.
  • Tap hand for different consonant sounds. Hold for sustained sounds.
  • Consonant echoes with movement in hands and fingers.

Share a Video or Recording of the Song: 

Listening to the song first can be helpful in getting students engaged and excited right at the start.  Also, listening to it again later on can help keep students motivated.  Use the listening opportunity to discuss some listening elements like form, tempo, dynamics, etc. in the music. 

Movement and Actions:  

Adding actions or movement to your song is a great way to help students remember the words quickly.  You can create the movements yourself, as a class, or use choreography suggestions from the song if provided.  Another fun way to practice the song is to do the movements and whisper or mouth the words.  Denise calls this “Magic Lips”.  You can also use the sing/audiate paddle (see image below) to switch between singing the words and thinking the words.



Beat and Rhythm Activities: 

Tell your students beat is the steady pulse, and rhythm is the way the words go.  With your concert songs, try doing these two musical elements in a variety of ways to keep it interesting:

  • Keep the beat or play the rhythm using different levels of body percussion (snapping, clapping, patting, or stomping)
  • Keep the beat or play the rhythm on non-pitched percussion instruments. Set up hula-hoops with instruments inside and rotate students to the various instruments.
  • Switch between beat and rhythm while you sing the song – this can be a FUN challenge! Below is an image of a beat/rhythm paddle you can make and use for this activity:


Body Percussion Echoes: 

When reviewing the song by rote – add a little twist with some body percussion.  You sing a phrase - student sing and clap/snap/pat/stomp the words back.  For an added challenge, you sing a phrase and students freeze – they sing it back and walk to the rhythm of the words. 

Pull Concepts: 

Use your concert songs to review and teach other concepts in your curriculum.  Try starting off a rehearsal by writing a phrase from the song on the board to practice the rhythm or read the melody. 

Finish the Phrase: 

Sing the beginning of a phrase and ask if anyone can finish it.  Use this to go through a section of the song, or a part the students are finding challenging to remember.

 Break Time: 

The students (especially little ones) will get bored if you practice the songs the entire class.  Try alternating practicing concert songs with some of your favourite singing games, listening activities, or centers. 

Use a Variety of Accompaniments: 

Try singing the song acapella, with the piano or other instrument, and with a recording track if available.  As you get closer to performance time, practice with the accompaniment you intend on using for the concert. 

Pretend Performance: 

Ask the students to stand up to sing the song and “LOOK PROFESSIONAL”.  Take the time to discuss what real performers do on stage – watching the conductor, not playing with their hair, not touching other kids, etc.  Praise the students who are doing a great job. 

Riser Practice and Entrance/Exit Routine: 

Take the time to teach students how to stand and move properly on the risers.  Go through how to move on and off the risers.  Try this and practice the song too, reminding students of your expectations throughout.

Video Self-Evaluation: 

If you have time, record the students singing their concert songs.  Watch it together and discuss what they can work on and how they can improve before the show.  The students can use the following method to quickly self-reflect or use the worksheet below:

  • Show me 1 finger if you didn’t sing.
  • Show me 2 fingers if you sang, but you didn’t try your best.
  • Show me 3 fingers if you tried your very best, and sang with your best singing voice.


REMEMBER - It's not too late to plan a holiday concert!

View the links below to see some easy and quick programs to put together in your school from Themes and Variations. 

Holiday Concert Survival Guide

Holiday Concert Survival Guide

Music teachers are the ultimate event planners.  Who else can coordinate and organize 500 students, 50 teachers and school staff, and nearly 1000 parents for multiple shows. It’s an extremely busy time for music teachers.  Below are some tips and a planning guide for getting through this exciting time of year!

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Planning a Remembrance Day or Veterans Day Service

As an Elementary Music Teacher, it is often your responsibility to be involved in the planning of your school’s Remembrance Day Service.  This is one of the most important and meaningful celebrations of showing appreciation for our nation’s veterans.  It is helpful to have a staff committee to assist in the responsibilities and planning of the service.  Here are some resources to assist you in planning a Remembrance Day or Veterans Day Service:
1.) A Script to Guide the Service:
  • Use student MC’s to read the script
  • A sample script is available in the November 11th Unit on Musicplay Online.
  • Here is a website to help you in planning your script:
A Guide to Commemorative Service - Veterans' Week
2.) A Story of Remembrance:
  • Include a child-friendly story of Remembrance Day.  This can be accomplished through a children’s storybook, a short play, or reader’s theatre.  Include a slide show of images from war.  Here is a link to some other possible choices:
3.) In Flander’s Fields
  • Read or sing the poem.  In the publications “Songs of Peace” and “We Remember”, there are musical versions of this poem.  See the links below to view student performances of the different versions:
In Flander's Fields - Songs of Peace
In Flander's Fields - We Remember
4.) Decorations:
  • Most schools have a wreath and flags you can bring into the gym.  
  • We always invite classes to make student artwork to post in the gym.
  • A “Hall of Heroes” can be a great way for students to make a personal connection to veterans.  Ask students to bring in a photo of a friend or family member who has served in the military.  See the image below of an example of a letter you could send home with students.
5.) Invite Local Musicians to Participate in the Musical Selections
  • In Canada, “The Last Post” and “Reveille” are performed on the trumpet.  You can either play a recording, or try and find a local musican to perform.  Contact the local high school music teacher to see if they have anyone available.  
  • Invite a bagpiper to come and play when the invited guests and speakers walk in to the ceremony and when they walk out.
  • A recording of "The Last Post" is also available in the book "Sing and Play on Special Days":
6.) Invite a Veteran to Speak to the Students
  • In Canada, you can contact your local legion and they will assist you in finding a veteran to speak for the ceremony.
  • The Memory Project Speakers Bureau is another great resource.  They have a database of speakers you can book to come into your school, or they have many videos available (or DVD for free) to share with your students.
  • If you are unable to find a speaker, view the link below for some additional videos:
7.) Materials for the Classroom
  • For Canadian teachers, you can recieve free resources for the classroom from the following website.  You need to order in late October.
8.) Student Musical Tributes
  • Themes and Variations has some beautiful arrangements of choral pieces to use for Remebrance or Veterans Day.  Songs in Musicplay that are suitable for use in Nov. 11th ceremonies:
    • Musicplay for Kindergarten:  #42 Kumbayah
    • Musicplay 1 #33 Just one Candle
    • Musicplay 2 #28 Sing for Peace
    • Musicplay 3 #26 Remember Flanders Fields
    • Musicplay 4 #27 Shine a Light for Peace
    • Musicplay 5 #23 Shalom
    • Musicplay for Middle School (6): #27 In Flanders Fields 
  • Another excellent choral selection is A Wish for Peace.  It was written with Christmas words, but if you change 3 words it’s perfect for Nov. 11th.  Change “I wish this Christmas time” to “I wish for all these things”.
 A Wish for Peace - Canada Store
  • Themes and Variations also have 2 choral publications that can be used for Remembrance or Veteran’s Day:

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