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Last month, I held our week-long “Bring Your Parents* to Music Class” week where parents of students in grades PreK Youngers (3-year-olds), PreK Olders (4-year-olds), Kindergarten, and Grade One can participate in a designated music class. I started this week-long event back in 2007 after talking with Christine Nowmos, an amazing music educator in South Jersey. She told me how she implemented it and I was so impressed with what she was doing that I decided to try it with my music program. The first year I implemented it, I offered it to parents of students in grades PreK Youngers through three. It was very successful. As I continued to offer it annually, usually around Music In Our Schools (MIOS) month, I tweaked it as I could see what was working well with the parents at my school and what was not working so well. As I describe what I do for this event at my school, it might look very different at your school because you want the event to be successful for your parent and your students.
“Bring Your Parents* to Music Class” is when I invite parents to the normally scheduled music classes of students in PreK Younger through grade one. There are no special activities and it is not a concert or an informance. It is a regular music class where the parents get the chance to see the curriculum in action as opposed to seeing one of our concerts. Yes, we do have a performance enhanced curriculum, but when we are not preparing for a concert, then the parents do not always see what we are doing or even know that we do anything else than prepare for a concert. Therefore, when they attend, they are happily surprised to see us move to music, learn and perform dances, read and perform rhythm patterns, perform conversational solfege, see how music naturally integrates with all subjects, and more.
The activities are based on what is currently going on in the music curriculum. An example from each grade is as follows:
- PreK Youngers: Singing songs (parents joined in), singing “the music book on the month” (Shoo Fly! illustrated by Iza Trapani), and learning a dance that emphasized the steady beat (Shoo Fly dance where the parents joined in).
- PreK Olders: Each student singing a solo that involved his/her name, moving to the steady beat of music, and correlating with their classroom unit of “Around the World” by emphasizing the music from the country they are currently visiting.
- Kindergarten: Singing a solo (students), singing songs (with the parents), performing a dance they have been learning for the past couple of weeks (with the parents), showing how to choose partners, and acting out performing on boomwhackers and singing the “music book of the month” (Mortimer by Robert Munsch), and more.
- Grade 1: Singing a solo (students), singing songs (with the parents), performing dances from various countries (with parents-this was a unit for the winter where we learned dances from various countries), reading and performing a variety of rhythm patterns (students taught their parents and performed them together on instruments) and more.
There was an 80-100% percent attendance. I set the date of this event at the beginning of the year and began advertising it on the school’s music webpage in September. I update the announcement monthly until January, in which I will then announce it weekly.
Many of the parents will bring the younger siblings. Ideally, it is nicer for the parents to be able to enjoy the class by solely watching their child that is involved in the class and not have to run after a younger sibling; however, I am empathetic of the situation and have no concerns with younger siblings in the class. I do speak to the parent before the class to let him/her know that if the younger sibling needs to be removed because he/she is becoming a distraction, I will give the parent a signal.
The response to this event has been wonderful. Parent have made comments such as:
- “I attend each year and I enjoy it more every year!”
- “That was SO GREAT today! Thank you so much for inviting all the parents and friends to music class. It was terrific to see you all in action. Really nice of you to share that time.”
- “First off I wanted to thank you for allowing us into your class. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also it was so nice to hear such nice words about [our son]. He has always loved music and dance.”
In addition, it gives me the opportunity to meet and greet so many parents/grandparents/relatives that I would probably not get the chance to meet and interact. Finally, the parents get a chance to witness a glimpse of their child’s school day. As a parent, that means so much because many children tell their parents very little about their school day. When parents can catch a glimpse of what their child does in one school day, it means the world to them.
If you are questioning about doing something along these lines, I highly encourage you to try this event. You will need to tweak it to your parent body, but in the end, it is very worthwhile.
*Grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, nannies, etc are also welcome.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com