Planning an Elementary Music Informance : Part 1

There are lots of ways to create an elementary informance. They depend on your school, class size, and the typical music activities you do in class. In this post I’ll outline my personal process, but the sky is the limit on how simple or complex you make your informance!

 
How to Plan an Elementary Music Informance
 

We Are the Music Makers Podcast Victoria Boler

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What Is An Informance?

An informance is any production that is for the purpose of educating an audience about a topic. It can be as simple as inviting parents to watch your music class and giving them a brief explanation of the activities the students are doing. It could also be more formal and take place on a stage. The key is that education is the backbone of the presentation.

When I do an informance, I want to educate my colleagues, parents, and community about the amazing creative musical work my students do in a typical music class.

In contrast, a performance is typically meant to be a final product.

What is an Informance?


Which is Better?

Both performances and informances give valuable insight into the learning process.

I do a blend of both at my school and I feel that it shows the balance of artistry in the music room.


Why You Should Consider an Informance Instead of Performance

An informance not only highlights your students and the amazing work they do. It also highlights your program as a whole. Music teachers by nature are a bright, intentional educators who teach their students how to learn through music. And that alone is amazing. When you add your personal creativity and love for your individual students, the program turns into something wonderful and something worth sharing.

Informance in Elementary Music

However, unless your school district has someone hired to represent your program and do that sharing for you, it’s likely that you are your program’s biggest advocate. It’s also likely that you are the only person who knows the complexities of your curriculum and thought process behind each activity. If that’s the case - and it probably is - we should consider taking on more of an advertisement and educational role in our community as well as our classrooms.

Your Elementary Music “Marketing Strategy”

Companies do this all the time. They recognize that people have to see a need for their products before they’re willing to invest in them. To make people recognize a need, they talk to their audience about the benefits of their product and show how it works. They promote their brand through advertisement and information. Music teachers would be wise to do the same.

While it can be uncomfortable to compare our music classrooms to a company selling products, it’s worth taking a cue from the information and advertisement model. We want parent, administrative, and community investment in our programs through the form of attendance, participation, and financial support.

But if all these parties see is the final product, they’re missing the majority of the magic that takes place in your classroom, and the majority of the reason they should invest in what we do.


What to Include in Your Informance

When it comes time to plan your informance activities, think about what you are doing in your classroom that is artistic and student-driven.

Ideally, a large number of your classroom activities fit in this category. If that’s the case, it should be simple to take that same activity (a game, movement, a folk song) and put it on a stage.

My informances include folk dances, speech pieces, songs, and instrumental pieces. They show students singing, speaking, moving, improvising, playing instruments.

In other words, I include our day-to-day classroom activities.

What to include in an informance


There are times when a classroom activity may not be appropriate for a staged production. For example, I imagine my audience would not be on the edge of their seats to watch students do a dictation activity.

Those skills should still be highlighted, but those dictations may be better displayed on a slide show before the program with a bit of text explaining what dictation is, and how students completed the activity.

Elementary Music Informance

Children’s Literature as an Informance Framework

I find it the most helpful to base my informance on a book. This gives me a structure for the program, while keeping it playful. I use children’s literature in my classes frequently, so the production still seems natural to my students and me.

Choosing an Informance Book:

I like to take a trip to Barns and Noble children’s section and sit on the floor with a notebook and a pile of children’s literature. You could also do this at your local library or your school library.

In this post I talk about choosing classroom repertoire, and 4 criteria songs need to meet in order to make it to my students.

My criteria for choosing a book is more or less the same. As I look for children’s literature for an informance or classroom use, I ask the following questions:

Is the book high quality?

  • Children’s books certainly will be on the simple side in terms of grammar and structure, and likely they will be fun to read. But do they also speak to where children are developmentally? In addition to the text being simple or playful, is it also thoughtful? Could the book be enjoyed by both children and adults?

Do I like this book?

  • Will I go NUTS reading the book over and over as I prepare for the informance?

Is there a Curricular Tie-In?

  • Remember that informance preparation is not separate from your normal class. The typical class activities are the informance. If I were not preparing for an informance, would I use this book in my classroom? Where are the musical connecting points in this book? How can it showcase what I’m already doing?

Where is the creativity?

  • Do I feel creatively drawn to this book? Would my students feel creatively drawn to this book?

Choosing Books for Elementary Music

Other Framework Options:

You could also consider basing your informance off of a poem or school motto. In the past I’ve based an informance off of the lyrics to a song, and it was a smashing success! There’s flexibility to do what suits your program the most naturally.


Document Along the Way

What we do in our classes differs significantly from what students do in other classes such as math or science. While parents likely have a realistic picture of what those classes look like, they may not understand how a typical music class operates.

While an informance is a great way to bring them into the process, it can be helpful for parents to have a bit more context about your music room.

To help with the informance presentation, I like to document my classes about a month or two leading up to the production. I take videos of students improvising, playing a game, or singing a song. I collect written compositions. I ask students to share what they’re learning in class. From there I can choose how to display the student work to create a bigger picture of the media and processes we use in the classroom.

I use the Seesaw app for this. Seesaw is a free, easy to use software that lets me upload student work to share with parents. After I invite parents to join the class they can like and comment on student work. I can also use this platform to post announcements, such as the date and time of the informance.

I’ve had a lot of success with this parent communication tool, and I think it’s one reason my audience turnout is so high at the event.

Informance seesaw-08.png

Here is the teacher dashboard of a sample class. (I’ve blocked out parent and student names.) In this activity students used rhythmic building blocks to compose a B section for the song, Kookaburra. At the time we hadn’t yet learned the real name for takadimi, so the 16th notes are notated as four dots on one card. We performed their final rhythmic patterns at the informance, and it was helpful for parents to see the composition progress from week to week.

If every student at your school has an ipad, you can find a way to incorporate Seesaw into your classroom. However, I found that most of the time it was easier to simply film the students myself and upload to their student profile. This made made more sense especially if we were doing a whole-class game or activity such as Bluebird Bluebird. If students were working in small groups to compose an ostinato it made sense for them to bring a few class ipads and take a picture of the work themselves.



In the next post I’ll talk about the details of putting an informance together, from rehearsals, to parent invitations, to song selections.

In the meantime, if you have a question about the informance process drop a comment down below, or reach out to me on instagram.

Happy teaching!

Let's Lesson Plan: 3rd Grade #10

 
 

In this video I share my 10th lesson with my 3rd graders. I love seeing how other teachers think through their planning process, and thought it would be fun to share my own.

Below the video you’ll find the PDF download of the lesson, as well as the sheet music I used and any other links mentioned.

Enjoy!



Getting Started

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There are several documents I use to lesson plan. They save me time while they make sure each activity on the page is intentional, and seamlessly leads into other ideas.

All the templates I use are available to purchase as a part of my Elementary Music Planning Kit.

You can check it out here.

Scope and Sequence:

My scope and sequence keeps me on track throughout the year. This is the document I use to decide what I want to teach, and when I want to teach it.

3rd Grade Scope and Sequence

Concept Plans:

Concept plans are where teachers write down purposeful teaching strategies for specific concepts.

For this lesson I’m using a concept plan for takadimi and do. Both of these are partially completed - I don’t always necessarily have every single activity mapped out when I start a concept.

Below you’ll find my practice activities for takadimi and preparation activities for do.

Takadimi practice activities

Takadimi practice activities

Do preparation activities

Do preparation activities

You can watch these videos or read this blog post to see how I put together my scope and sequence and my concept plans.

 
 

My Teaching Situation:

I see my students for 45 minutes on a six day rotation. This is my second full year at this school, and I am still working to “catch up” many grade levels to where I want them to be. In this lesson you’ll that my third graders are working on concepts you might expect from a second grade classroom.

Objectives:

For this lesson I wanted to practice 16th notes and prepare do. To accomplish this, my objectives were to improvise using 16th notes, and aurally identify a note lower than mi.


The Lesson


Warm Up

As students entered the room, they made up a body percussion pattern of their choice. I didn’t care how many levels they used, or what specific rhythms they incorporated. I did, however, watch for a steady beat in their feet as they walked.

Once we entered the room we sang greetings using a sol-mi-do toneset. This was to prepare for our melodic focus for the lesson.

After some tonal work we echoed a few body percussion rhythms, and I included takadimi in these patterns to practice our target rhythm element.

You can watch a video on my elementary warm up routine here, or read this blog post.

New song: I See the Moon

This was a new song my students had never heard. I chose a simple song that highlights the melodic pattern, sol-mi-do.

My students didn’t need to do much with this material, simply hear the song as they copied my hand motions. For the melodic pattern I put my hands on my head for sol, hands on shoulders for mi, and hands on hips for do.

I sang the song again and had students copy my motions as we walked in a circle with a steady beat in their feet. At some point we ended I See the Moon and I went into the song, Apple Tree.

I used the circle formation from I See the Moon. Since students were already walking to a steady beat in a circle they had already set up the formation of the next game.

Main Concentration: Apple Tree

As I was writing this lesson I thought I would use the song, Sorida in this section. However, the more I worked on the lesson outline, I realized Apple Tree would work better as the main concentration material.

My students were in late preparation, which means they were ready to aurally discover a note lower than mi. To discover this note, I asked questions to guide students’ ears:

  • How many beats did we pat?

  • Which one had the lowest note?

We agreed that the new note was lower than mi, so I had the class sing the song on solfege, this time calling the last note “low”. We played the game again singing on solfege.

When we had played the game a few times, I had students continue singing the song in solfege as they walked back to their spots.

Game: Built My Lady a Fine Brick House

My students love this game! We used it to practice 16th notes, but since it has both our target rhythm and melodic elements in it, I could have used it as either a rhythmic or melodic focus.

We had just played the game to Apple Tree, so we sat down a few minutes while we sang the song and patted the steady beat. After that we played the rhythm of the chorus (the section with 16th notes) on our laps.

From there we moved to playing the actual game. You can find game directions in the sheet music.

To add some takadimi instrumental practice, I played the steady beat on a tubano and had a few other students play the rhythm of the chorus on woodblock. After a few rounds like this, switching who plays the game and who plays instruments, we read the rhythm of the chorus on the board.

After we read the rhythm I changed one beat at a time to turn the song into the opening of Tideo.

Secondary Concentration: Tideo

My students have played the game to Tideo before, so they’re pretty familiar with it. For this lesson I wanted to do an improvisation activity with 16th notes.

Since the first three phases have the same rhythm, that became the call. The last phrase became the response. Students have trouble moving straight into an independent improvisation activity, so it’s best to go through some steps to prepare them for your expectations. Here was my outline for this lesson:

  • I clapped the call and the whole class gave a response (we did this several times)

  • The class offered suggestions of how to fill in the four beats, and I wrote down three rhythm possibilities. Students could choose one of these three, or make up their own.

  • Students turned to a partner - one partner clapped A, the other improvised B.


One addition I made after I had already filmed the video was to have partners share their improvisations with the class. For that I brought out two tubanos and had students share their ideas, each partner playing individually.

After that we kept that same partner and moved into the game to Tideo. This time there was a variation of the game: the inside circle clapped A and the outside circle improvised B.

Closing Activity: Sorida

Students already had their partner from Tideo, so it was easy to move into the clapping game to Sorida.

After playing the clapping game with their partner, students turned to the board and traced the melodic contour.

We ended the lesson with the option of playing the game or tracing the melody on the board.



My students loved this lesson. The pacing was fast, and I was challenged to keep things moving in order to fit everything in.

If you take any of these ideas from this lesson, be sure to adapt them to fit your own education needs - every child, every classroom, and every teacher is different!

You can download a PDF of the lesson here, and look for the templates I use in the Elementary Music Planning Kit.

Happy teaching!

 

 
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