Planning an Elementary Music Informance: Part 2

There are so many ways you can bring your community in on your classroom process. One way is through an informance.

An informance could be as simple as inviting parents to watch a class - simply set up some chairs in your room and you’re ready! Alternatively, it might be something more polished and set on a stage.

Whatever your choice, remember that an informance is meant to be process based, not product based. The goal is to educate the audience on what students are learning in your classroom. If you haven’t already, click through to this post on getting started with informances.

Today’s post will cover some questions I’ve received about informance logistics. We’ll look at parent communication, choosing material, rehearsals, and setting up the stage. Let’s jump in!

 
Elementary Music Informance | We Are the Music Makers
 


Choosing Material for your Informance

When I have my book picked out I go through with post it notes and write down ideas. (Read more on how I choose my book here)

I look for movement words or movement images. I look for themes that can connect to musically and developmentally appropriate folk songs. I look for text ideas that could be rhythmically broken up into rhythmic building blocks.

The key is to find things that tie into what you’re doing already, and to connect the informance material back to your curriculum. If I get an idea that doesn’t connect to a concept I know I want to teach in that semester, that song is not included in the informace.

If a page doesn’t seem to have anything I can musically connect back to, I leave it blank. I may come back to it a day or two later, but if an idea doesn’t come to me the page simply won’t have a song. It’s actually helpful to have some pages without songs to use as transitions in the show. These are pages where students will be moving to different instruments, or walking on or off stage.

With my book and my songs picked out, it’s pretty much “business as usual” in the music room. However, as I build my classroom activities I think through how it could be transferred to a stage, and how easy the activity would be to explain to a parent.

Planning it Out:

A document like this Informance Planning Sheet can be helpful as you think through what concepts and skills you want to highlight.

Click on the informance planning sheet to download it for free!



Inviting Parents

I always include several different modes of parent communication, including physical notes home, emails, and flyers at the front desk.

Notes Home:

Here are some examples of flyers I’ve sent home in the past.


On the back of the flyer, I always include a brief explanation on what an informance is, since it’s likely parents are not as familiar with the concept.

I send home two invitations: One is about two months before the event, and another about two or three weeks before the event.

 

Making it work: I use Adobe Illustrator to put together these notes for home. However, there’s also a free program called Canva that some great templates ready to go!

Emails:

In addition to the flyer, I also send an email around two months before the production. Email is one of my primary ways to communicate with parents, so it happens more frequently as we get closer to the informance date.

School Communication:

How do parents in your school receive information about events on your campus? My school has school-wide newsletter, monthly class newsletters, and a place to promote events at the front desk. I use all of these to get the word out.

Seesaw:

Seesaw App

By far my favorite way to invite parents has been through the Seesaw app. (I talk a bit more about Seesaw in this post.)

Using this app, students can create a video for their parents to invite them to the informance. When I’ve done this in the past I asked students to get into small groups and answer one of the following questions in their video:

  1. What have you learned about in music this year?

  2. What is your favorite thing about music class?

Students also included the date and time of the informance in their invitation.

Their final scripts read something like this:

In music class we’re learning about takadimi and how to sing a whole bunch of songs. We hope you come to our informance on April 21st at 9:00. See you there!”

It was so simple, but it was nice for some of the communication to not be coming from the student instead of me.

Seesaw Logistics:

Having students in small groups saved on the number of ipads we needed for this activity, which saved on the transition time of students logging in, submitting the video, and getting ipads out and put back away.

If you only have one ipad, you can either have student groups go into the hallway one at a time to film their invitation, or the class can vote on what they want to invitation to say and you can film the whole class at once. Filming the class all at once would work if you don’t have a school ipad at all, but you do have a school computer with a camera or a smartphone.



Stage or Classroom?

In my last post I said that an informance can be as easy as inviting parents to your room during music class. That can be a very effective way of programming an informance! However, for a variety of reasons I chose to show my informances on a stage.

One reason was that instead of doing a program for every single grade, I believed I could simplify my spring semester by combining grade levels. This created logistical problems with my classroom as a staging area, as my audience size would be too large to fit in the room.

Instead, we move the program to the stage and I set up the stage to look like my classroom layout as much as possible. I put the instruments on one side, I tape down a circle so we can play games, and I bring in choir risers so we can see students sing.

stage_Informance Post 3.png

The final result is a good representation of my music room, and the stage has spaces for singing, playing, speaking, and moving.

If you don’t have access to a stage, this set up could work just as well in a gym or cafeteria.



Rehearsals

I always like to have three rehearsals, plus a dress rehearsal. I only do informances with TK - 3rd grade students, so these rehearsal times are very important with these grades!

Victoria Boler Tech Sheet

Classroom Teacher Participation:

Each teacher has a tech sheet that looks something like this:

It includes the riser order for students, the script, and highlighted directions for teachers so they can help students move where they need to be.

All the classroom teachers come to the rehearsals with their students. They are responsible for bringing kids on stage, helping them transition to other stage locations, and leading students off stage.

At the informance itself the teachers stand on stage with the students.

* Note: Even though our production is on a stage, it’s not really a formal event. I tell students beforehand that they’re allowed to make mistakes! If they go to the wrong spot (remember these are young students), the teacher is there on stage to help them.

Reading the Book

One of the most special parts of the program is that my principal reads the book. Out of respect for her time, she only shows up for the dress rehearsal but she and I meet beforehand to go over the program order and any special logistics.



Parent Education: Visuals and the Program

The most important aspect of the entire production is the parent education piece, so I want to make sure that stays the central theme. There are several ways I do this:

Make sure my activities are realistic.

While we do show some polished pieces, we also show some things that aren’t quiet as “stage ready” as I’d like them to be. This program showcases learning. I keep the same games we do in the classroom as well, which means that it’s possible parents will watch their child get “out” at the production. I don’t change the game to make sure everyone stays in, or everyone gets a turn. I try to keep it as true to the classroom as possible.

Talk beforehand

Before the program I talk a bit about what parents are about to see. I highlight things like progress and growth. I tell parents to watch for mistakes and how their students recover from those mistakes. I share briefly about the instruments we use and why we use them, and any part-work skills they’ll see. I also point out that all the music in the program is student - arranged, since through the Orff approach students have so much choice in how the pieces turn out. My personal preference is to talk as little as possible so I keep this part short!

Printed program:

I always print a program that gives parents one thing to watch or listen for. Here is an example from a TK - 1st Grade informance.

This is My Father's World Program April 24.jpg

Slides:

Slides for each song either include what to watch / listen for (same as the program), or they’ll highlight the national music standard the song addresses.

Seesaw:

In addition to these things at the informance itself, I also rely on the Seesaw app to show parents what we’re learning. For me, this is an important piece that gives more of a context for the program.

Wall Videos:

Using that same material from Seesaw, I can put a picture of the class doing an activity on the walls in the hallways or front lobby. Next to the picture is a QR code parents can scan. This QR code leads to a video of students singing, playing instruments, moving, or doing a game. This is the same footage from Seesaw, but I’m repurposing it to show more parents the fun we have in class. These images and videos can lead down the hallway to the auditorium as parents walk in.



Informances are a playful way to educate your parent community about the work your students do! They are also a great advocacy tool.

This was my personal process, but each teaching situation is unique! There is flexibility to put on a production that perfectly showcases your unique teaching style and your individual student groups.

If you have any questions about informances I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment below and I’ll look forward to reading it.

Happy teaching!

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

Psssst….. One the go? Listen to this post instead of reading!



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!