If you read this blog or my twitter very often, then you know that I have been recently stuggling with my elementary numbers. If not, you can read about it here. Anyway, to make a long story short, my elementary numbers have been declining since hitting a high point of 137 students in 2006-2007. After looking at the list of those students from 06-07, I realized that only 10% of those 137 are still playing. So, for about 2 weeks, I have been searching for an answer to this predicament.
Last week, I had an epiphany. You know those moments when the clouds part, and the sun breaks through, and you hear Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? This was one of those moments. During a break in my classes, I thought I would stop by and observe a little of our new choir director’s 8th grade rehearsal. I made my way to the back of the class and had a seat. At the time, the students were singing some silly nursery-rhyme-type song. When they knew the words, the director taught the students another verse with different lyrics and a different melody line. Then, they sang that a few times until they knew it. Finally, the director split the group into two, and they sang the two different parts together.
As I was looking at the students throughout the room, I had two startling revelations: 1. The students were smiling and laughing, and having fun. 2. They were learning an introductory lesson about harmony. They were learning important concepts, and they didn’t even know it!! Then and there, I knew that this was the solution to my elementary woes!
I have never considered myself to have the right personality for elementary students. Don’t get me wrong, I like those students a whole lot, and I really enjoy working with them. But, I just don’t have the energetic-type personality that works best with this age group. So, I realized that the reason that students were not staying in the program was that band was not FUN! Students (especially at the elementary level) need to enjoy being in band. Unlike older students, they do not yet play in band simply for the aesthetic experience of playing music. They want to play because their friends are there, and they get out of class, etc. So, I realized that I needed to make band an activity that they really wanted to participate in.
So, my new mantra is “What will keep the kids coming back?” My elementary band students should be looking forward to their band time each week. I want them to not be able to wait until that time. It should be better than recess for them. They should want to be there as much as possible. I think if I approach elementary band this way, it will keep them coming back. Then, the students will “talk it up.” I can hear it now – “Oh man, we had so much fun in band today.”, etc. That’s what will build the program. I also think I need to promote things like our band trips in high school and how much fun the students have at the football games. This gets the elementary students thinking long-term.
So, veteran elementary teachers, I am looking for input. I need ideas. What fun things do you do in your classes that gets them coming back for more? For those of you that remember Short Circuit, in the words of Number 5, “Input, more input!”