“Getting to Know You”
Whether you are starting at a new school this year or returning to familiar ground, the first few days of term 1 are always filled with a kind of nervous excitement - for both students and staff!
My first lesson of the year with each grade is one of my favourites and is also an important one to get right as it sets the tone for the rest of the year. So how do you plan the first lesson of a school year? What should you include?
If you are new to a school, of course there will need to be introductions and some name games/getting to know you activities. You will need to spend some time discussing rules, procedures and expectations for the music room (even if you've been at your school for decades, it's worth reminding the students how we do things in your classroom, as they've had a month or two off in Bali or wherever to forget!)
If you're established at your school you may want to spend some time reviewing the latest concepts your class learned. But most importantly, make music together!
Some of my favourite ways to do that are with Name Games (especially important if you are new to the school that year). I particularly like Ricketty, Racketty as it allows for some creative improvisation with actions - students take it in turns to say their name and perform an action, which the class then repeats back to them.
Plus, the fact that it is a rhythmic chant makes it a bit less threatening for new classes who might not have done much singing in the past!
I also like "Hello, Everyone" if you're looking for a more melodic greeting (or you can check out some more great Welcome Songs here)
Once the ice is broken, it is important to set up and discuss your expectations for the year. Consider any essential rules and safety concerns, but also give thought to the kinds of routines that are likely to happen in your room. How do students get out and handle instruments? How do they pack them up? What is your system for handing out worksheets and pencils?
It is worth walking through any routines you may wish to establish on day one.
Having worked in a number of IB schools, I also like the idea of creating a list of class expectations/rules WITH the students, rather than handing down an edict stating "this is how you will behave in class". Most of the time, the students know the expected rules anyway and this way you are creating an agreement together, which you can refer back to whenever unwanted behaviours crop up. This student-driven class agreement means they are more likely to try and honour that behavioural code.
Another way of further embedding this agreement is with this fantastic poster idea! The students dip their finger in a variety of paint colours and use their fingerprint as a "signature" of sorts. By the end of your first week, you'll have a rainbow stave covered in fingerprints!
If you like, you can also try to turn it into a piece of music a la "Birds on a Wire" (see video below) and perform it for your school!
If you are returning to your current school, it's worth reviewing their most recent concepts with some practice activities and maybe play a favourite chase game to wrap up,
If you're new to a school, then you need to establish what they already know. Unless you are entering a brand new school, one that has had no music teacher prior to yourself, or it is a prep class, then you can assume they have some level of knowledge and experience of music. You simply need to establish what it is.
I like to pick a simple concept such as dynamics to thematically link my lesson together and explore whether the students can sing in tune, have experienced making music together and what their rhythmic knowledge might be.
I also love this lesson because it brings out two of my favourite puppets right away! You can read more about Forte and Piano and what activities I do with them here.
What other activities do you like to do on the first day? Comment below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
All the best for the new school year!