making it work

Making It Work: Surviving the Last Two Weeks

Lesson Ideas to Survive (and Thrive!) Until Summer

I have been watching Facebook posts and it seems that some fortunate souls are already on summer break. If you are one of them – lucky you! Some of us have a few weeks left, and others have a bit longer until we can put our feet up for a few days and relax before beginning to plan for next year!  I fall into the “few weeks left” category.  If your school is anything like mine, the last two weeks are full of field days, field trips, awards assemblies, talent shows and last minute schedule changes to accommodate end of year activities. Due to the uncertainty of the schedule, I already have my grades wrapped up as I may see my kids only two or three more times in the next two and a half weeks. Add squirrelly kids and too hot classrooms, and planning effective and engaging lessons can be challenging. Here are a few “end of the year” lesson ideas that work for me.

I purchased twenty-five folders with the three prongs in them and added song sheets of all of my students’ favorite songs. I made a playlist on my computer so if I am pulled for an awards assembly or meeting and need a last minute sub plan they can sing.  This is a big hit.  I made two versions, one for the younger grades, and one for my intermediate grades.

I like to explore new material that I want to use for the coming year. You know that piece from the volumes that you have always wanted to try with your students but you were not quite sure how to process it out or if they would be able to play it? The last few class periods is the perfect time to play around with something new.  We never finish the whole piece, the kids have fun playing, and I learn how to teach the music effectively for next year.

Folk Dance review is another favorite for me. I make a playlist of all of the Folk Dances they learned this year and some from the past and we dance until they can dance no more.  Now is also a good time to work out a new folk dance you have wanted to try. You may not finish the whole dance, but that’s OK. Pick up where you left off next year.

Name That Tune is a popular game for the last class of the year.  I make a list of all of the songs we sang or played and with two teams engaged in fierce competition we play just like the game show.  After we guess the song we sing it together.

Lastly, a review of singing games is always a fun way to end the year.

What are your “go to” lessons and ideas for the ever-crazy last two weeks of school? Your idea may be just what someone else needs to make the last few music classes enjoyable for everyone.  Post your ideas in the comments below so everyone may share in your amazing ideas and “Make it Work.”

LeslieAnne Bird

LeslieAnne Bird is a music and movement educator at University Schools in Shaker, Ohio. She teaches general music and choir to fifth through seventh grade young men and is an adjunct Professor at the University of Akron. She has previously taught in North Olmsted & Cleveland Ohio as well as in Prince George’s County, Maryland. LeslieAnne is a national presenter. She has served as vice president and membership chair for the Greater Cleveland Orff Chapter and is currently serving as the content curator for the Teaching With Orff community. In addition, she is the owner and CEO of Three Little Birds Music Education Services LLC where she offers teacher training, coaching and musical experiences for children and adults. She earned Orff Certification from Baldwin Wallace University in 2014, and has completed Music Learning Theory General Music Level One, Level One World Music Drumming training, Level One Google Certification and has earned the Ohio Master Teacher designation.

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  1. Lorraine Jones on May 25, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    My last couple of band rehearsals we pull out all of our Christmas music. Sounds crazy in June but the kids really like it!

  2. Sarah Goslin on May 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I bring in my Karaoke machine and we do our own version of American Idol. We also dance along to Just Dance videos. The students love that they get to sing and move to ‘popular’ music. Of course, all the songs I use are school appropriate.

  3. Carol Koksal on May 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I have a Pinterest Board with a Primary Video section. When I need a quick break, I use an age appropriate video. It saves my voice.

  4. Diane Gladstone on May 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I save a lummi sticks lesson for the last couple of weeks with my intermediate students. It is challenging yet fun for them. Once they have learned the patterns and songs, the class can perform it outside, if the weather is nice.

  5. Eileen on May 25, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I also did dances and singing games for the last two weeks. My students loved it and they were totally engaged. For the older ones, I set up 6 stations of games that was review of the treble clef, instruments of the orchestra, music symbols and so on.

  6. Lisa Heinrich on May 25, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    I love these ideas! I save the activities that in previous years students ask for over and over again for the end of the year. I also let students choose their favorite activities for the last music class of the year. We make a list on the whiteboard, students vote for their top 2, and then they play/sing/dance the 3-4 activities with the highest numbers of votes. Sometimes my 5th graders even pick things from 1st or 2nd grade!

  7. Martha on May 25, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I save certain things for the end. Beatboxing and the star spangled banner/patriotic music usually. And of course we go back to many of our favorite singing games from throughout the year.

  8. Dana on May 25, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I do a “talent show” where kids can perform in front of the class. I am pretty loose on the definition. I have had kids bring in artwork, fold a paper cup, and walk on their hands, as well as the usual singing, dancing, etc. I make them sign up in advance so I can preview songs, get YouTube links of recordings, etc. It is a great way to let them share, and also to cover preparation, teamwork (for group acts) and AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE!

    • Christie on May 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      I do a “talent show” as well. We talk (and display) audience etiquette as well as performer etiquette. The performers must bow to acknowledge the applause! (Hands by side and 3 second hold.) Aren’t I a stickler?

    • Claudia on January 8, 2024 at 10:32 am

      How many classes/weeks in advance do you give them to prepare for talent show?

  9. Maria Pflegl on May 26, 2016 at 7:23 am

    I do stations with each instrument/game I used through the year. For example, a bells station, a recorder station, glockenspiels, percussion, instrument matching etc. Each station has a stand alone activity. All the instrument stations have at least one piece/part that is to be played together. The students enjoy playing these, and last minute make up assessments for students who missed them are no problem because all the students are engaged. At the end of class we all do something together.

  10. Lynn Osborne on May 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Your ideas in the article are spot on! With 3rd and.4th I like to have drum circles which keep them focused on each other and not me; Review favorite songs with all of the kids: play new and challenging recorder piece to preface the lessons in fall semester; likewise choose a new and challenging xylophone orchestration we can return to in the fall; and lots of dancing to eat up that Springtime energy!

  11. Karen Schacht on May 30, 2016 at 8:55 am

    This is the time of year that students try new instruments in my middle school band. Also, I happen to have one more articulation field trip at the elementary school for my chorus and the chorus concert that normally is finished in May. (Testing) Speaking of testing, this is also the time I give my final exam and compare the results to the same test in the beginning of the year. Grades are not in yet. Also, I have the band and choir classes make their own variations on simple melodies. This year is Ode to Joy or Twinkle Twinkle. They create the parts and the conductor score.

  12. Shaun Kelly on May 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Close to the end of the year (sometimes a lot earlier) I visit used record stores and coin shops. I pick up several old 45s and cassette tapes, sometimes 8-tracks. Then from the coin shops I buy a ton of coins from foreign countries and even some really old U.S. coins, if they aren’t too costly. The 3rd-5th grade music students love winning these unique prizes for accomplishing various feats. Our favorite game is “Name That Decade” where I will write a ten/fifteen item list of certain historical decades on the board, then play a piece of music from one of those periods. The kids listen and are called upon to answer which is correct. Whomever is closest to that decade wins a 45, a tape, 8-track, or coin. Then we look up that decade and list the music’s region, any significant events and historical figures from those years. We keep going as long as time allows. This exciting activity keeps the kids thoroughly engaged while learning to appreciate music of different periods and cultures AND the chance to gain a piece of recorded history and an object from another part of the world. (A variation on the game, especially when introducing music from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, or Early Renaissance is called “Name That Century.” Teacher lists the century year, example 1900-1999.

  13. Anne Linton on May 31, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I am able to take the students outside my classroom onto a sidewalk (on nice days, of course) where I draw a music staff with sidewalk chalk. There are many different kinds of games to play to review lines/spaces, note names, etc. and the kids love to walk and/or hop on the staff!

  14. Donna Buchanan on June 2, 2016 at 8:22 am

    I love to have the students learn hand clapping games like concentration or double double this this. I also work on camp songs like Herman the Worm, Bear Hunt, and boom, chick a boom. Lastly, we dance to you tube videos like just dance or whip nae nae. Enjoy your summer!

  15. Elaine Ashley on June 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Sometimes we brainstorm the activities of the year and then take turns creating and chanting a sentence while playing the rhythm on an orff instrument. Ex: “My favorite thing was playing the recorder.” “I loved playing Name That Christmas Carol” “Playing music games on the smart board was the best!”

  16. William Weaver on May 30, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I save centers for the last of the year. I plan many stations that review the concepts, and bring out games, set up keyboards, bring out scarves, etc. I give each station 15 minutes and this usually lasts for 2-3 class periods. Students are (usually) focused on the station, and behaviors are minimal.

  17. Mary Jane Jones on May 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    I teach at a kindergarten/pre-kindergarten building in the afternoon, and there are so many special activities happening there during the last weeks of school that the kids can get really noisy and unfocused. I have found that I can turn that around by doing lessons based on storytelling. I typically make up my own stories and have the kids sing short little tunes that repeat throughout. Sometimes they also have to do sound effects like squeaky doors or animal sounds (good practice for high vs. low and using head voice). Sometimes I incorporate puppets in the stories as well. Usually you can hear a pin drop during these activities. Another big hit is my stretchy band. Every child’s hands are busy and their voices are singing, so they have to stay focused and keep out of trouble!

  18. Jennifer Wilson on May 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I love to use stories and books with instrumental sound effects, boomwhackers with easy youtube arrangements, puili routines and anything that keeps them involved and occupied and still learning.

  19. Cindy Deliman on May 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    One of the things I do at the end of the year with the younger grades (1st and 2nd) is to pull out the music text books that we generally rarely use. For 1st grade, I give them a “sneak peak” at the 2nd grade book, and the 2nd graders get a “sneak peak” at the 3rd grade book. I allow them a few minutes to look thru the books, pick some songs, then I play “D.J.” and we sing through the list. Since we rarely use the books, they think this is a treat and it will keep them occupied for an entire class period.

  20. Isabel on May 30, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    I have taught songs from a specific musical theatre show. Then we watch the movie of the show with sub titles and sing along.

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