I am blessed to present two musicals a year at my school. The parents and administration are very supportive of a musical that involve all students from one grade level, lasting 20 – 30 minutes long. These are some of the musicals I have presented in the last 10 years.
Winter/Christmas: These are usually done the second week of December, by third grade, fourth grade or fifth grade.
Spring musicals: These are usually done the last few weeks of April or first week of May by kindergarten, first or second grades.
Students who attend the school all six years from kindergarten through fifth grade will perform on stage twice in those six years. They will perform once in the lower years (kindergarten, first or second grade) and once in the upper years (third, fourth or fifth grade).
I see my students once a week for 40 minutes. Here is my schedule for organizing musicals.
1. Begin teaching songs (13 weeks before performance date)
I usually begin teaching one song each week beginning 13 weeks before the performance date. The students view the words on a slideshow on the whiteboard (LCD projector) and listen to the CD. Each week they learn a new song and review the songs learned in previous weeks.
2. Begin auditions for speaking parts during class (9 weeks before performance date)
After discussing the expectations for students with speaking parts, students get an opportunity to sign up to audition. The following week, I pass out a script and have groups of 3 – 4 students read the scripts in front of the class. I usually pick a scene from the musical that will allow the student to have several lines during the audition. I highlight the lines the student will read. I use the following rubric:
During this week, I have divided up the scenes by class:
- Mrs. Smith’s class will have speaking parts Scene 1
- Mrs. Johnson’s class will have parts from Scene 2
- Mrs. Adam’s class will take Scene 3
- Mr. Alexander’s class will be Scene 4
If there are a few parts that reappear in several scenes, I will choose the highest scored students when doing musicals from the upper grades. From the lower grades, I will sometimes divide that part between 2 or even 3 students.
I spend this week preparing all the scripts to go home. Each script has the students’ name, character name, and the lines are highlighted. I attach the script to a student permission sheet that has to be returned to me. I make sure to fill in all the information on the form except the parent’s signature and “yes/no”. That way, when the letter comes back to me, it makes it easier to keep track of who has made the commitment. This letter has pretty much guaranteed that my speaking part students will show up for the performance. I’ve had letters come back saying no, which allows me to choose another student.
3. Send home letter to parents (8 weeks before performance date)
I send home a letter and also digitally send the letter (through Class Dojo app my entire school uses) so the parents shouldn’t be able to say they didn’t get it. The students are shown the website that they can use to practice at home. I have anywhere from 35 – 65% of the students in each class who practices the music at home – it really makes a big difference in the quality of the performance.
Because of double communication (paper and digital), my student attendance at performances has gone from 80% to 95%.
4. Send home costume letter to parents (6 weeks before performance date)
At this point, I’ve already begun talking to the students about what they will wear. The students must provide their own costume. Usually the costume consists a certain color shirt/pants and some kind of head wear (headband or hat). I tell the students that they should try to find something in their closet or try Goodwill or Salvation Army. I always have several ideas for something that can be whipped up in the classroom quickly for the student who shows up with no costume at all. The classroom teachers are usually very proactive and alert to who those students might be. The main thing I tell my students is that ‘it is very important that you come to the performance, even if you don’t have a costume.’
I try to keep categories of costumes so that an entire class (or 2 or 3) all wear the same costume except for students with speaking parts. That makes it easier to remember what costume they need and the visual on the stage is pretty cool.
I send home this letter and also digitally send the letter (through Class Dojo app my entire school uses) so the parents shouldn’t be able to say they didn’t get it.
4. Begin speaking part rehearsals during class (4 weeks before performance date)
By this time, the students should begin working on memory of the songs, and students with speaking parts should have their lines memorized. I have them practice their lines during their class time.
5. Make arrangements for stage decor and props (3 weeks before performance date)
I have been blessed with a very creative and willing PTA that takes care of my stage decor and props. I usually send them an email 3 weeks before the performance and they not only make everything, but they put it all on the stage for me. I love my parents at my school!!
6. Conduct stage rehearsals (week of performance)
Now, if I am dealing with kindergarten, I begin having stage rehearsals of 2 classes at a time the week before the performance. This is to acclimate them to the risers and being on stage. All of the classes in each grade level have specials at the same time, so the rehearsals are during their specials that week.
The first time I have all the classes together for the first stage rehearsal, I sit them on the floor of the gym and discuss safety and behavioral expectations. The other special area teachers are assisting in the gym and they are wonderful about warning students or pulling them off the stage. Once a student is pulled off the stage due to behavior, they sit on the gym floor for the remainder of the rehearsal. My policy is: if a student is removed from the stage three times during stage rehearsal week, their parents will be called and the student will not be allowed to participate in the performance. This hasn’t happened in many years, mostly because they know I have done it in the past.
Stage rehearsals are also the time the students (and the teacher!!!) get to experience the sound system and work out any of the kinks. Students who are using microphones get to practice how to adjust the microphone to their height.
7. Conduct dress rehearsal (day before performance)
Students bring (or wear) their costume to school the day before the performance and wears it for that rehearsal. This allows me to see if their are any problems (costume blocks vision of others, costume isn’t appropriate, etc) and it allows other students to be inspired and motivated to get their costume. Students who don’t come with a costume are encouraged to get it for the next night. I am blessed to have parents who call, email, and message me to tell me they’re still working on the costume but will have it for the night of the performance.
I tell my students they need to be at the school 30 minutes before the performance begins. The performances at my school start at 6:30 so the students should be there by 6:00 pm. In my community, I will have students show up as early as one hour before the performance, but I tell them they need to stay with their parents until 6:00. We place students with their teacher in classrooms that are closest to the gym. I usually check in with each teacher to see who hasn’t shown up, and mentally prepare myself for any speaking part students who haven’t come. Since I do the permission slip and Class Dojo communication, I haven’t had any speaking part students not show up. I have a team member line up all the classes in order and bring them down when it is time for the performance. As they enter the stage, I put each class on the risers so no one is too crowded. Lights up, music on, microphones tested, curtains up!!