Closing Time: Virtual End of the Year Activities for the Music Room

This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Katherine Miller. 

Although the end of the school year is not what we might have anticipated, it is here nonetheless.  For 180+ days, you have worked hard to create a musical community within your classroom. You have built relationships with students to foster a safe environment where they could be their most musical selves. And this year, you have even done that from your own home!  

In their famous song “Closing Time”, the American alternative rock band Semisonic said that closing time is a “time for you to go back to the places you will be from.” As we navigate through the last few weeks of instruction, what does that even look like for closing up our classrooms this year since we have never really been here before? How can we create an appropriate end to the year for our students when teaching music virtually?

In a typical year, I usually spend the last few times I see students reflecting on all that we have accomplished together during the year. I also make sure to take time to celebrate those accomplishments. The good news is you can still do that in a virtual environment! In fact, it is probably more important that we take time to focus on the things that went well during the year since we know many students, and probably adults too, have experienced a lot of worries and concerns about the changes that have happened or what might happen in the fall. It has been a difficult year but this year has had great things about it too!  

Here are some ideas of how you can help students reflect and celebrate all of those great things that have happened using your virtual music classroom. 

End of the Year Activities for the Music Room

Celebrate the time you have left

I look forward to these occasions every year!  We count down to the ball falling every new year! We count how many rehearsals are left until our concerts! Sometimes, in my elementary school, we would have theme days counting down until the end of the year starting at the beginning of the alphabet and continuing until the last day when we could zip up our backpacks for summer. 

Counting down feels exciting and, maybe even, normal. In our virtual classrooms, we could use a little of this excitement (and a little normal too) in order to continue to keep students motivated until the very last day. 

A countdown to the end of the year in your virtual music classroom could include special events you hold online with students or special assignments they can complete. For example, Aimee Hyland, a music teacher at Waukesha STEM Academy: Randall Campus in Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA, used the website Wheel of Names to get students excited about composing.  Each section on the wheel  included one instrument you could use in GarageBand to compose your own piece. She made a video herself spinning the wheel and whichever instrument the wheel landed is what the students had to use for that week’s “creation”. 

 Wheel of Names can be customized anything you want!  You could use it to choose student names, different songs, instruments, prizes, or anything else you can think of to help students get excited and celebrate, musically!

Review what students have learned

By the end of the school year, students have learned so much! A great way to focus on the student learning that has happened over the course of the year  is to review the standards by making it into a  game.  There are tons of ways this can happen online! One of my new favorite tools is the website flippity.net. This website is a collection of activities you can create for your students from a simple Google Sheets template.

One example of this is an interactive scavenger hunt. In this template on the website, you create a series of clues, hints and answers that will appear to students as a series of locks that they need to open. A correct answer to the content question you put into the template will open the lock! Students could work in teams or on their own to try to get all the locks open. This can be a fun review activity alone or as part of a larger escape room you develop.

Flippity.net also has templates to create games that look like a quiz show, drag-and-drop manipulatives, and a randomizer which can all be used to focus on what students have learned this year.

Flippity Savenger Hunt

Explore student favorites again

Typically, I have students in my lower grades (K-2) think back to some of the games and songs that they would love to have another chance to play at the end of the year. I have students take turns to create a  list of all their ideas up at the front of the room, even thinking back to prior years. Once the list is complete, I have the class vote to order our list. The most popular ideas are how we spend our last couple of classes together. Even though this probably cannot happen how I have traditionally done it, students can still have a chance to explore their favorites and it can be very engaging even online. 

There are a few ways you can create an active music environment virtually. One option is to create your own online classroom in Google Slides. If you are active in any social media groups, I am sure you have seen this before! 

Virtual online classroom

Each object in the classroom you create on Google Slides can be linked to a song or activity that students love. If you would like to learn more about creating this online environment, you can find out more information by signing up for the free Google Slides for Music Teachers webinar.

Another way to create an interactive environment is by using the website Thinglink. This website allows you to make a picture interactive by adding links to different types of media. You could provide students with links to their favorites over any scene you would like. For instance, this example, created by Carrie Nicholas (from the duo behind Music Teacher Coffee Talk), is set up as a three-dimensional Campfire Songs circle.

Share student performances

At many schools, the end of the year performance traditions are centered around student choice too including talent shows, pop concerts, and even imitating popular television shows like The Masked Singer.  My favorite app to use for student performances (when we can’t all be together to celebrate) is Flipgrid. Flipgrid allows for students to create, and even edit their performances, to share in a closed group, or grid. Once performances are posted, audience members can “like” videos they enjoy and leave video feedback or a response to the performers. 

Since the end of the year is coming quickly, I also like that getting started with Flipgrid is easy if you look in their Discovery Library. This is a collection of previous grids that other educators have created. You could use these resources to either get your creative juices flowing or to find a topic you already have in mind. For instance, you could search “talent show”. 

Create end of year awards

Another tradition that is pretty popular at the end of the year is an awards night or ceremony to recognize students and celebrate their contributions to your classroom or ensemble. If this is a tradition you have (or would like to start), you do not need to start from scratch to make an online version. The website Slides Mania has a great template to get you started. 

Slides Mania End of the year award
Slides Mania End of the year award

The templates on this website are 100% editable. You can edit the graphics, WordArt, text and, even the colors of everything included on the slide to truly personalize them for your own situation. 

Design a video to celebrate student achievements

 Documenting all the great things that happened in your room can also be done through designing a video.  You could create a video that includes:

  1. A previously recorded audio performance
  2. A new audio track created from individual student recorded tracks
  3. A completely virtual ensemble made by editing audio and video components 

You can learn more about creating these three types of videos by visiting the Midnight Music Podcast found here.

Think ahead to next year

Although next year seems pretty uncertain at this point in time, we do know that music education is important! It has a place in our schools and, with our advocating, we will be able to go back to something that feels more “normal” at some point.  Using the experiences that students have gained from being in your classroom this year can be very powerful if they are used to help future students. For instance, the students who will be in your classroom or ensemble during the next school year. 

One of the end of the year activities I love to have students do is sharing their favorite parts of the music room by completing our own take on the book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”. Students can digitally, or in pencil, create a page to add to our version of this story by communicating what they like the most about being in the music room. Once students have completed their page,  I collect and assemble them into a book to share during the first days of music the next school year as a way to introduce the newest students to my classroom to what it is like to be in the music room and making music with me.  You could also organize students’ favorite things about the music room into a Top 10 List (think back to David Letterman’s famous skit) to make it more age-appropriate if you are working with older students.

Click on the link above to get a free copy of the book pages you can share with students to complete in Google Slides or as a PDF to print.

Don’t forget, Semisonic’s song also reminds us that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This too shall pass so let’s celebrate all that we have accomplished with students this year as we head into the summer. 

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About the writer

Katherine Miller

Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 15 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.

She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI, where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom. She was recognized in 2018 as a WPT Education Innovator by Wisconsin Public Television Education team.

Twitter: K8TMiller

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I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

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I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

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