A few years ago I had the chance to work with a really great teaching artist by the name of Becky Valls. You can find out more about how amazing she is at Becky Valls For pictures of some of her work with and for students, go to teaching. I met her through our campus fine arts integration grant. We actually had the funds to provide “artists in residence” from Young Audiences of Houston for each grade level teacher to work with. Becky is one of the best teaching artists I’ve ever known so we kept her quite busy.
One of her favorite ways to demonstrate what the children were learning through dance and movement was to invite students and parents to attend an “informance”. I believe that this term is original with her and I have loved the idea ever since.
After seeing such beautiful informances created and directed by Becky Valls, the word “informance” quite naturally became part of my vocabulary. Here are a few ideas about “informances” that I think about when planning one.
1. An “informance” is slightly less formal than a performance and intended to “inform” the audience about what learning is taking place.
2. An “informance” is process based rather than product based, so rather than rehearse to the point of total student independence, you will see a little more obvious teacher facilitation through narration or through overt stage direction. Remember – process, not a final product!
3. An “informance” is almost like a snapshot of something cool you are doing in your classroom that might otherwise stay locked within the walls of your classroom.
4. An “informance” is a great place to experiment and try new things that you might like to include in future formal performances.
5. An “informance” is a time where entertainment takes a back seat to content. Everyone enjoys a truly entertaining and delightful performance and kids learn LOADS from those polished experiences, but they learn just as much from simple accountability of presenting their process.
6. If a major formal production is a final exam, then an “informance” is a quiz with an audience.
7. An “informance” should teach the audience something they might not know.
A couple of months ago, my 2nd grade students did an “informance” for their parents as an introduction to choral singing, riser etiquette and audience etiquette. I use this first 2nd grade “informance” to teach students and parents alike about musical performances. As a result, we are working on standing tall and not talking on top of the music and being still and safe on the risers. We set up risers in the library and then moved the library tables out of the way. The entire 2nd grade learned their music, and choreography and had the chance to “inform” their parents about good singing and performance habits. All of the songs were about the love of music and singing. The “informance” was on a random Monday afternoon and because of the pure joy that 2nd grade brings to singing and because of the intimate setting in the library it was probably my favorite musical event of the year. We had a great turn out and the entire thing was over in about 25 minutes.
Today, my 4th graders presented an “informance” for their parents. I wanted to share with them what 4th grade had been working on for the spring semester that was unique to 4th grade. This year, my old standbys were to sing a song and to play recorder. We experimented by using using boomwhackers in public. Based on today’s “informance” I can get an idea of what it might be like to have something more formal, integrated and polished using boomwhackers.
All of the recorder and boomwhacker songs that we used came from either Music Express Magazine or Music K-8 Magazine. Our partner song came from Spotlight on Music 4th grade…
What made it really nice was that because 4th grade falls during the part of the day when my co-teacher Ella Scozzafava is on campus, we were able to divide and conquer. She taught all of the boomwhacker songs and I taught recorder The format of the concert was my idea, but she really did the lion’s share of the prep work by creating the flyers that went home and the program. We worked together on choosing the music and creating rehearsal CDs.
We all played 1 song on recorder. “Recorders Rock” from Music Express Magazine
Each class played one song on boomwhackers “lots of boomwhacker songs from Music Express Magazine and Music K-8 Magazine respectively
We sang Don’t Let the Music Stop from Spotlight on Music.
No props, no backdrop, no decorations, no costumes, fewer rehearsals, day time performances only.
Things I liked about the “informance” today:
1. There was MUCH less stress than a formal performance.
2. I liked the accountability and ownership each class had on their one “special” song.
3. I liked the way that the boomwhackers provided another avenue for ensemble.
3. My students felt successful and were proud of their progress….. throughout the day, 4th graders made a point to come and tell me how well they thought they played and sang.
4. I had great support from other teachers.
Things to consider for next time:
1. I’ve got to figure out how to stabilize their singing when they play boomwhackers. I have great singers in 4th grade, and each class knew their song, but their singing didn’t show up until we were singing their partner song. Playing and singing is always harder than just doing one or the other….. we must work on doing both!
2. I am not currently happy with my approach to teaching recorder and consider myself in transition. I think I can do better. I’ll probably blog more about my plans for next years recorder instruction over the summer, but I’m hoping that if I tweak a couple of things, I may be able to help my students advance more quickly. I had some students who never missed a note and who could read their music like a pro. I had some who can either play the recorder or read the notes, but synthesizing the two skills was a REAL challenge, so they usually give up on one or the other, AND I had some who were lost with a capitol Q! I’ve got to fix recorders, I’ve got to fix recorders! I’ve got to fix recorders!
3. We had an audience, but it was VERY small considering the number of students involved. I think perhaps the afternoon is a better than in the morning. I also like the library better than the cafeteria for this type of event.
4. I would like the students to be “teachers” and to inform the parents and other students of what they are doing. When that happens, THEN, we’ll have a real “informance”.
5. I would like my 4th graders especially to have a look at some ETM songs as part of how we show parents what we are doing. Our song experience games are a large part of what we do, but I haven’t yet found the “just right” way to share those experiences with our families.
One of my favorite parts about teaching is NEXT YEAR! I love that each year as I’m wrapping up the end of the year, my brain is busy busy busy with plans and projects. Sometimes I think that for me, summer is just a chance for me to create more work for myself in the fall!