Silver Bells

“Ring-a-ling… Hear them ring… Soon it will be (Winter Break).” – Silver Bells

It is the last week before our Winter Break, and I am proudly continuing a Woodlake Elementary School tradition of “Bell Caroling”. This time honored tradition began many years before I arrived at Woodlake. During each music class, I take my students to perform with the handbells for another class. Last week, I had placed a sign-up sheet in the office for teachers to select the best time for a class to perform. It’s amazing how quickly the spots were filled.

When each class arrives to music, we review the procedures for playing the bells. As I inform the students the name of the class for which they will be performing, the kids get really excited. The older kids especially love it when they get to perform for a previous teacher. I also let the students vote on the two songs they would like to perform. The selections include a variety of tunes from Christmas carols to songs from musicals like The Sound of Music.

There are many reasons why I have continued this great tradition. The first is that performing makes the lesson more meaningful for the students. They pay particular attention to the techniques for playing the handbells because they know they will have an audience watching. It also gives the students an opportunity to perform in a safe environment. This leads to more confidence for future performances. Before each performance, we review etiquette for performing like posture and bowing. The more practice the students get at performing the more the performance etiquette will become a habit.

The second reason this tradition endures is that it allows each class the opportunity to be in the “audience”. Before our bell caroling week, we review proper audience behaviors like “eyes on the musicians” and “clapping after each song”. These are skills that can be transferred to any musical performance.

Lastly, the students and teachers love it! From the songs to seeing friends perform, the kids have many reasons for eagerly looking forward to this week. Although each performance is meaningful, I have to admit that the performance of Ms. Beckham’s kindergarten class has been my favorite so far this year. I took her class to play in the cafeteria during the third grade lunch. At first the kindergarteners were a little shy, but the third graders were so supportive and encouraging. As the third graders loudly sang along to “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”, I could see the kindergartners’ confidence grow. They were beaming as we left to a chorus of “Great jobs!”

Although the idea of bell caroling is very simple, the lessons the students are learning this week will last a lifetime.