Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Concerts...Good Pedagogy?


It's hard to determine the value of the annual Christmas Concert at elementary schools.  If you go by the stress level of the staff at this time of year, it certainly gives you reason for pause.  If you gauge their importance by the beaming smiles of the parents as their child graces the stage, it is easy to see why they continue to take place.

Given that there are no curriculum requirements around a concert and the fact that the preparation of such an undertaking actually takes a significant amount of class time and school organization, it is fair to pose the question:  Is this good pedagogy?

While it is not the only way to promote school community and school connectedness in general, events such as these do play a part in the sense of belonging a student and his/her parents have in their school.  Much of the research we have seen recently around the link between school connectedness and academic success certainly suggests that we must pay attention to this aspect of school life.  

Laura MacKay, from the nursing program at UBC, goes even further and establishes the link between school connectedness and student health.

It has also been noted that in the adolescent years, it becomes even more important for these opportunities to exist.  Unfortunately, this is often the stage in our school systems where they diminish.  In addition to school events and positive relationships between students and teachers, researchers have outlined other criteria that are critical to school connectedness.

Below is a summary of this research under the umbrella of the Wingspread Research Group:

Wingspread Declaration on School Connections

Students are more likely to succeed when they feel connected to school. School connection is the belief by students that adults in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. The critical requirements for feeling connected include students' experiencing
  • High academic expectations and rigor coupled with support for learning.
  • Positive adult/student relationships.
  • Physical and emotional safety.
Increasing the number of students connected to school is likely to influence critical accountability measures, such as
  • Academic performance.
  • Incidents of fighting, bullying, or vandalism.
  • Absenteeism.
  • School completion rates.
Strong scientific evidence demonstrates that increased student connection to school promotes
  • Motivation.
  • Classroom engagement.
  • Improved school attendance.
These three factors in turn increase academic achievement. These findings apply across racial, ethnic, and income groups.

One thing to remember is that the traditional Christmas Concert is not the only school community event that can take place at this time of year.  Many schools have opted for a concert every other year and a family dance/crafts night in-between.  This recognition of the balance between the school community and staff burnout is absolutely critical.

Thanks to all school personnel for their hard work at this time of year.



  1. I agree that student connectedness and positive home/school relationships are critical. Christmas concerts are certainly good for public relations.

    I'd add that you cannot underestimate the value of music and singing to those students for whom English is a second language. When they sing songs and see the relationship between songs and actions on stage, they pick up culture and vocabulary in a way that regular classroom learning does not allow.

    You can also use the concerts/programs to help students practice reading fluency skills, especially expression.

    Finally, you will see students shine in the fine arts that do not always shine in the traditional classroom environment. Perhaps students will discover personal strengths previously undiscovered.

    Janet | expateducator.com

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