Friday, June 8, 2012

Musicals Madness

One of my favorite units to do for general music classes to finish out the school year is Musicals. I have completed this activity for groups of students from 6th grade through 12th grade. Depending on the resources I have available and the amount of classes remaining until the end of the school year, I pick and choose from these activities. Each activity can be adjusted based on the age and abilities of the class.
  • Introduction: What do you know about musicals?
  • Background: What is a musical? Where did the tradition begin?
  • Current Trends: What are current musicals? Which musicals are personally appealing to you?
  • Example: View and discuss a musical
  • Project: If you could create a musical, what would it be?
The Introduction is pretty self-explanatory. It is a class discussion where I pick the students' brains to find out what they already know. For many of them, their only experience with musicals is "High School Musical" or "Mary Poppins." Sometimes they relate Disney movies with musicals and believe musicals are "for little kids." It is a lot of fun to complete this unit and change their impression of musicals!

The Background is tweaked depending on resources and time. With access to computers, I have done a WebQuest (combined with the Current Trends portion) where the students discover the information by visiting designated websites and answering specific questions or completing specific tasks. My favorite websites to use are Musicals101, Broadway, and StageAgent. If I am short on time or resources, I may simply display the "What is a Musical?" info from the first website on the large screen and gather some basic info as a whole group activity. I may also shorten the Current Trends activity by discussing and displaying shows that are very "far" from HSM and Mary Poppins, such as Sweeney Todd (some have seen this one, but do not categorize it as a Musical), Avenue Q, and Spider-Man.

The Examples I use for class are "Newsies" for 6th-8th grades and "The Phantom of the Opera" for 8th-12th grades (the 8th grade selection depends on the maturity level of the students in my class). I do not have them complete a worksheet while watching the movie; I would much rather have them be fully engrossed in the music and the story. I do pause the movie at specific places to discuss the use of music, review key plot moments, answer their questions, or have them make predictions.

The Project is a blast to complete, for me and for the students. I tell them that I am a famous Broadway producer and that they have an idea for a musical that they must pitch to me to earn funding. They can work alone or in groups. They have to create the title, character list (including descriptions), synopsis, and song list (3-5 examples, they may use music they are familiar with or invent titles that go with the synopsis). They present this information to the class, including a publicity poster. Before they start the project, we complete the requirements using the musical we just viewed (Newsies or Phantom) so they have a better sense of what to do. I also show them examples of publicity posters from the Broadway website. Over the years I have gotten some awesome and some strange ideas, including Batman, Dogs vs. Cats, Robot & Zombie Invasions, as well as realistic ideas based on their lives.

If you would like more information on this unit, please leave a comment and include your email. This unit keeps them focused, entertained, and learning as the school year winds down.


  1. This is a great unit idea, I definitely want to do this with 6th grade next year! Thanks! Oh, here is my email:

  2. I like your project idea! I do a musical with each grade, but have never had them do the "pitch" part! Super!!!! Please send to Thanks for sharing this!!!!