by Geneal Chacon

This year, our annual talent show was one of the highlights for our school community. It was a fun, community building event for our students, families and staff, as well as a PTA fundraiser.

Since we rehearsed after school twice a week for approximately half of the school year, the talent show also served as an after-school program for the participating children.

We started planning early, meeting with the principal in September to lock down some possible dates for the show in May. I recruited 6 adult volunteers to help out with the program, including two staff members, the parent coordinator and pre-K social worker. In the beginning of January, we sent out permission slips, which included the date of the auditions, the rehearsal schedule (every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. until the date of the show), and a tear-off portion for parents to sign and return to the teachers (see below). In the beginning of February we held auditions for the students who had returned permission forms. All of the children who auditioned were invited to participate in the program and the show. We ended up with a group of 40+ performers, from pre-kindergarten through 5th grade, working with 11 adults.

Teamwork and respect for one other were themes we emphasized throughout the process.

Besides creating a fun activity for the kids, we wanted to ensure that they grew from the experience and felt a sense of success afterwards, so we were very structured in our approach. We started by laying out some rules, and had each child sign a Rules of Behavior contract. Teamwork and respect for one other were themes we emphasized throughout the process. The adults worked with the children to develop the singing and dancing acts, and most numbers were group performances, with children performing in multiple numbers. It was a true community effort.

In order to ensure the safety of our children, we put several measures in place. We required that each child be dropped off by their teacher with one of 3 adults (myself, the Parent Coordinator, or the pre-K Social Worker). Before beginning to rehearse, we conducted an oral roll-call and recorded attendance. We also coordinated with the children’s other after-school providers, and for those children who attended off-site after-school programs, we arranged to walk them to their other programs after rehearsal. (This was a lot of work, and a bit bumpy in the beginning, but luckily, we had enough parent volunteers to make it happen.)

Over the months, the adult volunteers and kids worked together to plan and choreograph 17 numbers for the show. We had a variety of singing, and singing plus dancing acts (most of which were group acts) including, a Monster High song and dance, an acapella number, an all-girls song and dance, step dancing, an act that included a teacher and our principal, and a group tribute song to the parents. We also included a fashion show with kids dressed up in outfits representing countries all over the world.

The show itself was a great success. The kids had a blast and were extremely proud of themselves and what they had accomplished together. The standing-room-only audience loved it. And the crowd went wild when the principal came onstage, hat on, and joined in the Cowboy Dance!

As a result of their hard work, the kids were asked to perform again at the 5th grade graduation and the District 7 Literary Fair. And our music teacher was so impressed that she incorporated some of our numbers into her spring concert.

We also raised over $200 that we contributed to the 5th grade end of year fund. Although we chose to make admission free, we set up tables and sold water, granola bars, popcorn, balloons, glow sticks, P.S. 277 patches, and the same masks that the step dancers wore during their act. As a service to the parents, we also had a table where they could obtain their children’s ARIS numbers from another staff volunteer.

Below are tips based on what worked well this year and what I plan to improve upon next year:

  • Involve your principal from the beginning of the planning process. (For example, plan possible dates with the principal early — the school calendar can already have many dates booked dates by the start of the year in September.)
  • Involve administration and teachers in the show as much as possible (in rehearsals, the performance, etc.)
  • Increase staff attendance at the show by promoting the show to them and setting aside a reserved section of seats.
  • Fill the potentially awkward pauses between acts with relevant announcements. (For example, promote anything you are selling or information available — we had the ARIS numbers to share.)
  • Incorporate items for sale into the show. (The step dancers wore masks during their act and we offered these same masks for sale in the back of the auditorium. As soon as the kids in the audience saw the masks on the step dancers, they wanted them too.)
  • Solicit donations of items to sell. (We purchased most of the items we sold at the show and hope to increase the amount of money we can raise by obtaining donations in the future.)