Successful Band Pass-Offs

If you are about to start band pass-offs, here are some ideas to help it be a huge success! Keep in mind – the goal is to help the kids become better players. There are many ways to go about doing that. If you choose not to use extrinsic motivation, that’s totally fine – this post might have some good ideas you can use in another way.

Make it a game
There are all kinds of ideas out there – scale karate, sticker charts, certificates, points games etc.  But whatever you choose make sure it feels like an “honor’ to get everything passed off and not a burden.

If you have been doing one type of pass-off (sticker charts) for years and are in need of a change or if it’s not working great and the KIDS are in need of a change, consider trying something different. 

You start the momentum!
Starting strong is critical to a successful pass-off. YOU have to create the momentum the first week, especially if these are beginners that have never done pass-off before. They won’t get it if you don’t help them. Be excited. Sell it to them.

Beginner Band Pass-Offs

The Leaders in your program continue the momentum!
Types of things to include in your plan to create momentum-

  • Top 10 (or Top 20) award or recognition
  • First person finished on each instrument award
  • Award for first full section finished (all trumpets finish)
  • Bonus points in the gradebook

Ideas for ways to recognize students:

  • Certificates (awarded in front of class or at spring concert)
  • Names listed on spring concert program or shown on overhead screen at concert
  • Picture of students who finish hung in band hall for remainder of year or indefinitely
  • Grades

Things to decide with staff before launch

  • What is the deadline? Be sure you have enough time to hear them play everything you are asking them to play!
  • Will you do live play-offs or have them submit through text, email, google classroom, smart music etc
  • If you use recordings, how can you be sure they are the one playing? (video?)
  • If you are using recordings, how will you stay up with them to see who finishes first?
  • How many tries do they get in one sitting to play it (live)?
  • Can they come before/after school? What days/times?
  • Can they try the same thing more than once in a day (live)?
  • If they need help but aren’t ready to play off, how do they get help if you’re listening to pass-offs? (possibly kids that have finished can help them.)
  • Do they get time in band to play-off?  How much?
  • Can one director listen to play-offs once a week while the other director combines? (Jeopardy is perfect for combined classes-click here)

A few days before launch
— Decorate the band hall with signs like “The game is coming.” or Starting on April 3rd…” to drum up excitement.
— Start talking to the kids about how you are going to be starting a game/contest whatever words you want to use and they will want to be practicing scales, book, etc. Don’t give them any details.
Put up the posters the night before so when the kids walk through the band hall to put up instruments the next day they will see it and get pumped.

The day of the launch
Students will come through in the morning. Don’t answer any questions – tell them you’ll explain in band. In band make it a very fun day and lots of excitement!

Explain all the of the directions

  • what to pass off
  • how to do it
  • deadlines
  • rewards
  • leader rewards (Top 10/20)

The number one thing is that this makes them a better player!!!
The other big thing is that this prepares them for next year!

The first week of beginner band pass-offs
You or someone on staff needs to be the champion of the pass-offs during this time.  They need to update charts, post names as people start passing off, talk to classes about who has passed off things, remind them of the times they can play after school. 

I like to keep posters all around the band hall and update them every day the first week.  They list the first student to pass off a scale, then the first 5, then the first 10 as the week goes on.  Then I replace them with the first person to finish.  And when a section is getting close to finishing you can post that.  Just daily things to keep them motivated and recognize the leaders. When they come by before or after school and see more and more names (especially their own name) they get exited to keep working.

After the first week
Try to update every couple days and keep the momentum going some.  However, at some point, the kids need to take ownership.  Decide early how you’re going to deal with students that don’t do play-off as they should, but try not to let it put a negative spin on the fun of ‘game.’

Throughout beginner band pass-offs:
Focus on the positive.
Focus on the leaders.
Focus on the improvement.
Focus on the ones that want it.
Focus on the ones that are working.
Focus on keeping it fun!
Focus on the real goal – making better players.

(Photo credit to Annette Mitchell – band director in Sherman, TX. She is trying a new system this year of putting kids’ names on clothespins and moving them to a new place as they pass off items.)

Related Reading:
Beginning Band Jeopardy
A Time and Place for Every Fingering (Saxophone)
What is Google Classroom?

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