read below how to incorporate musical hopes and dreams into your early childhood classroom

Musical Hopes and Dreams

By Jennifer Fichtel, Responsive Classroom consulting teacher, Fitchburg Public Schools (Retrieved from

Hundreds of drawings of children playing instruments, singing, dancing, and toe tapping adorn the walls, bulletin boards, and closet doors of Donna Dik’s music classroom. Beautiful to look at—rich in color, detail, and whimsy—these illustrations represent the “hopes and dreams” of Donna’s students at Reingold Elementary School. In the center of each cluster of drawings is a list of the children’s hopes for music class: James hopes to sing a song about fishing; Erik hopes to play the electric guitar; Nou Tsa hopes to sing and dance; Natasha hopes to be in a musical performance.

When Donna began the school year—her first as a music teacher at Reingold Elementary—she was faced with the daunting task of getting to know more than 600 students in grades 1–4. She turned to the idea of “hopes and dreams,” a strategy she had learned while attending a Responsive Classroom week-long institute. “I couldn’t think of a better way to begin to get to know my students and to let them know that I cared about their interests and ideas,” says Donna.

During her first meeting with each class, Donna expressed her hopes for music class and asked students to express theirs. She recorded their answers and provided materials for students to draw themselves achieving their hopes. Before long, the classroom was transformed into an art gallery as children from each class added their creations to the display. But that wasn’t all that was transformed, according to Donna. “The process—which only took one class period per group—created a sense of shared purpose and set a positive tone that lasted an entire year.”

Donna keeps the drawings up all year long, along with the Reingold schoolwide constitution. Created by a group of students in the fall, the constitution lists a set of rules that everyone in the school agrees to follow. In addition to using the constitution as a guideline for behavior in music class, Donna frequently draws students’ attention to the connection between the schoolwide constitution and their hopes and dreams. In this way, she helps them understand how honoring the rules of the community helps all students achieve their hopes and dreams.

“What started as a way for me to get to know the students,” says Donna, “has become a wonderful way to build a community of learners.”

Four Goals of the First Six Weeks of School

“Doing hopes and dreams” is just one component of the early weeks curriculum suggested in The Responsive Classroom approach. In The First Six Weeks of School, co-authors, Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete outline the goals of the early weeks of school in the following way:

Though the details differ with different age groups, with the content of the curriculum, and with the organization of the room, there are four broad aims in the first six weeks curriculum:

  1. Create a climate and tone of warmth and safety.
  2. Teach the schedule and routines of the school day and expectations for behavior.
  3. Introduce students to the physical environment and materials of the classroom and the school, and teach students how to use and care for them.
  4. Establish expectations about ways we will learn together in the year ahead.

What will you do during the first few weeks to build community and establish a safe climate? Post your thoughtful response

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