Tuesday, May 24, 2016

If you want to fail as a middle school choral music teachers, here is an ingredient for you!

A Choral Director posted this on the Facebook page of a major choral music organization.


Here are her accompanying comments in blue. 
This is my philosophy. What do you think? This is from an article on cultivating children's choirs from the most recent issue of the ACDA magazine.

It was posted 12 hours ago.  In that time, there have been over 300 likes/loves, and over 100 shares. Almost all of the people who have responded are in total agreement with the sentiment expressed in it.  They've written comments like "Preach", "Amen", "I'm posting it in my choir room", and more.

I died inside just a little bit when I read all of this.  As a middle school educator with over 24 years of experience teaching in a diverse public school setting, all I thought about was how many singers are lost each year due to this sort of philosophy.  

It feels so "old school".  It reminds me of corporal punishment.  It's like 1953.  It brings back memories of the way we used to train dogs not to poop inside the house...

...by rubbing their noses in it. 


It is this sort of antiquated attitude and approach that causes so many middle school choral programs around the USA to be so small.   

The students run from it because it is feels like drudgery taught with a scowl.

Have we forgotten that "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?!"

I find it so hard to believe this was printed in such a major choral director's magazine (giving it credibility), and I am amazed that so many people have piled on in agreement.

If you want to fail as a middle school choral music teacher, you should definitely follow the advice ("It's not about having fun") in the above posting, and let it be your guiding light. 

People with this philosophy should not teach middle school.  I've seen so many of my colleagues come and go over the years because they approach the classroom in this manner.  They need to be teaching at college or teaching only the most elite high schoolers...and even then, I think fun is near the top of all priorities.  

I was a volunteer in a major singing organization in my area for several years, and I absolutely adored singing with the group.  The director was incredibly competent and musical.  She was able to get a super, dynamic sound out of volunteers.  The group was one of the largest of its kind in the country. There was never a single night when I didn't get goose bumps as we created art together under her leadership.   I looked forward to every 2 1/2 hour rehearsal on Thursday nights.  Each night, there was laughter amongst us and between us as we worked to perfect the music.  

A new choir director came in, and it was no longer fun.  The approach was very disciplined, but there was no laughter and no time to just be a human.  The quality of the singing the group produced was no better than the previous director.  In my view the sound was sterile and unemotional, and the process of learning was much less enjoyable.  So, I left the group...and I'm old.  We all need fun and laughter.  The group has continued to shrink and age along with it's audiences.

Fun and singing go hand and hand.  

Here is what I know based on my experience:   Our middle school beginners must have fun.  Is it going to happen every minute of every day of every rehearsal?  No...but we have got to stay connected to what helps open up their hearts and allows them to enjoy the process of learning to take the signs and symbols off the page and make art from it. 

It's also about structure and boundaries in a huge way, but without fun and laughter occasionally, you are not going to attract students to your program.   Kids talk.  If your class is a bore, no matter how good they sound or how many superiors you get at adjudications or how many Allstate Chorus members you have each year, your program is going to stay small.

 I teach 340 volunteer middle school students each and every day in classes with as many students as 84 from "bell to bell".  It's nonstop.  They work.  I give them structure from the very first day, and I tolerate very little.   I do everything I can do make the process of learning to read music as enjoyable as possible...again, from the very first day.   Middle school children need to be understood, and sometimes we need to allow them to fail.  I've covered this stuff on my YouTube Channel and in my blog for years now, so if you want to read more about my approach to the classroom, just type in "classroom management", and you can watch and read ad nauseum!  

I couldn't do my job if I were easy on them...if I didn't have processes in place...and if I scowled all day and made it feel like work.  There is a balance...and the "fun" part is what tilts it in your favor.

Before I created S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners, I created a product called "What do you MEAN I can't Smile Before Christmas?!?" because I so strongly believe that middle school students need structure and boundaries, but they also need FUN.  They need to see the human side of us.  

We have to help this age group WANT to work with us.

We have to find a way to make work not feel like work whenever we can so we can keep these young singers singing!

And life is way too short not to have fun. 

I hope the end of your school year is going great!

Check out my blog!

Monday, May 23, 2016

S-Cubed END OF SCHOOL Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners!

Happy "Almost" end of school!  Let's celebrate with a giveaway!

Starting May 23rd and ending at 11:59 PM Eastern time on May 25th, I am hosting a giveaway of the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners!

It's the Complete 27-week Program for Beginners that normally costs over $200.  On this link, you will find detailed product descriptions that include lots of information about what is in the program.  

I will announce the winner of this giveaway on May 26th.    Also, in the email, I will announce a huge two day major price cut offer that will be made public only to those who enter the giveaway.  

Well over 1000 teachers around the world have purchased and used the program in their classrooms with great success.   Find out why...and you'll have the entire summer to get familiar with the program before you begin teaching it to your beginners!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Seating Charts in Your Middle School Choral Classroom

Here are some of the tricks I use when creating my seating charts.

1)  6th graders are new to me each year.  I have about 70 per class in two classes.  To help learn their names a little more quickly, and for purposes of grading the children, I use alphabetical seating charts for the first nine weeks.  When behavior problems reveal themselves, I move the children as needed, but I often feel like Harrison Ford in the photo above because I don't know the children yet.  :-)

2)  Also with 6th graders, during the 2nd nine weeks, I begin working toward dividing into 2 parts.  During 1st nine weeks, we sing lots of rounds, and I've managed to assess their abilities to hold their parts.  I place the children who are strongest at holding their part into the alto section.  

3)  I always place several of my strongest and most reliable sight singers on the back row in all three grades.  I sprinkle a some of the strongest singers into the first three rows as well to help the weaker singers feel more confident.

4)  In 7th grade, I split my two classes by gender.  I get a few new students, but not a lot, so I base my seating charts on the information I learned about them in 6th grade.  When we do two part warm up exercises or when we sing in two parts in our songs, I listen intently.  I am able to identify the "sharp" singers with ease.  I never place them in the back.   Sharp singing is infectious at this age.   I also listen for the altos who end up singing soprano, and then I place them into the soprano section.  For me, at this age, it isn't about "range".  It's about pitch and tonal awareness.  The folks whose ears aren't awake enough yet to hold a harmony should not, in my view, be forced to sing alto.  It's an exercise in frustration for you, the child and for every singer who sits around them.

5)  By 8th grade, everything is pretty clear except that some of the boys voices have dropped a lot, and they aren't sure what to do with it.  In 8th grade, my students sing SAB/3-part.  I still have some boys who can sing alto or soprano, and I place them there if they are comfortable singing with the girls.  Sometimes, for social reasons, they are not comfortable with that, and I try to be sensitive to it.  

6)  I almost always place my students in this arrangement as I face my students.
6th grade and 7th grade treble:
Altos on my left; sopranos on my right.

7th boys:
Baritones on my left;  Tenor/Cambiata on my right.

8th Grade:
Alto on my left;  Changed voices in the middle; Sopranos on the right.  
With 8th grade, depending on the year and the competency level of the girls, I've also tried this:
Alto on my left; Sopranos in the middle; Changed voices on the right.

7)  Behavior:  I keep the "at risk" students in the front two rows when possible.  This includes students with ADD/ADHD and other students who appear to have focus or behavior issues based on my experience with them in my classroom.  I place a high-achiever who is unflappable between the children who are "at risk".  

I hope that gives you some ideas!

Check out my blog!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

EdSurge Teacherprenuer

I started blogging because I wanted to help teachers.

At the outset, I wanted to help teachers have a better experience and more success when they tried to teach true beginners to sight sing, but it has turned into much more. 

I wanted to give them tools that have worked for me and my middle school children in my urban Title 1 public school classroom.  I wanted to give teachers a road map.  If they wanted to venture off that roadmap a bit, it was fine, but I wanted to make sure they had something that was proven and that worked and continues to work in my classroom with children of all economic and ethnic backgrounds.   I wanted to use 21st century technology to help teach them since it isn't practical for a working teacher like myself to fly all over the world and teach seminars about my method, and because it isn't practical for teachers from Japan or Canada or Australia to come watch me teach in the USA.  

I can reach more people using the web, and I can do it in my PJ's. People can learn how to use S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners in their classrooms right at their home computers on a Sunday night and they have all the materials they need for their lesson the next day.

It's no secret that I offer my materials on multiple sites.  I started on TPT, and I remain there.  It's a super marketplace filled with great ideas from incredible teachers.  However, the folks at TES, who have a great digital market in the UK and who have recently begun sharing their materials in the USA, are doing amazing work in the Teacherpreneur market.  So many teachers have ideas to share with their peers, and there are so many ways to get those ideas out there use technology.

Erica from TES contacted me about a month ago and said they'd like to join up with Edsurge and write an article on my work as a Teacherpreneur.   Click here to see the article.  I tried to share the most important tips that helped me!  If you are thinking about jumping into this marketplace to share your ideas, it may give you some guidance.

I suppose the bottom line for me is this:  I am so grateful to have found multiple platforms like TPT and TES and Music Prodigy (more coming on that for the current and future S-Cubed users!) and so many other amazing 21st century companies who are making it so easy for teachers to put their ideas out into the ether for others to find and use so they can help their students succeed.

There is nothing like a real teacher who is teaching in a real classroom each and every day to supply materials that are meaningful and useful for teachers.  

Textbooks are over.  School districts will figure it out in their time. Meanwhile, we teachers have kids to help.  If teachers are finding and using ideas from digital platforms, the kids are the ones who win.

About 6 years ago, I had a dream of writing a book about sight singing so I met with a very well known author of children's books. She is super successful, and she loves her work so much.  She is an icon in her area of expertise, and she used to take my water aerobics class, but that is another story!  She sat down and shared her ideas freely with me.  I embarked on my journey to write the book, but my work simply didn't translate.  I submitted to publishers, and they said, "You have great ideas, but we aren't sure how this will translate into a textbook...and if you can figure that out, you will get 12% of every sale."  

So, I sat it out for a while.  

It didn't feel right.

As a teacherpreneur, you have 100% editorial control over your content.  Now...the reviews can be harsh, so you better make it good!  

You can work when you want, and the best part is that most of the time, you get no less than 85% of every sale.   

Teaching is such an honorable profession, and we aren't supposed to do it for the money.  It's taboo.

Money is certainly not the reason I started teaching, and it isn't the reason I started sharing my sight singing program.  I've been in the classroom for 24 years now, and it hasn't been until the last couple of years that I've actually had any money of my own to spare.  I've worked hard to earn every dollar as we all do, but the most important and rewarding piece of the puzzle is the same experience we have with our students...

A teacherpreneur is helping others succeed.  

That's the reason I created S-Cubed and it is the same reason I am sharing this EdSurge article today.  I am thankful for every single purchase teachers have made of my program since I began my journey as a teacherpreneur in 2013.

It isn't easy...I'm not going to lie.  I've worked very hard on this.  I remember a night about 3 months after I began marketing my materials online when the individual lessons were on sale for $3 a piece, and I'd made about a total of $6 that month on the 20th of the month...minus 15% commission... I couldn't figure out HTML code, and I'd spent 3 hours trying to figure it out AFTER teaching my 340 middle school singers all day.

I look at my husband, and I said, "What the heck am I doing this for?  $3?  Nobody has even heard of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program!"

Well, I'm glad I continued because I cherish each and every note I get from every teacher who expresses how much S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program has helped them in their classrooms, and I want to make it the very best I can for them because so many of them spend their own money to purchase it.  (It isn't necessary by the way...purchase orders are accepted.)

...and I'd wanted to figure out a way to share it since 2004. 

All good things in their time.

I say it every time...Thank each of your for your purchases of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program and for helping to spread the word about the program to your peers, colleagues and district supervisors.  It's real and it works.

If you are thinking about jumping into the digital market to share your materials, do it.  I still teach daily, and it isn't always an easy balance, but I know many folks who do it full-time so they can stay home with their children.  

...Whatever works for you...Trust your gut instincts.  Don't follow the path of anyone else...including mine.  

Just do what you do.

People will thank you for it, and it will make you a better teacher while you create it!

Check out my blog!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review of my "Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack"

I created the Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack for many reasons:

1)  To help teachers understand their middle school singers better.
2)  To give ideas on structure that can help your students.
3)  To give classroom examples of my work with the children.
4)  To expose teachers to S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners.
6)  To helps teachers who are just beginning with this age group or who need to hit the reset button.
...and much more.

On most websites, it costs $79, but this week, it is offered at only...get this....$2 on TES.

No lie.

Click to see the review that TES did this week.

Click the link and check it out.
Check out my blog!

Friday, March 4, 2016

FREE Webinar on Sight Singing Strategies with Dale Duncan and Ryan Guth

On Tuesday, March 8th at 8 PM Eastern time, I will be presenting a "live" Webinar with Ryan Guth.

In the webinar, I will discuss Sight Singing Strategies that I use in S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for beginners.

If you'd like to sign up for the webinar, Click here!

If you aren't available for the webinar at that time, go ahead and sign up anyway.  He is going to send the webinar link to all who sign up.

Check out my blog!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Podcast with Ryan Guth Top Five Lessons from a Middle School Veteran

Ryan Guth and I chatted last week on his podcast called "Find Your Forte".   On the broadcast, I share top five lessons that have helped me in my classroom when working with my middle school singers.

Click here to hear the Broadcast!

Check out my blog!

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