Friday, December 9, 2016

December S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Giveaway

It's the season of giving!

I am giving away the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners!

You can enter from Friday, December 9th through Monday, December 12th at midnight.  I'll announce the winner on my blog on the morning of 12/13.  Then, on 12/13 and 12/14, I'm marking down my entire store by 20%!

Teacher used...Teacher approved!  Here is the latest endorsement of the program that we received yesterday!

Read more reviews here and here!

Please tell all of your peers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, October 10, 2016

"How to" Guide for S-Cubed users

Quick Reference Guide to using S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program

What is in the Complete Bundle?

*27 lessons that include everything you need to teach S-Cubed Level ONE.  This includes video examples of me teaching the program, video teaching tips for each lesson, and step by step daily guide.
*”Sight Singing Examples ONLY” is included.  You can use it if you’d like to hand the examples to your students.  It’s good for people who don’t have a Promethean Board.  It is easy to copy.

What is in the MEGA Bundle?

*All of Level ONE and all of Level TWO.  This includes video examples of me teaching the program, video teaching tips for each lesson, and step by step daily guide.
*”Sight Singing Examples ONLY” is included.  You can use it if you’d like to hand the examples to your students.  It’s good for people who don’t have a Promethean Board.  It is easy to copy.

How long will it take to teach the Complete Bundle?

*Everyone’s teaching situation is different.  I see my students daily for 50 minutes.  It takes me 27 weeks to teach it.  I teach S-Cubed about 4 times weekly on average.  We take about 10-15 minutes per day.

How long will it take to teach Level TWO?

*It will take about 18 weeks if you see them daily and follow the procedure listed above.

Can I get a synopsis of what is in each lesson?

*I have spent many hours creating the Product Descriptions on Teachers Pay Teachers.  This will be the best place for you to get a general idea of what is coming in each lesson.   Start here.  Inside the description, you will find more hyperlinks that will take you on a Lesson tour starting with Lesson 1 and progressing through the entire program.
I have also included these three links that are intended to inform you a bit more on how to use this program:

What is Music Prodigy and do I have to use it with S-Cubed?

Music Prodigy is a computer/app based program that allows students to practice and teachers to assess their students.  I tried the program for one year with my 340 middle school students, and I liked it so much that I decided to supplement S-Cubed by creating homework examples specifically for Music Prodigy.  When you purchase the “Add on”, you and your students gain access to the homework examples.  In S-Cubed, your students begin actually sight singing during Lesson 4.  There is one homework example for each example that is included in S-Cubed.  I wrote them to complement what we worked on that day in class.  I intend for teachers to assign the complementary homework example on the day the material was covered in class.  It will take most children no more than 5 or 10 minutes to complete.

I used S-Cubed for many years without Music Prodigy, and my students were successful.  However, Music Prodigy has simplified individual assessment for me significantly. 

Here is a link that includes a bit more information about Music Prodigy.

Thank you so much for your purchase!  Best of luck as you work through the program!

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jimmy...A lesson in what really matters.

People say that teachers have an indelible impact on the lives of the students they teach.

Well...So often during my 25 year career in public school choral music education, it has been the other way around.

...Like the time one of my most talented boys opted to leave the school where I teach to attend the district Arts school.  I said to him, "I can't believe I am losing you!  What am I going to do?"  He replied, "There will be another student next year who you will be excited about, and you will enjoy developing their special talents."

It hadn't even occurred to me.  12 years of wisdom compared to my fifty-....(um...I can't write it...but I've lived a really long time), and he was able to awaken me to a new perspective.

Change is definite, and we have to look for the silver lining.  That's what he taught me that day.

But Jimmy...he's another story.  ...One of the most epic stories of my 25 years of teaching public school choral music.

That's Jimmy.  I taught him10 years ago.  

Shortly after Jimmy was born as healthy as could be, he became ill. The illness impacted his body in such a way that he cannot control his movement much at all.  

...And Jimmy absolutely adored singing.  

Logistically, he wasn't able to enunciate very well at all.  I usually was not able to understand him when he spoke, but the students who'd grown up with Jimmy helped me.  Getting a lot of air into his lungs was quite difficult, but he did his best.  Most of the time, when Jimmy sang, he was able to produce pitch.  Most of the time, it was in tune.  

When he sang with the choir, the light in his eyes was truly from heaven.  

He wasn't able to hold the music, so the students helped him.  The students were always aware of his needs even though he had a hard time making others aware of them.  They simply sensed it.  His presence brought out the best in my middle school students.  With my class sizes as large as 84, I wasn't always as aware as I should have been.    Seeing middle school children be so tuned into Jimmy was inspiring. 

Jimmy's parents were amazing.  They gently made me aware of the needs of their son, and we worked together to help give him the best experience he could have.

Fast forward to the state spring choral music adjudication...

Each year, I take all 300+ students each year.  I separate them into 4 groups, and we attend over 2 days.   I ordered the special bus for Jimmy and his para-professional to ride to the church.  His mother and I triple checked to make sure all was set, and the county office assured us that it was. 

The day arrives for the 6th grade choir to attend the adjudication.

Of course, I'm a total open nerve...flitting around like a bat.  Taking 150 plus students off campus to get adjudicated, for most of whom it is the first time, is always stressful.  Each year, I plan this event to the "minute".  Traffic is rough in Atlanta, and if you miss your time, you mess up the schedule for all of the other choirs.   In the days before the event, I've given tons of instructions and created lots of structure to ensure we have the best opportunity to have a good experience.

By 8:45 AM, all of my students had reported to their chaperone, and all of the the buses had arrived.

...except Jimmy's.  

We were supposed to warm up at 9:30 AM, so time was tight.

I called the front office who, in turn, called transportation.  

They had messed up the order and took responsibility and said "We'll get someone there asap."

So, I left with 149 students, and left Jimmy at school with his Para-professional.

I arrive at the church with my students.  I complete registration. 

No Jimmy and no update.  No one is answering their phones.

"Time to go into the warm up room Mr. Duncan."  

Up walks Jimmy's father.  

I turn to the organizer, and I say, "We are missing a student who is on his way.  Can you move our time back and let someone else go in our slot?"  

Surrounded by other nervous choir directors, none of whom wants to go early, she graciously says, "OK...but you'll have to go in the 10 AM slot.  That school isn't here yet, and I'll figure out what to do once they arrive."

I take my 150 students, and we sit and watch other groups.  Many of my parents had gotten off work to see their children sing at 9:30, and they needed to return to their jobs.

The pressure is building.

The para-professional calls my cell and says, "Still no bus", and there is still no update on when the bus will arrive for Jimmy from the transportation department.

Time ticks by.  My students are getting restless.  The parents who've come to watch are getting irritated.  "What time will you sing?  I thought it was at 9:30?"  

I answer, "We are waiting on a student."

I'm sure they are thinking..."Just one?  Was he late for school?  You have 150 children in this choir.  Why does his voice matter?"

The organizer comes back and says, "You'll be going to the warm up room in 5 minutes."

Jimmy's father has been watching my struggle.

He walks over to me again, but this time, he speaks.  He says, "Mr. Duncan...Do you know what time Jimmy woke up this morning?"  

I answered, "No.  What time?"

He said, "3:30 AM.  He was so excited to be a part of this event today.  He loves singing more than anything in the world."

I felt my tears welling up.

I said, "Thank you."

I went to the organizer and said, "I have no idea when we will get to sing today.  We are still waiting on my student."  

"Where is he?  Is he a soloist?  Why can't you go forward without him?"

"I can't.  I won't.  So, do what you have to do with the schedule.  If we don't get to sing for the judges today, we will stay all day, wait for everyone to be done and stand up there and sing once everyone is gone."

My phone rings.  They are on there way!  Hallelujah!

15 minutes tick by, and they arrive.  Jimmy wheels in with his para and all of the other teachers and organizers see.  

It all made sense for them in that moment...or maybe it didn't.  

I don't care.   I know I did what was right in that moment.

I had to trust my heart, let things happen and let go of what I couldn't control.  

Jimmy needed to sing with us.  I needed to see him sing with us. His parents needed to see him sing with us.  The kids needed him to sing with us.

...Not because he is the star tenor...not because he is singular reason we do or do not get a superior rating...but because he loves to sing.

That's all.

...and watching the joy on Jimmy's face as he sang that day is etched in my mind.

Here is Jimmy on the day he graduated high school:

I often tell the students that for me, making beautiful choral music together is one of the most spiritual experiences I have as a human being.   That day was one of the most difficult and magical ones of my career.

He impacted me far more than I could ever had impacted him.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Music Prodigy and S-Cubed join forces!

I am beyond excited about sharing this with you!

I've been working on it for 9 months, and I still cannot believe how awesome it is!

Last fall, the folks at Music Prodigy contacted me.  They'd heard about the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program, and they wondered if their program might enhance mine.

So, I gave it a test run with my students from January through May, and I absolutely LOVED it.

It enhances assessment in a twenty-first century way.  

To test the program, I added the Sight Singing examples from S-Cubed into my Music Prodigy account.  My students downloaded the Music Prodigy app onto their phones and computers.  I gave them the access code when I was ready for them to work on examples.  They sing into their phones or computers.  Music Prodigy turns notes "red" if they missed the note, "yellow" if they were almost correct, and "green" if they sang it right, and it assigns a score.  To top it off, I can sit at my computer from anywhere in the world and listen to their work immediately if I want to.

It's unbelievable.  Music Prodigy makes it possible for me to individually assess my students in new and objective ways.   I've assigned examples for homework, and I've even used the program when I've had a sub.  

I loved it so much that I created additional homework assignments that are intended to enhance each individual lesson in S-Cubed (Original Series).  

Above, you will find an example of what the grade book looks like.

The above example shows how you can listen to the individual child's singing.  All you do is click on the microphone and this pops up-

Then, you click the play button, and voila!  You hear that child singing the example.  

I can't say enough good things about it.

My students loved working with Music Prodigy on their phones.  I love that it is possible to assess them individually and gives them an objective score based on their performance.  My administrators love it too!

It is a wonderful enhancement to the S-Cubed Program, and I'm letting my followers know first!

Normally, to use Music Prodigy, it costs $1500 per year.  Well, the folks at Music Prodigy have offered S-Cubed users a deal.  Until December 31, 2016, for only $100, S-Cubed users can gain access specifically to the S-Cubed homework content that is offered on Music Prodigy.   Starting January 1, 2017, the cost will be $150. Each year, you and your students can continue to have access to S-Cubed homework examples on Music Prodigy for $150 per year. 

If you have purchased S-Cubed on TPT or TES, you are eligible for this deal.  

All you need to do is this:

1)  Create a Music Prodigy account using your email address:

2)  Send an email to  In the email, tell them that you are an S-Cubed user and that you want to purchase access to the S-Cubed content on Music Prodigy.  Please include your email address in the body of your email in order to make it easier for them to process.  

3)  Make your payment here:  

Renew it annually.

4)  To purchase with Purchase Orders, here is the info you need:
Music Prodigy’s Federal Tax I.D. number is 26-2880482.  To execute this order do any of the following: 
1) Email this completed form to
2) fax to 800-811-0864
3) mail it to Music Prodigy, 4335 Van Nuys Blvd, Ste 308, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. 

For folks who haven't purchased S-Cubed Level one on TPT or TES...
Starting in the fall of 2016, Music Prodigy will be selling S-Cubed Level one on their website in a bundle that includes access to all of the power points from S-Cubed plus the homework examples.  So, instead of two purchases from two different companies, you can get all of it in one spot.  

If you have any issues at all once you've taken the above steps, contact Doug Eicher at

Please reach out to me and let me know if you plan to use Music Prodigy!  


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"LIVE" Session with Mr D

I hope to meet some of you there!  At the end of each session, I offer a two-hour deal from my store.  Sometimes it's a freebie, and sometimes it's a big discount on a bundle...and sometimes it's both!

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer "LIVE" Sessions with Mr D June 27-June 30

June Summer “Live” events with Mr D!
June 27-June 30

So far this summer, I’ve done four “live” events on Periscope (@inthemiddlewith) and four Facebook Live events.  They usually last about 15-20 minutes.  I usually do “Periscope” first (thanks for the “hearts”!) and then pop over to Facebook Live and discuss the same topic for the people who are more comfortable with that platform.  I’ve discussed boy’s voices, classroom management, structure and other topics related to teaching middle school choral music!  I’ve loved interacting with teachers.  You all have contributed some awesome ideas during the interactions!  I’ve posted the “live” events onto my YouTube Channel for people to check out later, but the comments don’t show up, so it’s best if you catch it “live” when you can…

…Especially because of the “Two hour deals” that occur after the live events.  At the end of each “live” event, I will continue offering something from my TPT and/or TES stores for free or something that is very discounted at the end of the events, and sometimes, I will do both! 

Up until now, the timing of the events has been pretty random!  However, this coming week, I am scheduling four of them and giving some notice so people can plan ahead! 

Here is my “live” schedule for June 27-June 30…

Each Periscope begins at 9 AM and Each Facebook “Live” will start immediately after the Periscope at approximately 9:15. 

Monday, June 27-Developing tone in the treble voices
Tuesday, June 28-Getting your students to WATCH you
Wednesday, June 29-Smiling Before Christmas
Thursday, June 30-Sight Singing with the true beginner

Please share this information with your peers and colleagues.  Think of young teachers who’ve just graduated, teachers who are new to teaching middle school, and teachers who’ve struggled while teaching this age group. 

Thank you!

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