Being Positive with our Middle School Children

Last week, when I was observed by the first year teacher that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, she mentioned something to me.  She said, "I noticed that you only publicly recognize positive behaviors in the students.  Why is that?"

I teach 84 children in a classroom at one time, that is why!  :)

But seriously....I thought about that.  What had I done that day?

That day, I remembered saying things like:  "Great tall mouth position Sarah!", "Wonderful posture, Niko!" and a few other things.  I did it because, right next to Niko was a child using terrible posture for singing, and next to Sarah was a child who was barely opening her mouth! Immediately, the children next to them improved!  Works like a charm.

 I use the positive reinforcement to help get other children on task.  I carefully reward them with praise.  It is one of my major classroom management techniques...and with 320 total students in my program, I need a lot of things in my bag of tricks.

I also use stickers with the children.  I prefer that my students come into the room, sit down and immediately begin working silently on their short, quick, written warm up activity.  When I see them doing it, I walk over and place a sticker on their paper.  Three stickers=a free Starburst!  I usually focus on giving a sticker to a child who is sitting next to another child who isn't doing what he is supposed to do.  I don't say anything negative to the child who isn't doing the right thing.  I just reward the right behaviors.

If I need to have a negative conversation with a child, I do it once everyone is gone.  I always want to maintain their dignity.  

Everyone wants to feel valued.  Always.  

We all deserve it!

It works for me!  If you aren't doing it, give it a try.  It feels good for the teacher.  It encourages students to do the right thing.

I just posted Lesson 13 in my Sight Singing program!  Check it out!  Share it with your friends who teach choral music.  

Thanks for your support!  Have a great weekend!


Just posted Lesson 12 of S-Cubed! Freebie offered to blog subscribers!

I am offering a freebie of the lesson "Keep Your Eyes On Me" to my Blog subscribers!  The lesson includes four activities to help your choir students learn to watch you!  Just shoot me an email at, and I'll send it to you!  Offer good from October 27, 2013-November 1, 2013.

Have a great week!
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Mentoring new teachers

Today, a first-year teacher is coming to watch me teach my middle school children.  Firstly, I am humbled that she thinks I can guide her.  Secondly, I hope I don't blow it!  :)  Thirdly, I am grateful that her principal sees the all-important value of new teachers watching experienced teachers.

It isn't the same as all of the times we watch teachers during our college education preparation programs.  It's different because this young teacher has been in the classroom for 10 weeks on her own....sinking or swimming.  She will see things differently now.  She will be ready to learn things about which she had no idea just 11 weeks ago.

I love watching other teachers, and about once a year, I take a sick day and go watch another middle school chorus teacher.  The experiences I've had have shaped my teaching tremendously.  I have learned so very much while watching teachers and talking to them.  I learn more than I ever do when I sit in a college class or a continuing education course listening to people who aren't in the classroom tell us how to teach while they share all of the latest research.

The research is important and valuable, but there is nothing like taking a day away from your school and watching someone who is on the front lines every single day.


It inspires.  I helps you create something new.  It makes you excited to get back into your classroom.

I long for the day when legislators will see the importance and the value of new teacher mentoring and support those programs with dollars...not just lip service.  All of us need to see what other people are doing in their classrooms.

Until then, I am grateful that this young lady's principal supports her enough to pay for her sub so she can have a day to go watch someone.  I am also thankful that my own colleagues are supporting me by covering a class so I can have some one-on-one time to talk with this new and excited teacher.

When the day comes that our legislator's truly support mentoring programs, there will be more young, excited teachers who will stay that way and remain in the teaching profession...and most importantly....our children will benefit tremendously.

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A little inspiration. We all need it sometimes!

New PInterest board for Teachers!

Just created this Pinterest board for teachers.  It has some of the best YouTube videos designed to help teachers in their classrooms!

New Lesson posted on TPT!

If we had a dollar for every time we said "Watch me" to our upper elementary and middle school choir students, we'd all be rich! That's why I decided to offer this new lesson called "Keep Your Eyes on Me!". Check out the link! Check out my blog!

New lesson coming!

Working on a new lesson called "Keep your eyes on me".   4 quick activities to help your choir watch you when you conduct!  Should be ready early next week on TPT. 

Classroom Management Tip #4304. Compassion.

Last week, we started the auditions for the spring musical revue. The performance isn't until May, but we plan ahead around here! The children had all signed up for their time slots. When they walked into the room, they saw the list of students and the time of their audition on the board. I could see and feel the energy and excitement in the room...especially in the 6th grade children. It was their first time at this rodeo. To audition in front of 60 of your peers is a big deal! So, I called up the third little child for her 60 second audition. We will call her Sarah. She obediently came to up to me to hand me her music when I noticed that Sarah's eyes were filled with tears. She was so nervous that she was crying. She was facing me and not the students, so I looked her in the eye, and I started talking to her. I asked her what she was singing. She said "Part of your World" from Little Mermaid. I said, "Perfect! I know it! If you get nervous and forget something, look at me, and I will help you through it. You'll be fine! It'll be over in 60 seconds." By this time, Sarah's classmates knew something was up, and they were watching my every move. They were observing how I dealt with her and how she responded to me. They were seeing if I cared. So, I turned the music on. Her face had already begun to dry, but her eyes were still red. She started singing, and she was amazing! I got goose bumps watching her dig deep and make it happen. I was so moved by Sarah's ability to fight through her fears and tears and allow her herself to do well in her audition that I felt my tears well up. That is why I teach.

 Was my audition schedule structured to the maximum? Yes. Had I done my best to prepare the students for success by giving information to them that would allow them to do their best? Yes. Did I create a positive work environment for them? Yes. All the rules and guidelines were in place. All of that stuff matters tremendously, of course. We learn how important those things are in college.  

Over time, the best teachers who remain in the field refine and evaluate their work in those areas, and they get better at stating the rules and guidelines clearly and, most important, they learn to implement them effectively with the age group with whom they work best. 

 However, had I not handled that scared little girl with care and love in front of her peers, no amount of rules, signed contracts and syllabi, parent contact, moving of seats and tongue lashings would matter one bit. We hear it all the time...but they don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. It's especially important for our Middle School children. ...and Sarah taught me way more than I taught her today. 

 Have a great week.

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Lesson 10! PULSING! It's ready Copy and paste the link above. Teaching Sight Singing to young beginners is like building a house. By Lesson #10, we have poured the foundation. Check out all 10 lessons of S-Cubed at my store!

A note to my Middle School students via email

To the students who are auditioning this week! So...You're auditioning tomorrow for the Spring Musical Revue. You are putting yourself on the front of your peers...during the school day...and it isn't for a grade... What will it get you? Um...obligated to get up early before school to show up for practice. What is WRONG with you? Just kidding. :) It's awesome. It is AWESOME that you are taking the shot. I always say..."You miss 100% of the shots you don't take". By doing this, you are creating an opportunity for yourself that is going to help you have an amazing performance experience that you will never forget with friends you would never have met had you not decided to step up to the plate tomorrow. It is all that and much more. ...and if you are auditioning tomorrow, you are taking the shot. I am so proud of you, and I appreciate the work you've done to prepare the audition enormously. Please know that, while you are auditioning, I am pulling for you 100%. I want you to do a fantastic job so you can walk away feeling proud and happy that you took the risk. We are going to have a great show. I already know it...before I see the auditions...and it is largely because of this moment. It is because you've done the preparation. ...And now it is time to share it. Knock it out of the park, and don't look back. Allow yourself to nail it. Be a superstar. Don't be afraid to be great. Good luck!

Lesson 9 Released! Sale until Tuesday!

Lesson 9 is released! Sale from Today until Tuesday! 20% off Lessons 1-9. Great time to get them all at once at a discounted price.

What I learn from spirit week about Classroom Management

Spirit week is awesome fun! Each day we can dress up in various attire: "Character" day, Tacky/Nerd Day, Wacky hair day, and so on. It can turn a drab Monday into a day full of smiles. It is so awesome to see the students walk into the room and react to the craziness. It helps "just another day" turn into an event! It brings out...well...the SPIRIT! Wow! Who knew? :) Students who haven't smiled once the whole year will look at you in total disbelief and crack a quick one! On Monday, I dressed up like King Tut for "Character Day". I put a note on the door that said, " not come in until you hear 3 knocks. Then, wait five seconds, and you can enter". I primed the fog machine and filled the room with fog before the children entered. I ran to the door and knocked. I lay down on some chairs in the room with my arms across my chest like a Mummy. I waited a few seconds after they entered, then said "Boo!" Based on their reactions, I think they liked it! Middle school children are programmed to be bored. They aren't supposed to care...But when we bring a dose of our "crazy" into the room, it brings out the light in their eyes. They see us as people who just want to have fun instead of teachers who enforce rules. Doing crazy stuff helps us gain their respect and earn their support. ...and that has made managing 84 children in one class a lot easier! So, the next time you have the opportunity to do something silly for your middle school children. Do it. They'll love you for it! ...Oh...and tomorrow? I am going to wear a rainbow colored Afro wig for wacky hair day. I can't wait!

Spirit week goes on