Link to Free NAFME Sight Singing Webinar

Link to Free NAFME Sight Singing Webinar S-Cubed

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SALE on S-Cubed! January 31, 2014-February 2, 2014

Link to my store and enjoy the sale!
If you need to buy the next few lessons as you continue the program, today is the day!  The entire Sight Singing Training program is 20% off!

Have a great weekend!

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We got one in Atlanta for tomorrow!  

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Lesson 21 is Posted and Ready for Use MATH CLASS! S-Cubed-Successful Sight Singing for Middle School

S-Cubed is all about addressing issues with the Middle School beginning Sight Singer BEFORE the problem causes frustration!  In Lesson 21, we address the singular eighth note versus the quarter note and we do some cross-curricular math to reenforce the learning!

YouTube Video Preview of Lesson 21  Click here for Video Preview of Lesson 21

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Folder Care for Chorus Teachers

Here is a problem a chorus teachers was experiencing, and my answer to that problem:

 I teach 3 grade levels (6, 7, 8) divided into 6 class periods (2 per grade level). Budget limits prevent me from buying an octavo for every student, so each grade level shares a folder with the other half that meets a different period. Every student has a number, which is the same number on his/her folder, octavo, and storage cubby. After class, students are supposed to put octavos in folders, folders in cubbies. Despite all this attempt at order, EVERY period of EVERY day someone comes to me with "I can't find...(folder, octavo, music theory workbook)." Eventually it turns up in another folder, in another cubby, behind the cabinet, etc. The custodians moved and cleaned under our bulky risers this summer and found all kinds of lost stuff. I have explained the procedure, demonstrated the procedure, practiced the procedure. We have tried putting items away with everyone doing it together. I have tried taking off points for missing materials, but since students share with someone in the other class, they each blame the other (and I have no way of knowing who is responsible). I tried having section leaders check materials as students put them away, but it was really time-consuming. Short of violating copyright and making everyone his/her own music copies, 3-hole punching them and putting them in individual ring binders, I am completely baffled at how to get my students to keep track of their stuff. I teach in a pretty affluent community and most of them are of the mindset that it doesn't matter if they lose something, parents will just buy another one. I would really appreciate any suggestions before August 5, my teacher pre-planning week when I need to get folders ready. Thanks in advance!

 My response:

 I have over 300 students in my program, and I have solved this issue for myself. Your situation is identical to mine (6 classes/2 per grade level). I have as many as 84 children in my classes, so I had to figure out a solution! It's all about accountability, ultimately. Each technique below is designed to help increase accountablity. You are doing all of the same things I did to solve this, but here are a few extra details that might help: 1) Is the music inside each folder also numbered to match the folder number? The music needs to have a specific folder to which it belongs. Then, when you find music that is left on the floor, you know who to hold responsible. 2) I am super picky. I require my students to keep the music in alphabetical order inside the folder. This requires thought on the part of each student each day before they place the music in their slot or cubby. Also, I make sure the folders are all turned the same way inside the cubby. I only allow the bottom of the folder to face out (the black part...I don't allow the music to show). This is helpful because I've noticed that the kids who allow the music to face the wrong direction are the ones who haven't taken the time to organize their folders properly. I can target them and hold them accountable. I make jokes about it at the beginning of the year. When I see a folder turned the wrong way (music out), I walk over to the container, and I over-react. They laugh at my reaction....humor always works! 3) How do you dismiss the students? I've noticed that when I handle dismissal poorly, the folders are messier. Putting the folders away is NOT a part of dismissal in my class. Five minutes before the end of class, I call the students by row and tell them to put the folders in order and place them in the slot and sit back down in their chair before the real dismissal. I end class with "Starburst" questions. These questions are a review of 3 main points of the day. The students who get the answers right get a Starburst. Since they know "Starburst questions" are the final part of class each day, they are motivated to put away their folders and then sit down. 4) Because it is impossible to check 300 folders each day, I use RANDOM checking. I keep a color-coded excel chart on the wall with 5 columns (one for each day of the week) in a visible place where my student leader marks the folders that haven't met the criteria (alphabetical order; folder turned incorrect way; music on right/theory book on left). My student leader who checks the folders daily randomly checks 3 folders per day. RANDOM is key. None of the students knows when his folder will be checked. The leader checks the folders during "Starburst" question time. If it's Tuesday, and he finds folder 56 violated the rules, he marks it under "Tuesday" with a specific color...each color indicates a different problem. I keep the color-coded key on the wall above the excel sheet so everyone knows how to interpret the data. A "Black" mark next to your name means the folder was turned the wrong way in the cubby. "Red" means the music wasn't alphabetical and so on. The kids check the excel sheet daily to see if they have any marks next to their name. They do not like to get marks next to their name...especially marks that everyone can see each day. I take the chart down once per week or so, and mark their grades accordingly to hold them accountable. Checking only THREE folders RANDOMLY takes very little time and is very effective. 6) Targeted Checking: I use targeted checking occasionally also. Sometimes, we get a child who fails to organize his folder well repeatedly. I have a reporting system in place for that. Children aren't allowed to even tell me about folders that are out of order or messy until it has occurred three times. Then, they must tell me only at the end of class. This cuts down on disruptions. On the third time, they can tell me because, obviously, we need to fix the problem. Once a child has informed me that whoever shares his folder in the previous period has left it in bad shape repeatedly, I tell my student leader to make sure to check that specific folder number and mark the excel sheet on the wall each day. Also, I will talk to that child to help make sure he understands what is expected with folder care. Sometimes they don't! Just talking to them helps! Adding these little extra details helped me tremendously. Now, folder care takes very little time, and my music is in great shape! I hope these ideas help you! Dale Duncan My blog My Sight Singing Program for Middle School Teachers: My YouTube Channel with teaching tips and teaching examples: My free Middle School NAFME Sight Singing Webinar:

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Free NAFME Sight Singing Webinar this Thursday!

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Two new Sight Singing Lessons posted today!

Whew!  I've been working hard to get these next two lessons in the series ready for use, and they are done!  We only have seven lessons to go in the Series!

Here is a video preview of Lesson 19!  Check it out!  There are tons of sight singing tips on the Channel.  Please subscribe to get free guidance!
Video Preview of Lesson 19

Also...Remember the upcoming NAFME Sight Singing webinar!  Sign up!  It's this Thursday, January 23rd at 7 PM Eastern.  Click here:

NAFME Sight Singing Webinar January 23, 2014

Today's Sight Singing Teaching Tips!

Today's Sight Singing Teaching Tips!

Click the video link above to see some ideas for teaching sight singing!  My students are entering a critical juncture in their Sight Singing journey!  Check it all out and learn more about how to help your beginning choir students as they work on their journey toward becoming better music readers.

Tomorrow is the third day in Lesson 20!

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Video Link to my Latest Teaching Tips for Sight Singing! DOUBLING!

Latest teaching tips...

Click the above link to see my latest teaching tips for Sight Singing!
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S-Cubed: Philosophy AND Sight Singing method

This week, the Sight Singing lesson with my middle school students was called "Awakening".  I named it this because I wanted my young beginners to "awaken" to the work that is still left to do as we prepare them for Georgia Music Educator's Association Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE).

So, I pulled out an actual sight singing example from last year's LGPE.  I pulled out my stopwatch, and told them to pretend that were at the event.   I treated the experience exactly as they will experience in March.   I knew full well that there was no way they would succeed, but I told them to try their very hardest and to use every tool I'd provided for them in their toolbox.

They did their very best.  They actually got a part of it correct, but mostly, it was the horrible failure I had hoped it would be.

That sounds horrible, right?

It isn't.

What this experience does for the children is to help them become invested in the preparation process in a way they might not have been otherwise because they want to succeed.

I developed S-Cubed because most methods, in my experience, caused failure from the beginning.
In S-Cubed, we work to create success after success so they are used to getting it right.  Then, we set them up for failure right in the middle of the process for one brief day so they realize the challenges that still lie ahead....and we handle it carefully...and we make sure that we tell the students that part of the reason they failed is because I (the teacher) haven't finished preparing them.

The questions above were designed to help them remember the feeling they had while trying to figure out the example and the feelings they had after they finished attempting to sing it.

I asked them to describe how they felt.  They said:

I asked them if they wanted to feel that way when they left the sight singing room in March, and they answered with a resounding "NO!"

I told them they shouldn't panic at all.  They should work.  Because, as along as we work hard and consistently, they will have all of the tools they need in their toolbox to solve the Sight Singing example at the event!  Every day matters.

I've seen so many students and teachers leave the Sight Singing room completely embarrassed and upset because they had done so poorly in the room.

S-Cubed: Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers is the perfect solution.  We take one step at a time and make sure that our children really learn how to use the tools they need to succeed.

Here is a comment that a teacher left on my TPT page this week-  I was honored and thrilled!  I hope that I get the opportunity to help many other teachers have a more successful experience teaching Sight Singing to their young students!

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One of my favorite resources for Middle School Choral Teachers

I wanted to take a moment to share a wonderful resource for Middle School Teachers and their students!

My middle school children absolutely love the music from Plank Road Publishing: Music K-8. I've used them for about 15 years for lots of various songs. The kids can't get enough. The writers understand how to write for these special ages. Each issue of the magazine has at least 2 or 3 songs that are appropriate for this age group.  You can also order "a la carte" from the website. They give choreography notes and ideas about how to deliver the songs that are awesome! I absolutely love this resource!

 Below, I have included some links to the website and to a few of some of my favorite songs they've created for various seasons...although they have songs for all times of the year: Here is the link to the general website:
Link to the website
Link to my favorite song "Dweller of the Cave". They LOVE it!
Link to a holiday song they love to sing!
Link to a new holiday song I tried this year that they loved "Holly and the Ivy"
Link to a fun holiday song for 5/6 grade.

I hope you find some ideas you like at Music K-8! Adjudicated festival season is coming! It's a great time to start a singing program! Check it out!
I am about to add the 19th lesson!
My Sight Singing Program for Middle School teachers!
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Old attitudes toward teaching-Self Reflection

I am participating in Aileen Miracle's "Throwback Thursday" linky party.  This is a blog post from last fall.

Have a great weekend!

A few days ago on my blog, I shared a letter I'd written on a Choral Music teacher's forum to a struggling, beginning teacher.

Here is the link to the post:

My note to the frustrated, young choral music teacher 

If you haven't read it, you may want to do so before reading below.

The same day I wrote the post, she responded to me personally via email and thanked me for taking the time to write the message on the forum. She said she was in tears as she watched some of the YouTube videos and read some of the blog posts.  She said that it gave her hope that she could make it to the other side.

That is exactly why I am blogging.

We have got to do better in supporting new teachers. As it is, we give lip service only. Our school and government leaders decide that we should set up mentoring situations between teachers.  They make big pronouncements about new initiatives for mentoring and yet there is no time built in or money spent for the mentors to actually do the mentoring.  So, alas, the beginning teachers are thrown in "sink or swim".

It's shameful that here in Georgia, teachers are currently making less money than in 2008. But...I digress...That is another blog post! :)

The desperation and loneliness that I felt in the early years of teaching were overwhelming...the feeling of failure. It was awful.

Now, I have a program of over 300 children who volunteer to be in the class. I have wonderful administrative support, and I have amazing parental support. It would be easy to look into what I have now and believe that it was always this way.

It wasn't...and I've worked and continue to work very hard to cultivate it on a daily basis. It takes hard work, vision, patience and lots of self-reflection. There is no short cut.

The forum onto which I placed my note to the frustrated, young teacher is open. Responses were given by my peers.  I have included one of the responses below.  I found this one particularly interesting, revealing, and well....for lack of a better expression..."old school".

I'm puzzled by the disrespect, noncooperation and poor attitudes. Won't even sit where they are asked to? These are Christian values? Have you spoken to your school director, administration and/or board? In any type of school there comes a point when unnacceptable behavior ceases to be the teacher's responsibility and should become the administration's. We don't like to admit our difficulties and appear less capable to our employers, and some administrators shirk their responsibilities by throwing it all back on us---are you in this bind? A competent head of school would put a stop to this at once. You should be helped to develop and apply a management plan with consequences for the students from you and from above; and your competence should be judged by your accomplishments with students who behave in class with basic manners. I think it's called "The Golden Rule". Participation should be a basic expectation and requirement, and if they are making no effort they should be dropped. If your class is a school requirement, then--oh well--they suffer the logical and obvious consequence of not graduating. Are the parents enabling this behavior? Do they get to call the shots and undermine the school culture because they're paying the bills? I must respectfully disagree in part with Dale's otherwise excellent advice at "d": "no excuses (counselors/administrators/parents)...find what works in THAT building with THOSE students." In my opinion there is a limit to the thoughtfulness and perserverance advocated here. Some students, some parents, some administrators, some schools are terrible at what they do and not functional. I would compare your experiences with other music teachers and give serious consideration not only to what you can do, but to whether you can do it at your present school. 

..and respectfully, of course, but to me, this sounds like a response we would get from a teacher who taught during the 1950's. 

During my 22 years of teaching in three states in four different schools and countless administrative leadership changes, I have heard so many teachers say things like this. 

So, I'll share some thoughts...

The Golden Rule.......
I have always taught in public schools.  Most of them have been urban.  I have encountered all sorts of, poor, all races, religious and non-religious...who don't have a CLUE about the Golden Rule.  If we base our teaching on hoping we will have children who understand the Golden Rule, we will all fail.   It's no different than choir teachers whose success or failure at teaching sight singing depends on whether or not they have a little "Mozart" in their class that year.  I've taught for a long time, and I am still waiting for that little Mozart to show up! 

We have to find solutions to our own shortcomings and inadequacies as teachers, and the young teacher who created the initial posting is clearly working toward finding hers by reaching out to her peers.  The simple action of reaching out is her way of trying to make it another day.  She wants to survive and thrive as a teacher.

Should we have more support (mentoring and coaching)?  Of course we should.

But, there is very little.

So, we have to do our best to figure it out whatever our circumstances are.  If we aren't willing to do that, then we should quit teaching and get a job in the corporate world because the children who sit in front of us each day don't know about all of this other stuff, and they need us.

My peer disagrees with my "no excuses" point.
 ...and therein lies what I believe is the major issue with people (teachers and non-teachers alike) who don't take the time to do self-reflection.  When the problem is our administrators/counselors/terrible students/missing parents, we never have to find a way to reach the children who are sitting in the classroom...because it isn't our fault.

...But it is.  ...It has to be.  ...Because when it is our fault, we are powerFUL, not powerLESS.

It is our job to persevere.  It is our job to be thoughtful.  It is our job to do everything in our power NOT to give up on the students.

Will we always be successful?  No.

Can we be successful most of the time?  Absolutely.

We must find solutions.

Teachers work so hard.  We sacrifice so much.  No one who isn't a teacher has a clue how hard our jobs are.  I've often heard things like this from my personal friends who work in the business world:  " have 3 months off this get off at 2...get two weeks at Christmas...teachers have it made."

I always reply:  "We need good teachers!  You can have that life too!  You should become a teacher!  We have lots of transition programs for people who want to make the switch from business to teaching!"

It's funny.   ....Not a single one of them has taken me up on that!

Teachers...Let's help our young peers...let's not teach them to blame their situation, their school, their district, their administrators, their children...Let's guide them one step at a time so they can successful classroom management techniques. 

....and let's look inside ourselves and do the work we need to do to make our classroom a place to which our students look forward to coming.  It makes our jobs easier in the long run, and the best part is that the children benefit.

Sight Singing Update...
January is the perfect time to get started with S-Cubed!  Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students!  Try lesson 1 today:
Link to Lesson 1 of S-Cubed! Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students!
Also...remember the upcoming free NAFME webinar I'm offering on January 23rd.  Here is the link:
Free NAFME webinar on Sight Singing! Here is the link! Register today!

I found this funny little image that seemed to sort of sum up self-reflection in a silly way!!  Have a great week!
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Giveaway by a fellow blogger!

I'm offering Lesson 1 in this Giveaway!  Starts Friday!

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A note to a frustrated new Choral Music teacher

Today, I was reading a forum for choral music teachers, and I saw a note from a very frustrated new teacher. She described a program that was shrinking fast. The children who were still left in the class were not interested in being there and were giving about 50% effort on the good days. Here is what I wrote in response:


Sorry to hear that you are experiencing such a difficult time. It's awful and stressful in ways that people who haven't experienced it cannot possibly imagine. 

What you wrote above reminded me of my first three years teaching. I was teaching middle school in an inner city school, and I had replaced a legendary teacher whom the students, parents and faculty loved dearly. It was a demoralizing time for me, and it sounds like you are experiencing something similar. The daily experiences make you feel like a complete and inept failure. 

I am now in year number 22 of my career, and I am grateful beyond measure that I continued teaching.

Moments like these define our character. 

During those rough first years, I did some serious soul searching. I decided that I either needed to figure it out or quit teaching altogether. 

Below, I have listed a few of the questions I asked of myself. I would urge you to dig deep within yourself during some quiet time and really think about these questions over the next several months. You will not find easy, quick answers. You will not solve this overnight or even by the end of this school year....but you can begin taking steps toward solutions that serve you over the long haul. When you start moving toward real solutions based on your answers, I believe that you will be on your way to finding your own, individual and wonderful path toward becoming a master teacher who enjoys her work and thrives in it. 

Here are a few things that I asked myself during this difficult time: 

a) Why am I teaching? 
b) Am I willing to take full, 100% responsibility for where my program is and find solutions? 
c) What type of music am I most passionate about teaching? Then, find a song or two in that genre and share your incredible love and passion for that music with your children. Don't follow the path of other teachers because you believe you have to teach a certain style of music. Find what YOU love...then share it with your students. Because you love it, they are more likely to love learning it. Your passion for it will show while you teach it and they are likely to respond to that passion over time as you build your program. 
d) Can I be ok with losing some students and creating my own "thing"? It's part of the process of becoming the best version of yourself as a teacher, so the answer needs to be yes. We all must have children in the room who are there because they want to be there, and then we must work toward creating that in our classrooms. No excuses (counselors/adminstrators/parents....). Just work toward finding the solution in THAT building with THOSE students. It is our job to give our students something that is fun, interesting, powerful and valuable and to work with our administrators to help them buy into our vision of what our program should be. 
e) Have I looked into a child's eyes today and asked how he is doing today? We've all heard this before, but it's important to remember: Students don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. 
f) At the end of any given school day, ask yourself....What worked really well today? ....Why did it work? ...How can I create more moments like that? 
g) At the end of any given school day, ask yourself...Where did I fail today? ....Why did I fail in that moment? ...How can I avoid moments like that? 
h) Identify 2 or 3 of the most passionate, successful choral teachers in your area. Take a day off school and go watch them. Now that you've taught for 2 years, you will learn much more than you did when you observed teachers during your student teaching. It's different than going to a workshop. Seeing a real teacher in real time working with real students...nothing like it. 

We change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change...and not a moment before. 

My own personal moment of change began to occur when two events happened within a one week period during those early years: 

a) One day, I had been incredibly negative with the students because I was so frustrated with my own inability to reach them. As the children left the room, one child said "I hate that teacher. Anybody got a gun?" 
b) Then, the following Monday, as I rounded the corner to go open my classroom door to begin the day, I found a pile of human feces in front of my door. These events were horrible and vial....and I decided to dig within myself to find how I had brought them into my life. I can look back and laugh at those events now, but they were horribly painful at the time, and I can tell that you, too, are in quite a bit of pain. 

Honest reflection is difficult and necessary. You can survive this. You can be a master teacher who enjoys her work, thrives and builds a wonderful, large choral program at her school. 

You are already working towards that by reaching out to your peers in this forum. 

Hang in there. 

Warm regards, Dale Duncan

Tomorrow is a big day! I think of it as the true beginning of 2014 because we go back to school! Hope it is a great one for you!

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What is possible?

The new year has begun!  There are so many possibilities.  I am super-excited about what lies ahead.

One step at a time, we work toward our goals.  There is no short-cut.  We have to do the work...but we just might as well have some fun along the way, right?

That is why I developed my Sight Singing program for Middle School teachers.  I didn't want to dread teaching this important subject.  Once I figure out how to teach it to my beginners, I wanted to share what I had learned along the way.

So, with the start of the 2014, it feels appropriate to remind myself why I started.  This lesson includes the video of my students who came to me as complete beginners.  With hard work, persistence, dedication, fun and a little bit of competition to spice it up, these students were able to achieve the awesome results you see in the link.

S-Cubed! Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students

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A little sight singing fun!

Adjudicated festival season is coming fast!  My beginning 6th grade chorus students have been working all year on S-Cubed, and they are doing great!   They are sight singing unison melodies with stepwise motion and lots of varied rhythms successfully each and everyday.
They are about to enter a very important new phase next week!  You can see my own little version of reality TV of sorts by watching the daily entries on YouTube!
My YouTube Channel

This is the perfect time of year to start!  
My Sight Singing Program
Jump in!
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