The first 10 minutes of the first day of middle school Chorus! My Music Room Set Up

It's the final day of preparations before the children arrive!

It sort of reminds me of Christmas Eve.

It's all finished.

On the first day, I want my middle school students to know that I will wrap the arms of structure around them immediately, and that we are going to have fun too!   They want both of those things, and they need them both to flourish!  Whichever educator said "Don't Smile Before Christmas" should have been encouraged to find other work opportunities!  :)

With up to 85 students in my classes, it is critical that I have my systems and processes in place at all times!  So...let's go on the tour of the first 10 minutes of experience in my middle school chorus class on the first day!
Click this link to go on a video tour of my classroom set up for the first day!

To get to that moment, here are some of the things I did:

1)  I used Infinite Campus, our grade book, to print labels of the names of the children in each class.  It was quick and easy!
2)  I created seating charts.  It is very important that they have a place to be from the first moment of the first day.

3)  I placed the labels on the chairs to correspond with my seating charts so that I can call their names of the first day if I need to do so!  I don't check roll by calling names out loud.  On a normal day, to check roll, I do a quick scan with my charts and make quick notes in pencil.  More about how I check roll on the first day below the picture.
4)  I copied a word find for them to do.  This helps keep them busy while I deal with late comers, lost children, and folks whose schedules were changed at the last minute.  They will be busy with the word find for about 10-15 minutes.  I play "spa" music!  It relaxes them AND me!    I know my 7th and 8th graders well, but I am meeting the sixth graders for the first time.  So, I quietly walk up to each 6th grade student in their seat, make eye contact, and I say their names.  If I pronounce it wrong, they correct me, and I make quick notes on my chart.  I feel like this connection is critical for us to make with new students.  It's quiet, one-on-one, eye to eye and it sets up a relationship between you and the student.  When we call roll out loud on the first day, the children are put on the spot to perform.  Yes...even saying "here" is a performance for a middle school student, and it can go in a variety of ways!  Going around the room quietly in the way I described above eliminates the performance and gives you an opportunity to connect.  It is important to establish positive rapport immediately.

I often say to my students:  You get one chance to make a first impression.  Well....the first 10 minutes of chorus class is their first impression.  Structure....warmth.....calm.

The next thing I want to establish on Day 1 is FUN!  So, once I've gotten everything organized with late-comers, etc., and I feel like things have calmed down, I launch into the first lesson of S-Cubed: Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students.  Here is the video link to exactly what I do after things have calmed down on the first day

With shortened class periods in my building on Day 1, this is pretty much all I am able to do on that first day, but I wanted to share it with everyone.  Perhaps it will give you some ideas!

Here is a link to the full bundle of S-Cubed!  Click the picture to learn more about it.

Check out my blog!


  1. Just a thought- color code the labels for different periods.
    Question: when do you do voice checks? I'm sure you need to redo the seating and labels then.
    Also, do you assign folders?
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I used to use color coded labels. This year, however, we converted to a new grade book, and I actually got to print the labels instead of write by hand. When I realized that, I ran out and bought the labels that worked with our new grade book and printed really fast! Next year, I will see if there is a color coded label available for sure. I did a little coding by writing the period of the class in varied colors. I do not do individual voice checks...ever. Isn't that blasphemous?! With such large numbers of kids, it just isn't worth the time, and the kids get super stressed about it. I stopped doing it about 3 years into my career. I assess constantly by walking around the room and placing myself around them....and I never tell them I'm assessing. I just do it. Obviously, my kids do a lot singing without accompaniment!

    2. I agree that voice checks are stressful for many students even in small groups they are terribly self-conscious.
      I hope to do more a capella singing this year. BTW, I notice that you use your head voice during forbidden pattern. Do you also teach parts in the same way assuming that your students don't completely sight read octavos?
      And as was mentored before, how often do you change seats? Not yours, the kids!

    3. I always use my falsetto with 6th graders and with the girls in 7th and 8th grade. With the changed boys voices, I use my real voice. In 8th grade, with the mixed choir, I bounce between the voices to teach them to "translate" the octave. I suppose I could do that earlier, but I want to remove as many obstacles early in their training as possible so we can focus on creating good tone and technique.

      I am constantly adjusting their seats to create the best sound for that choir. It settles in after a while, but I will adjust one or two as needed. I also "mix them up" on Fridays occasionally. It's good for them to sit near someone new, and it keeps it interesting.

    4. I like the mix'em up Fridays.
      So more questions:
      you do two part music with 6th and 7th grade?
      three-part mixed with 8th?
      Do you post your lesson plan or objectives for the day/week on the board?

    5. To help make learning to read fun and engaging, our reading program includes lesson stories that are matched to the progress of your child's reading abilities.

      These lessons stories are part of the learning program, and comes with colorful illustrations to make learning reading fun and engaging for you and your child.

      These are the exact same stories and step-by-step lessons that we used to teach our own children to read!

      Find out here: Teach Your Child To Read?

      Best rgs

  2. Great ideas, Dale. Thanks for linking up!

  3. I am very intrigued by what I have seen and heard! I am in a charter school where I see K-12 (!) once per week. Can you offer any tips on ways to start doing choir with the middle school? I really want to focus on the middle school classes becoming Choir, rather than General Music. However, it is tough only seeing them once a week. I am thinking I should ask Administration if I can separate the girls and boys...any tips would be greatly appreciated! I hope to save my pennies to get your program. Thanks!

    1. Thank you!

      In the search area on my blog, type the following:
      Classroom management
      You Can Teach
      You will be led to several articles on those subjects.

      Then, go to my YouTube Channel:
      Type in the following:
      Forbidden Pattern
      The Game
      Cup Up Game
      Classroom Management.

      You will find several ideas on how to approach this age group.

      You definitely need to follow your instincts and request more time with the students. You can definitely use S-Cubed even if you are doing once per week, but I would buy individual lessons starting with lesson 1 rather than jumping into the full program until you get a definite confirmation that you'll see them daily. At the most, I'd buy the first Bundle (Lessons 1-5), but individual lessons might be the most economical approach right now.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Love that you predetermine your seating plan for day one. Do you ever find that you've made huge errors with this and put two clowns next to each other? And if you do...does it drive you crazy that your copy of the seating chart is no longer nice and neat!?

    1. Have I made huge errrors?! Oh yes! No question! In so many ways! :-)

      With 84 students in some classes, I certainly will have placed some bozo's together!

      I should take a picture of my jacked-up seating chart and place it into a blog post. It's a HOT mess because I constantly tweak it to get the right mixture of voices mixed with behavior. The detail work helps...and no. I don't care one bit if it looks a long as it helps the kids succeed.

      Creating the right working chemistry in a choral music classroom is a work of art!

    2. Jeanne GoodnightJuly 2, 2016 at 1:44 AM

      I'd like to offer a possible remedy to the seating chart problem. I'm a band and orchestra director who will be teaching middle school choral for the first time this year. I often have the problem of two jokers sitting together and having to move them. I learned this very efficient way of doing a seating chart from a science teacher friend of mine. The initial set-up is a bit tedious, but can be expedited by cutting more "name tags" ahead of time and it is WELL worth the effort in the end! Here it is:
      1. Using the medium square Post It notes, turn them so that the sticky part is down and away from you, the way you might have it when writing on it. Take a few Post Its together and cut them in half along the bottom, parallel with the sticky part on top.
      2. You should now have 1/2 size Post Its. Still holding the Post Its with the sticky part away from you, cut the Post Its into strips large enough to fit a student's full name on each strip.
      3. You can usually get 5 - 6 strips out of one Post It this way, so if you do 4 or 5 sheets, you can get 25 - 30 strips at a time. If done right, each strip will have a bit of sticky stuff on one end - enough to put it on a seating chart.
      4. After putting the names on the strips, put them onto your seating chart or a strong piece of card stock, in the order you want them to sit. Then PUT THE SEATING CHART INTO A PLASTIC SHEET PROTECTOR. Fold the edges of the sheet protector around the chart and tape the edges, so that the strips don't shift. Also, you may want to secure the strips with a small piece of tape, but this isn't required. You now have a seating chart that you can change student's seats, make marks on the plastic cover for attendance, behavior, etc. to be transferred later into your grade book. Works like a charm and I've been doing it for years! I can post a picture if someone needs clarification. Good luck to all for the new school year! = ] Dale, I have many questions regarding warm-ups, etc. but I'll post separately for those. Thanks for your work! It's great!

    3. I would love to see a picture of this seating chart. I have read it a couple of times and I feel I need a visual. Many thanks!

    4. Email me in August at, and I'll get you a pic! Our school is under construction, and we aren't allowed in. My charts are locked away!

  5. Thank you for the post. I can always learn "little" things from every teacher. . .even though I'm no longer a middle school teacher OR teach music (I do K-5 tech). Just wanted to pop in and thank you for writing all of this stuff out and providing links. . .so often as teachers we don't get the chance to "experience" other classrooms. Thank you for sharing yours!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. These are the best things to be done in time and one nearly have to made something good in accordance with their objects and carrying on with some success parts.

  9. You do seem ready with all these preparations. I hope it went well.
    denver nuggets tickets
    denver nuggets event tickets

  10. I wish I could actually see the class. This looks interesting.
    compare Gatwick parking
    airport parking Gatwick

  11. I am very interested in getting started with this program as I am entering a Grade 6 and 7 choir position in the fall. I’m not sure what to purchase since there are so many options. I will see my students for 2 50-minute classes each week. Please recommend what to purchase. Also, I would like to have a printable booklet. Is this included with your bundles? Thanks for your recommendation!

  12. Best online earning site i have ever seen.Visit the site and earn online income