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!


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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!



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