Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wrapping the arms of structure around your Middle School Singers


Wrapping the Arms of Structure Around Your Middle School Singers


 I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or not, but I have been asked many times after a concert with my 300+ middle school choral music students, “What do you SAY to the students that keeps them so disciplined?”

When I hear that, I chuckle inside because it isn’t just one thing.  I wish it were.  It would be so much easier!

Middle school students thrive on structure.  How many times have your students walked into your class and said, “What are we doing today?” 

I usually make up a funny thing like “We are going to dissect cockroaches and sing songs about it” and then point them to the promethean board where the first activity of the day is ready for them.

From the first day of school, I make sure that when they walk into my room, they know that my classroom is a place where we have a plan.

Is it ok to let up on that structure once in a while?  Sure.  But only after you have established strong scaffolding and the daily routines are set in stone.

When I first started teaching public school middle school chorus, I didn’t understand how important structure is for them.  My verbal instructions were not clear.  I hadn’t thought through the sequencing with the brain of a sixth grader…which is different than the brain of an 8th grader…which I didn’t realize in those early years…and which caused me so much grief.  The kids wanted to do the right thing, but I was clueless about how to convey the information in an effective manner that yielded results.

We can’t just talk when we give directions. 

We have to demonstrate, and they must experience what we are teaching…not just hear it. 

We have to bring the learning objectives to life.

It all goes back to the three types of learners:  visual, auditory, kinesthetic.  In my experience, we have to hit all three when we are teaching this age group…whether we are teaching music or a process/procedure, and it helps if we can do it with humor.  Everyone likes to laugh. 

I created this video for my students, and we worked to make it as silly as possible.  I show it to my students at the beginning of the year, and they absolutely love it. 




 So, back to the question I get asked…”What do you say to the students that keeps them so disciplined”?

I have no idea.

…but I do know that I’ve learned to anticipate what they need.  I take time to teach processes.   I give them structure.  And we laugh. 

I think that all of those things combined encourage respect that is mutual and circular.   


Hope you are enjoying your summer rest!  I know that I am!




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