Assessment season S-Cubed Sight Singing MEGA Bundle Giveaway!

Have you watched your peers walk into and out of the sight-singing room this year relaxed and pleased with the results?

Well, it's your turn.

The benefits of using S-Cubed Sight Singing Program far outweigh the rating our students get. 

Tone production, listening skills, pitch and rhythmic accuracy all improve with this program.

Originally, I designed this program for Middle School singers because those are the students that I teach.  It became apparent over time that this program is more than just another sight-singing program because of the benefits my own students have enjoyed as well as the students of the teachers who have purchased and used the program for years now. 

So, I decided to have a giveaway since lots of people see and hear about this program when they go to their assessments with their choirs.

If you've already got the program, tell your district supervisor and help your leader realize this would be good for the district and encourage him or her to take a look at the TpT for Schools program which has made it a lot easier for administrators and teachers to collaborate on curriculum purchases like S-Cubed Sight Singing Program. 

If you've told him/her, and he/she isn't listening, tell the leaders of your elementary school feeder programs.  They can use the first five lessons of the program, and it will last them all year since most elementary teachers don't see their students more than once or twice weekly.  And most importantly, exposing elementary singers to S-Cubed will help their students enter their middle school choral classroom using solfege with ease, and their ears will be significantly improved. 

If you have a high school teacher in your system who doesn't have a strong feeder program and who wants to get his/her beginners to learn to sight-sing and to enjoy the process, let them know about these testimonials about how it has worked with that age group.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 21st.  I'll email everyone who entered the giveaway and share the name of the person who one, and I'll offer each person who entered the giveaway 50% off the regular price of the MEGA Bundle and Level one of S-Cubed.  Normally, those two bundles are $349 and $249 each so it will be a great time to grab the program.  The winner will have 48 hours to contact me to get the MEGA Bundle, and the 50% special offer will last Wednesday and Thursday, March 21 and 22 until midnight. 

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2018 Choral Assessment Henderson Middle School S-Cubed Sight Singing

It's March 15, 2018, and I've just completed my annual choral assessment with my 4 choirs at Henderson Middle.

This is my 26th year teaching, but it doesn't matter.  I still get nervous and excited, and I still learn from every choir I watch at the events.

This year, I didn't participate in my home district's assessment event.  The dates bumped up against spring break at the very end of March, and at my school, there are about 10 field trips that occur during the last 10 days before the break.  I'm not sure why our district plans the assessment so late in the calendar, but it is what it is.  I knew that if my students went that late, our results would not be good ones.  My personal belief is that assessment should occur at the end of 3rd nine weeks so you can turn the corner for the fourth nine weeks and teach new ideas.

So, last summer, as soon as I learned about the dates of my home district's LGPE, I started sending emails to learn how to participate in a different event in a new district that would create the opportunity for my students to do their best.

That is, after all, what is it ultimately about.

So, I took my 8th graders to a new event!   New building.  New choirs for them to hear.   And on and on.

It was the perfect situation in the end....even though I had to pay a lot of money for buses to get them there and back because our district isn't able to accommodate times for choirs after 2 PM.   But, then again, our home district surprised us with the same outcome last year.  They notified us one month before our event that some of us would have awkward timing that would impact bus timing that could cause our students to have to stay until 5:30 PM (even if they sang at 12:30 PM)  in order to get back to school.

Somehow, our district, who pays for our buses to go to LGPE assessment manages to accommodate athletics and cheerleaders after 2 PM, but not choirs, or science and math field trips...but that's another blog post.

I digress.

So, I got my students to the event early because I wanted them to get the opportunity to listen to other groups.

We were able to hear four groups...and the event was executed on time like clockwork.  Truly amazing.

Oh wow.

On the day before we went to the event, I was giving instructions to students about the field trip.  One of them asked a question...I don't remember what it was...but the contents were something like..."Normally, we are the group that people wait to hear.  Will we be that in this district?"

I answered honestly.

"First of all, I'm not sure where you got that impression.  Second of all,  just sing."

So, the private bus company we hired (same as last year to get us to our own home event) to help us arrive and depart with was amazing.  They arrived on time...early actually.  They called me to tell me they were there.  They even called the day before to make sure we were feeling comfortable.  I met them in the parking lot, and I told them that they would be waiting because of the National School Walkouts.  They totally accommodated us which made it so much easier for me, the parents and the students.

I am grateful to have the funding for my program to hire buses for my students.   It's taken years to build that, and I don't take it for granted.   It wouldn't be possible without years of relationship building with the parents, students and with the administration.

My students and I listened to four groups sing.  The singing my students and I heard during that time was truly inspirational.

I heard syllabic inflection.  ...Epically actually.

I heard stunning tone.

True choral singing.

My hands began to shake a little.  I saw my students looking back at me like...."Um...that was good."

I was thrilled to see it...and more importantly to see that they noticed!

We walked into the warm-up room, and I tore into the warm-up as focused as I'd been since you start with that, you should stop...but you get the point.

So, it was good to do something different!  I am so glad I ventured outside my comfort zone and tried something new.

They probably would have sung as well in their old location, but that zip-a-dee-doo-da of new energy for me was exactly the shot in the arm that I needed.

Here are some links to their performances:

Hitch a Ride (sorry I forgot to teach the Picardy 3rd, but it was my first time trying the piece!  Ball dropped...but all involved survived and thrived despite my singers included...thankfully.)

I am but a Small Voice    So proud of this 8th-grade group for singing SSATB with confidence.  It's not easy, but they rose to the challenge.  I wouldn't try this with most of my groups!

Here they are in the sight singing room preparing the example.

And here is the final product after the five minutes of work we'd trained for.

Change is good and hard work pays off wherever you are.  

That is the lesson I learned from this assessment. 

Make sure you go to my YouTube Channel to see my other groups and lots of other information including classroom teaching tips, sight singing examples, teaching examples, and so much more.

Does S-Cubed work with High School and Elementary singers?

On March 6, 2018, I received this message from a high school teacher who uses S-Cubed Sight Singing Program for Beginners.

I am so happy that I use this program! As a first-year teacher in a high school, one of the things I was most nervous about was effectively teaching sight-singing. I knew that many of my students had never done it before, and I didn’t want it to be a tedious part of the choral rehearsal that kids dread, especially since I wanted to sight-sing regularly. I also didn’t feel like a very confident sight-reader, either. I was able to modify S-cubed for high school kids, and set a great foundation for regular sight reading. My students enjoy the games and competition, and since we use the projector, they don’t hide in their books. Music in the Middle also helped me to set a really strong procedure for my class with a structured routine that flows seamlessly and makes the best use of my rehearsal. We work bell-to-bell, and the kids have grown consistently in their music literacy and tone! At our festival this year, we not only nailed the sight-singing with ample time to spare, we also added text, phrasing, breath marks, and balanced the sound across sections. We earned a score of 100 and used our spare time to show off some of our literature! I’m incredibly proud of the work my students have put in and grateful to have this resource. 🙂

Christa Fredrickson
Director of Choral Activities
Centennial High School
Las Cruces, NM

On the same day I received the letter above from the high school teacher, I received this message from a teacher who teaches 4th and 5th grade on my YouTube Channel:

When I created the program, I called it the "S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners" because I use the program in my classroom, and I teach middle school beginners.
I wanted to be honest about where I knew the program would work because of my own experience.

Since that time, I get the same questions over and over from both upper elementary teachers and high school teachers.

Will it work with my singers?

Here is my advice.

Read all of the product descriptions in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. I've spent many hours preparing the descriptions so people know exactly what they will get when they purchase. Read all of the reviews, consider the evidence and make an informed decision so that you can spend your resources where they will be best used for your students in your setting.

If you purchase, start from the beginning and follow every step. ...Even if you believe you have some advanced singers... S-Cubed method needs to be followed step by step and cannot be rushed.

If you are a high school teacher who teaches beginners, then you still have to start from the beginning. You will likely move more quickly, so I recommend that you purchase the MEGA Bundle which includes the entire program.

If you are an elementary teacher who wants to explore S-Cubed and prepare your students for middle school choir, use this bundle. I call it the Elementary Bundle because it only includes the first five lessons of the program. Since most elementary music teachers don't see their students very often, this bundle will likely take the entire school year to present. It will lay a strong foundation in solfege for your singers, and they have fun as they learn how to use the hand signs.

I am so glad it appears to be working for teachers at many levels.

Keep sharing the news about this program with peers who teach all age groups!

Thank you for your support!

Sight Singing with Beginners: Audiation? Or Chaos? Or Both?

It's March, and it's contest season!

This is my 26th school year teaching middle school beginners.  I've taught in 3 states in the USA, and it is quite interesting to experience the differences in expectations at the various state sight singing adjudications.  Standards change over time, but here is my experience with sight singing in the three states in which I have taught:

1)  In North Carolina in the early 1990's, where I began my career, my students had to read unison
a capella music with stepwise motion.  Rhythms were quite simple.  As I recall, students were allowed to sing out loud as they prepared, but I had no clue how to teach the subject to beginners at the time.  I was just thankful the examples were easy so my students didn't walk out of the room deflated.

2)  In New Jersey in the late 1990's and early 2000's, there was no sight singing component at their state adjudication.

3)  In Georgia, where I have taught for 15 years, the sight singing requirement is incredibly challenging.  In fact, when I first read the requirements after moving here, I called a colleague and said, "Is this for real?  I couldn't have read this during my freshman year of college."
...And it's gotten harder and harder since my first year teaching here in 2002.   I have big concerns about the high level of difficulty because I think it frustrates new teachers, and most importantly, their young singers, but it is what it is.  Fortunately, singers in Georgia are allowed to use "Chaos" (practice out loud) for the five minutes they have to study the example.

The rules in the sight singing room vary by state.  Ever since I began sharing S-Cubed Sight Singing Program in 2014, I have heard from many teachers.  Some of those teachers have been from states where audiation is expected in the sight singing room.   The teachers who have reached out to me always asked me what they should do regarding the S-Cubed technique "chaos" in order to ensure that their students weren't caught off guard.  Each time, my recommendation has been to stop using "chaos" 2-4 weeks before adjudication and to help them develop techniques in audiation so they are able to be successful in the sight singing room while following the rules of that state. 

Having taught middle school choral music for so many years, my own personal experience with audiation has been that it isn't an effective tool for teaching beginners to sight sing.  When I have tried to use it with my students to teach sight singing, I have not been successful and neither are they. 

For me, teaching sight singing to beginners using audiation has always felt comparable to forcing a child, from birth through age 4 to imagine speaking rather than actually speaking and then expecting him to speak perfectly the moment he reaches his 4th birthday.

Is audiation a useful tool once they establish their skill sets in sight singing? 

Absolutely!  It is, in my view, an effective tool for continued musical growth and development for more advanced singers.

...But to force audiation on beginners, for me, has always seemed like an exercise in frustration.  I am grateful that, in Georgia, students are allowed to sing out loud as they prepare the example.    And the best part is that, after a year of sight singing training using chaos, I can give my students a pitch, send them to their corners and let them figure out how to sing literature. 

And that's the whole point of teaching sight singing in the first place.

Though recently, I have become more interested in the concept of audiation in young singers.  That is why I did this recent survey.   I find myself using the concept with my advanced middle school students more and more when they are finding pitches for their a capella work.  I plan to continue to explore the concept.  I enjoy the quiet of audiation!  :-)

After I posted this survey a few weeks ago, many teachers asked if they could see the results, so I decided to share what I learned.

*As of this moment (March 3, 2018), there have been 218 responses.

I posted the survey on several large Facebook groups for music teachers, my own Mr D Facebook pageon Twitter, and Pinterest

To read the results, click here.

There is such a wealth of information in this survey.

I still need to read it all!  

I hope it helps all of us think.

One of my primary goals, when I decided to share ideas with teachers on the internet, was to help teachers who teach beginners to stay in the classroom.  Students who can afford private lessons are important for sure, but most of the students who have ended up in my classroom over the years have not been those students.  I'm still waiting for my little Mozart!  So, it was up to me to figure out how to engage and excite the students who didn't come to me with experience or a private teacher.

Don't beat yourself up if you haven't figured out how to help your students succeed in the sight singing room in your state.  Hang in there.  Assess your teaching daily.  Watch others who have figured it out.  

Then, let go.

Your students need way more than a superior rating.  They need to know you are human, that you care about them, and that you are a passionate music educator who is willing to learn and grow so you can be the best you can be for your students.

Have a great week!