Iowa Choral Directors Association, Inc.

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R&S: Junior High/Middle School

Getting-Started Kit

The following “kit” is a compilation of responses from a roundtable discussion of veteran Iowa choral directors at the 2004 ICDA summer convention.  The first word of advice is to go to each summer ICDA convention!  You learn so much, you hear such great singing, you have so much fun, and you develop such close friendships with colleagues. 

  1. The first week of school
    1. Sing and Move — a simple, fun song or round or partner songs. 
    2. Have students mark concerts for the upcoming year in their planners
    3. Explain why there is “no gum” in choir. 
    4. Get to know your students with a Getting Acquainted Survey or have kids write pertinent information on a 3X5” card.   Help kids get to know each other with “Getting Acquainted Bingo”
    5. Attendance – in addition to other procedures you will review with the kids (fire and tornado drills, code yellow drills, etc.), one idea for taking daily attendance would be to give everyone a number (1-95) and each class would start with the kids numbering off for attendance.  This method is quick and effective.
    6. Have each child bring a box of Kleenex for use throughout the school year.
    7. Divide the kids into sections quickly by singing simple range exercises with everyone right in class.   Don’t be afraid to bring small groups of kids down around the piano to sing.
    8. Teach students different posture positions – 1, 2, 3.  Position 1 is standing; position 2 is sitting up in their chair; position 3 is sitting back in their chair in a relaxed position.
    9. Begin teaching students principals of posture.
  2. Selecting music
    1. By far the most important decision we make as choral directors is the choice of music to study and perform.  There are so many factors, but first and foremost it’s about getting these adolescents singing and learning.
    2. SAB music is not always the answer.  SATB music can actually be much easier to learn because the ranges fit better.
    3. Do not be afraid to challenge this age with more sophisticated literature or songs in foreign languages. 
    4. Be well aware of the singers range limitations, but be willing to use pivot tones (chordal tones in their range to replace the few notes out of their range) in order for the kids to be successful.
    5. Key into student interests.
  3. Concert etiquette
    1. Do not wait until the concert night to talk about appropriate behaviors.  Start early.
    2. Review appropriate behaviors for both the performer and the audience.  This may also be used in program notes.
    3. The fifteen minutes before a middle school concert can be the most stressful.  The kids can be “off the wall.”  Enlist the help of other “core” teachers to assist with line up.
  4. Other things to think about
    1. Put an inspirational quote about music in the room each day (you may also want to include these in your program)
    2. Start each class on time.  The kids will hustle in if they hear that warm-ups have started.
    3. Don’t sing with the kids to hide wrong notes.  Our greatest resource is our voice to model correct singing.  Overtaxing your voice will take its toll.  Use an amplification device, if possible, during class.  The kids can hear you better and it saves your voice.
    4. Talk less, sing more.
    5. Use humor.
    6. Make friends with the secretaries and custodians.  You’ve probably heard that before.  In general, though, be on good terms with the entire staff of your building.
    7. Write up introductions for students to read before songs at your programs.
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