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Music Teacher Tip #34 - Student Solutions

Music Teacher Tip #34:

I'm grateful to have access to several Facebook pages for music teachers to share ideas and to STEAL ideas for this page.

Today, a choir director said that she got a not-so-great formal evaluation because her whole class was teacher-led. The last time I observed student teachers, I found myself saying the same thing to them, so I'm inspired to share some effective ways to make your rehearsals less teacher-led and more engaging for your students.

Note that "less teacher-led" doesn't necessarily mean that students have to lead the rehearsal; it just means that the teacher isn't always talking or directing with students always listening to only the teacher.

Students will be much more engaged if they have opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas with the class and with each other.

Students will also be more engaged if they have opportunities for leadership when appropriate.

Here's the hard truth: a completely teacher-led class tends to be a little boring. Variety is the spice of life, right? So here are some ideas to spice things up!

Don't prescribe every solution every time something isn't right. Your students should practice evaluating the sound of their own voice and the voices in the room. The only way for them to be an effective choir member is if they continually do this while they sing. So why not ask them what they think? If they're not using enough support to sing in tune, ask them what they heard and what they could do to fix it. Even very young children can and should do this. ALL singers should do this!

I'm also going to revisit a recent topic because it applies here too. Allow students time to share ideas with each other. "Think, pair, share" is a great way to do this. Ask a question of the group, allow them to pair with someone, and then have them share thoughts/answers with each other. I love this so much for the following reasons: • It gives a chance for the quiet students to answer without the pressure of speaking in front of the whole class; • ALL students will be engaged because they ALL get to talk. When you only call on one student, it's typical for all the others to tune out. • After "Think, pair, share" you can ask students to raise their hands if they'd like to share something awesome that their neighbor said. This is also a way to give the quiet kid a voice through the more extroverted one. It also helps build a positive atmosphere.

Also, you would be amazed at how brilliant your students are if only you would give them the chance to speak.

I once had rehearsal with my all-male youth choir. I had a mixture of middle and high schoolers on Friday nights. For one rehearsal they were a bit too enthusiastic about all of the dynamics. In other words, most of the song was way louder than the dynamics indicated. (Yes, they were enthusiastic!) I tried reminding them, showing them a more dramatic change in my gesture, pointing out the dynamics in the score, etc. I finally just told them I was out of ideas and asked them if they had any ideas to make it better.

One of the guys raised his hand and said, "What if we stand up for the loud parts and sit for the quieter parts?" Brilliant! If someone forgot, then everyone in the room sitting would definitely be a great visual cue. Also, putting that change in their bodies would ensure that no one would forget. Oh, and it made remembering FUN!

We tried it and on the first try, the problem was solved. What I couldn't do in 5 minutes of badgering them, they fixed in one minute with a suggestion from an 8th grader.

All of the things I've suggested are 21st century learning strategies that you've been hearing so much about. Collaboration, student leadership, and higher-order thinking (evaluation and creating) are all 21st century skills that our students need. Incorporating them into your lessons means that your instruction is NOT teacher-led, but rather, it is engaging, exciting, and makes students feel they are a part of something special! Imagine being part of a group where your ideas and your opinions matter!

Give your students a chance to share with you and each other. Allow them to be creative and help come up with musical solutions to musical problems. Let them lead sometimes. Your lessons will be all the better for it and you might just learn something from THEM!

Happy teaching! ❤️🎶

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