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Music Teacher Tip #37 - Where to Put All These Kids?

Music Teacher Tip #37:

Where to put all these kids??? 🤷🏼‍♀️

If you teach middle or high school chorus, it’s likely that you have a LOT of students in each class. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming deciding where to put them especially if their voices are changing. 🤦🏼‍♀️

Here are some tips to help:

Resist the urge to label their voices. Also resist the urge to tell students their voice type. For both middle and high school students, their voices will likely continue to change a LOT. Keep reminding them that while their bodies change drastically, so will their voices. But also that their voices continue to grow and develop their entire lives.

Yes, girls’ voices change too, just typically, not as dramatically.

Do not call on sections by saying “girls, ladies, guys, gentlemen,” etc. To do so makes your students feel like they have to fit a mold that may not be appropriate for them personally. It’s better to say “part one” or “baritones.”

I once taught a 6th grade boy who was a full-fledged bass. I had to get permission for him to sing with the 8th grade choir because he was the only one. If you’re able to convince your principal to allow this, great!

I’m currently teaching private voice to a gifted 8th grade boy who can still hit notes up to an octave higher than I can. In other words, all boys change at different rates. Encourage them to be accepting of themselves and others.

It is common for boys that when they get new lower notes, they think they’re supposed to only sing down there. Tell them that they will get to keep their upper notes too as they get more lower notes. Use sirens to keep them using their head voices as long as possible. Just because they have gained a few lower notes doesn’t mean they lose the top all at once.

There are many models for seating arrangements that can work for various choirs. Here are the things to consider when placing singers:

Current voice type. In all choirs except the most advanced, put like parts together.

Behavior. The more challenged they are, the closer I like to keep them to me. If that’s not possible, try to put them between students who won’t encourage their antics.

Can they match pitch? If they’re struggling to match, it’s best to have them beside someone who is matching AND on the end of a row (next to no one) so they can better hear themselves.

Height. It’s optimal to have students change positions from seated to standing throughout rehearsal. Be sure that your shorter kids can see when everyone stands up. Close to concert time, you’ll want to be very particular about this so that your choir looks great on stage.

Special needs. If someone has a visual or hearing impairment you’ll want them near the front of the room. Be sure to check their IEP or 504 plans for any other special needs.

Ability. If you need a student who is singing alto for example to be next to a student on a different part, (i.e., on the edge of their section), choose more advanced students for both positions.

If at some point you do need to change a student’s seat/part due to a voice change, it’s best to approach them privately and to check their range privately if possible. Remember how awkward you were during puberty? Most of your kids feel the same and for their teacher to announce these things in front of the class could be potentially embarrassing not only for the changing kid, but also for those who aren’t changing yet.

Remember to encourage them as their voices grow and develop. Don’t assume your boys are excited to change to bass clef. I’ve taught male students who were quite upset to lose the high voice that they had worked so hard to train.

Most of all, create a climate of inclusion and acceptance. Changing seats for any reason can be upsetting and difficult - especially if the student doesn’t understand the reason why. Communicate with discretion to your students and let them know that you’re there to support them no matter what their voice is doing at any given time.

Happy teaching! ❤️🎶

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