If you want your rehearsals to improve, now is a GREAT time to make the appropriate changes.
Think back to before the break…..
Did your rehearsals flowing perfectly?
Were there behavioral issues?
Were there disruptions that you wished to eliminate?
Did you want to improve the focus of your ensemble?
Many times, we get frustrated in rehearsals, but push forward because of impending concerts. Now we can make changes that improve all aspects of our rehearsal. The changes listed below are simple, quick, and can make a huge impact on the second half of your year!
Here are 11 Quick-Fix Rehearsal Changes to Start the New Year
1. Move seats around.
Were there students talking to one another constantly? Could sections switch positions in the room? New seats create a new environment for your singers. In my choir room, I use numbered seats. This allows for a quick posting of new seats in google classroom. You could even physically move the seats around into a different alignment.
2. Start your warm-ups at the bell
Nothing gets the students in gear more than punctuality. Even if they are late (with acceptable reasons), it shouldn’t affect the start time of the class. Students who are already in the classroom should be singing immediately at the bell. While we’re at it, change-up your warm-ups.
3. Change or Reinforce a Rehearsal Guideline (or Rule)
If your guidelines are good, take the time to reinforce them. Use the first rehearsal back as an opportunity to re-teach the important guidelines.
If your guidelines are ineffective (Be Respectful is a perfect example of an ineffective guideline), delete one and add one that can help your group. Be sure to introduce, explain, and reinforce any new guideline.
4. Find A Better Way to Redirect Poor Behavior
When students break the rules, many of us tend to not want to give out the consequences we created. I suggest changing the term “Rules” to “Guidelines”. When you do this, you no longer give out consequences. Instead you can re-direct behavior. If your goal is to improve the rehearsal, this approach will help students to follow the guidelines rather than punish students for breaking rules.
5. Bathroom Policy
Do too many students leave the room at once? Does your policy require your students to disrupt the class to ask if they can use the bathroom? Do some singers leave the room too often? Streamline the approach. A simple time-in/time-out sheet or a google form they can access from their device could eliminate the disruption. A flipped red card/green card by the sign in-sign out sheet can let the entire choir know if someone has already left the room.
6. Modify any broken routines
If anything is causing a disruption or taking too long, it may be due to a poorly created or rehearsed routine. It could also be due to having no set routine, which ultimately means the students are in control. How do you distribute music, handle lateness, move from song to song, etc? If a routine needs to be created, modified, or reinforced, now is a great time to do so!
7. Sing to the bell (not earlier)
In order to do this, explain this procedure ahead of time. Halfway through the rehearsal, let the students know from now on you will be rehearsing to the bell and you will let them know when to pack up (rather than allowing them to dictate the end of class). 3 minutes before the end of the period, remind students of this new/revisited procedure. I have found that we sing to the bell, my students leave the classroom still singing!
8. Incorporate self-assessment into your curriculum
Students thrive when they learn how to hold themselves accountable. This can only happen when you have clarity on exactly what you expect from them. Choose the most important aspects of the rehearsal that you want them to focus on and use written self-assessments as a motivational tool for their growth. I have some effective pre-made self-assessments for daily rehearsals as well as for varied sight-singing, concerts, and a myriad of other activities. They are all editable to fit your ensemble like a glove.
9. Incorporate Aural Training into the warm-up
Teach your singers to sing thirds, fourths and fifths daily. Randomly call out intervals (do, sol, re), or (do, ti, fa), and see if they can sing them back. Ask your students to sing scales but have them audiate certain pitches.
(Do, re, xx, fa, sol, xx, ti do)
(Do, ti; xx, sol, fa, xx, re, do)
As they advance, give them the best aural training exercise you will ever use!
10. Sight-sing every day after warm-ups for 2 minutes.
Two minutes a day will make a big difference. I recommend using Sight Reading Factory (save 10% with code: choralclarity) because you can complete 3-4 examples in 2 minutes and the examples can be hiding on the Smart Board under the daily announcements.
11. Choose a different way to teach a piece of music
There are endless ways to teach a piece of music. I find that most of us teach all repertoire the same way; we create a system that we are comfortable with and regardless of genre, teach the same way each time.
I suggest trying a different system. Of course, the system should align with the style of music you are choosing. A new way of teaching creates a new way of student engagement.
Here are some suggestions for changing up your approach for teaching music:
A) have everyone sight-sing their own part. Don’t use the piano at all.
B) have everyone sight-sing everyone’s part (the entire class sings one part at a time).
C) have students label the solfege to their part from beginning to end.
D) teach a song completely by rote. You can have the parts written in front of you, but students remain standing and respond only through call and response.
E) teach a song by rote and have the singers improvise harmonies.
F) use choral rehearsal tracks to learn a song. Students can sing to the full recording, break up into sections during class, or put in their headphones and practice.
The Ultimate Rehearsal Fix
If you truly want to restart your program, I recommend taking my Choir Crash Course: Mid-Year Retool. After taking this online, on demand course, you will gain the skills to properly turn around your choir mid-year. While you can find much of this info scattered throughout my blog, this course will guide you through the step-by-step process to turn around your program.
First, you will understand WHY your students are disruptive or disengaged. Next, you will understand how to build the proper foundation for your program. Finally, you will learn how to implement these changes and get buy-in from your students.
This course covers the nuts and bolts of discipline, behavior modification, rehearsal structure, routines, seating, and much more. Mid-Year Re-Tool consists of 2 dozen short and effective videos; handouts and cheat sheets are provided as well.