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Differentiating in the choir rehearsal

Differentiating...those of us in the fine arts roll our eyes and say we've been differentiating for decades.  Our classes are one big example of differentiation.  Well prove it.  I've started a list of a few ways I differentiate my instruction to reach all of the different learning styles or multiple intelligences in my classroom.  PLEASE ADD YOUR IDEAS AND INSIGHTS!
~Experiencing rhythms through different learning styles: (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) written in warm-up cards, aurally, clapping, sight-singing, applied in music & written test
~Teaching high and low through: , sliding, animal sounds, yodeling, shake out, student or teacher modeling
~Notation names: pneumonic devices, alphabet, pop quiz question, student write for class, test
~ Application of notation knowledge i.e: what does unison look like in an open SATB score, where does it stop being unison, why?   Synthesis: How will that sound? How many different notes are being sung? 2 pt? 3 pt? 4 or more? (Using Blooms Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation)
~Using movement while singing: throwing the sound, push air out/pull air in, tip toes/bend knees for high notes
~Imagery: ping pong ball in mouth, breathing through a straw, stand as if you’re 10 ft tall, stomach like a balloon
~Flexible grouping with vocal parts 
~Music vocabulary (Marzano): practical use in the daily rehearsal e.g. crescendo-know the meaning, hear a crescendo, experience/create a crescendo
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on April 15, 2012 3:03pm
Cathy - Here are some additions to your list...
•Part CD's - some singers need it, some do not
•Performance opportunities in small ensembles
•Choral and Solo repertoire in foreign languages
•Content-related bulletin boards to reinforce a choral concept or introduce new concepts
•Content-related visuals on the classroom walls to prompt singer's acquisition of choral concepts (i.e., what is and how to sing a diphthong)
•Mentoring by older and advanced students
•Opportunities for "above-and-beyond" classroom performances
•Applying different style elements to one's own performance of difference genre of vocal performance
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on April 16, 2013 2:44pm
I was at a faculty meeting today where our principal said that, during our mandated observation and evaluation process he has had many people give these poor examples of differentiation and that is NOT (he was adamant) what he is looking for.  Shame on me.  That is exactly where I went with my pre-observation paperwork!
He wants to know how the students are divided (high middle and low achievement or "readiness") and how we prepare to meet the needs of those students.   What am I doing to help the kids with different "readiness" levels. I quickly revised my answers and sent them on.
My answer: 
ALL students are expected to achieve mastery for performances.  
Low readiness kids are given more time, multiple chances, online resources (part learning recordings) mentors, special testing (eg, sing with all the altos instead of in a quartet) and special seating in the ensemble.
High readiness kids are given leadership opportunities (section leader, mentor or buddy, directing opportunities, solos, small group ensemble work at higher levels, opportunities to create: program notes, multi-media presentations, instrument accompaniments and dance routines...
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on April 17, 2013 6:09am
I also think it's important to point out to administrators that differentiation and readiness in the music classroom is more closely related to their musical ability rather than their academic ability.  A student may need many academic supports but might be an exceptional singer and musician, for example.  The student's academic deficiencies may actully be helped by their active engagement in music, where they excell, as it provides them with an opportunity to build confidence and succeeed.  Just as a math teacher looks for ways to support that weak student in math, we look for ways to support and scaffold the weak musical student. It just looks different in our classroom. And everyone pulls together for a common goal. This is unique to what we do.  
Keep trying to explain it to those who do not understand. It is important that we be proactive in teaching our administrators the value of what we do everry day in the ensemble rehearsal room!
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on April 19, 2013 6:34am
I think Cathy and Marie are both right.  Differentiation is understanding how students are divided based on their abilities and their learning styles.  We need to recognize not only the level at which are students are learning but how they learn as well.  Are we providing opportunities to learn visually, aurally and kinesthetically with the appropriate scaffolding in place for those students who need extra help?  
on April 20, 2013 3:52am
Dare I mention that, unlike academic differentiation, which (without being a behavioral psychologist or a researcher in brain activity) is perhaps most likely centered in that portion of the brain that deals with fact (i.e., the left hemisphere), artists, while certainly partaking of left-brain activity (the actual mathematical and mechanical/technical aspects of notes and words) are in fact most active in the RIGHT brain - and this activity, while essential to what we do, is more difficult to measure in "high, medium, low" academic ability?  Joy's point is spot on - you may have the academically challenged student (essentially left-brain activity) who is nonetheless artistically (in this case musically, or right-brain) on top of the game - and administrators, who for the most part unfortunately tend to be "bean-counters" and are only looking for easily mensurable elements, do not grasp that this is NOT an easily mensurable activity, because you can't quite "count" it!  Having taught for a year from K-5 as a long-term music substitute at my son's elementary school, I was identified by the principal as being a "Flaming Four" - she being a teacher of teachers herself - and her point was that I was clearly a learner who went readily from one to another style of learning, and taught in a similar way.  We must also recognize in ourselves what our learning "style" is, and be prepared to adjust that to teach more effectively to those who may not fall into "our" learning style - exactly Jennifer's point.
on July 17, 2014 1:54pm
I'm jumping in this thread late, but this was the first thing that popped up on a google search for differentiated instruction in choir.  I am teaching differentiation as an instructional focus for the teachers in my district.  Be aware, that while sliding, animal sounds, yodeling, etc. address different learning styles, they do no necessarily address different levels of readiness or give students an opportunity to engage with his/her particular learning style.  Perhaps a student could use a choice board to decide how he/she would show high/low giving students indepdent opportunities to work with a single concept.  What about the student who already knows high and low?
What does the application of notation look like in a differentiated classroom?  With solid pre-assessments, you should know which of your students already knows what unison, score, etc. look like and which do not.  A great application of Bloom's is a Bloom Chart.  Here, the various activites dealing with reading from a score would be written from basic to advanced (remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create).  Students with various backgrounds in music would interact with music at different levels.
A truly differentiated classroom is not just a classroom where whole group instruction is taking place in a variety of ways (differentiating the process).  This can cause a hap-hazard approach that may or may not reach multiple learners.  A DI classroom is intentional, based on strong pre-assessments and differentiates the content, process and products.  A great resource for this topic is: Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices in the Classroom by Julia L roberts and Tracy F. Inman.
on July 18, 2014 1:07pm
Whether we are musicians, music educators, music professors or directors of music degree programs, we must continually insist that the people demanding differentiation actually have experience doing this in a music classroom in a musically relevant way.   What a concept!  Can you imagine if we were in charge and issued a demand that henceforth, all English lesson plans and instruction were to incorporate singing and at least seven of the National Standards for music instruction, as well as Gordon's Taxonomy for the Development and Synthesis of Musical Literacy and Its Application to All Other Subjects (yes, lets use an important sounding, pompous term, too) ?
on July 18, 2014 11:41pm
on July 20, 2014 4:07am
One thing that I'm going to do this year is have an explicit assessment Google Form for my high-school choir students. They will each assess themselves every quarter, and it will hopefully give them an idea what benchmarks they have reached and where they can improve. (I will assess them, too, of course.)

The assessment is based upon the Virginia Music Standards of Learning. Consulting with every singer, they will be put on a track for one of the designated levels--Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, or Artist. Not a perfect system, but I believe that it will help.
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