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Daily Rehearsal "Objectives" - need suggestions

My new principal is requiring all classes have written objectives for each class meeting.  I already list my rehearsal plan on my board, but that's not enough.  They are requesting I focus on one or more "objectives" that can be quanitified and discussed for student self-assessment ("OK everyone, did we meet our objectives today?") as well as instructor assessment. Having taught high school choral music for 25 years, I've having a bit of a hard time making this work for me. As we all know, we are assessing our choirs every moment of every rehearsal and focusing our attention (objectives) on what ever is needed at each moment, be it diction, tone quality, expression or just simply learning the notes.  I do all of these things every class, all the time...I can't divide it up into "Today we are working on....I find myself just making up stuff to put on the board just in case an administrator comes into my room (such as "Let's explore the diction needs in this particular song...) and then not even looking at it or refering to it as the rehearsal progresses.  This "objective" concept is doing me no good at all.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who is having to deal with this stuff.  I'd love to hear what has worked for you and suggestions for making this really work so it's not just daily busy work for me. Thanks.
on March 12, 2014 5:45am
We have to do the same thing using Bloom's taxonomy verbs.  I was upset about it at first, but now that I'm in the routine, it's fine.  When I plan my lessons, I try to find a specific objective for each song we're working on.  I display these objectives on the board and reference them through class.  Also, in my reflecting, I note whether the objective was met or not.  I keep all of my objectives that I create in a Word document and reuse them as much as possible.  Here are a couple that I use quite often.  Hope this helps!!
Today, students will:
Apply sight-reading skills to new music.
Memorize measures #20-31 of "Turtle Dove".
Use correct breathing and posture for singing.
Define choral breathing.
Identify articulations in "Turtle Dove".
Practice in sectionals.
Discuss meaning of lyrics.
Show expression.
Match lyrics with solfege.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 12, 2014 6:41am
I agree with you!  Teaching music is different, and getting ready for performance requires so much repetition.  Not every day will have an attainable goal that is dramatically different than other days.  And when you head into one rehearsal thinking that you are going to work on rhubato, but then realize the singers need more work on pronunciation, your focus for that day has to change in the moment.
I guess I would add, though, that I've come to think of the rehearsal arc for a piece as including different style rehearsals, including:
- an introduction to the "whole" of the piece, which might be listening to a recording, sigt reading with an accompanist, etc.
- 2-3 sessions going through the piece in sections, de-lineating the form for singers and pointing out issues they might not see themselves.  ie, "do you know what to practice now?"
- some amount... hopefully a minumum... of learning notes.  Through after school sectionals, sectionals during school using part tracks, everyone solfeging different parts, etc.
- putting it back together in sections, and trying to make each section perfect.  They have worked on it at home, and know the parts, but now we are tuning chords, working on dynamics, count singing for greater precision, etc.
- combining sections... we might have section A, B, and C perfect, but we need to rehearse the seams betwee them
- in the 1 or 2 weeks (hopefully) leading up to the rehearsal, getting them in the performance space, talking about how we look, how we move, maybe watching ourselves on video, and getting lots of repetitions of the tunes beginning to end
So, I try to commnicate to my singers which of these 'style' rehearsals we are in on which pieces, so they can see an arc to each piece and know that we aren't just starting at the beginning and repeating it until something goes wrong.  Maybe this sort of de-lineation would hel administrators understand what we do, too!
Dave Piper
on March 12, 2014 7:05am
Tina-I understand how you feel-we are about the same age here! I think the best thing you can do for yourself AND your program is to continually look at the National Standards and your State standards to validate what you do on a daily basis.  I have tried like during Warm-ups,  for instance, focus on one aspect to tie in. And then in my selections-focus on the one area that needs improvement to hit on another learning objective.  It is hard to measure growth-and I was once asked by an administrator "how do you know you've achieved your goal?" I asked my choir students this-"how do you know?" And without a doubt-they all answered "when we feel it." Of course, that's the connection we make.   There is no way to quantify or qualify this through a formal assessment. I rely on on informal assessments and even asking the students if they felt we made progress.  I once heard at an inservice by a non-music person that the discipline that incoroporates instant changes  the best is the Music Teacher-we are CONSTANTLY coaching and changing focus and differentiating on a moment's notice-which is what is expected in education. We don't have to wait to grade a test or  read a paper to know whether our students have progressed. You are probably doing everything you need to, just not in a formalized way.
Good luck! I'd love to know what others have to say!
Diana O'Connor
Diana O'Connor
on March 12, 2014 9:41am
Tina - while I empathize with your frustration over increased paperwork, accountabilty and assessment for the satisfaction of the educational bureaucracy, I do feel that there can be value in listing the objectives of daily rehearsals.  
As conductors, we are "fixers" of many problems, and without a hierarchy of objectives, we can tend to want to fix whatever we hear lacking at the moment.  By falling into that mode, we can frustrate our students not only because we're stopping to correct things too often, but because we're asking them to think about too many things at once.  By inserting objectives into our rehearsal plan, we become more aware of the "triage" that we should be creating for our rehearsals.  ("Triage" is the process of dividing up the wounded so that those most critically in need of attention are treated first.)  If we decide before our rehearsals what most needs attention on a particular piece for that particular day, we not only develop a strategy for addressing that need, but we also unconsciously decide what needs to let go for that day and address another day.  This helps both us as conductors and the students to focus on that one need, and that enhances the probability of that problem being solved, and being solved for good.  Of course that's not to say that we can't address a previously addressed problem that crops up again, but if it does, a quick reminder and repetition of that passage can clear that up, since it was the focus of a previous rehearsal.  (Some major vocal issues, I realize, will be daily issues for months, and may be a part of the daily objectives for some time.  There's no problem with that.)  
Anecdotally, one of our student teachers was trying to "plug every hole in the dyke at once," so to speak, with one of his choirs, and I sensed both his and their frustration.  When I suggested he apply triage and daily objectives to his rehearsals, he reported much greater success and satisfaction on everyone's part.  (He's now a first-year HS choir director, and just got superior ratings at festival with his choirs, I'm happy to report.)  
You may already be applying "triage" in your rehearsals, and the process your complaining about may just be a matter of writing it on the board.  But that too can benefit your students, because it will help them to focus on a particular aspect of their singing the repertoire you've assigned.  "Work on final consonant clarity of mm. 20-36 of Turtle Dove" can be more thought-provoking to the reader than "work on mm. 20-36 of Turtle Dove."  So there might be an added advantage to the extra work you're having to put in.  
Good luck, and I hope you find this helpful.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 12, 2014 11:05am
Some of my more commonly used objectives have been:
The student will learn and perform warm-ups on an intermediate to advanced level.
The student will successfully sight-sing new musical passages on a basic to intermediate level.
The student will successfully label and read new rhythm exercises on a basic to intermediate level.
The student will exhibit mastery while singing musical repertoire on a intermediate to advanced level.
            The student will analyze and evaluate a choral performance on a basic to intermediate level.
on March 12, 2014 2:53pm
I feel your pain.  Even though structuring our rehearsals and laying out objectives can seem like a hinderance, it's actually really good for us.  Choral directors in particular are prone to being a little ADD and sporatic, so we naturally resist structure that makes us put what we do into concrete terms.  But, by thinking hard about the goals you want to achieve both on a daily and long-term basis, and conveying this to your students through a plan and a visual aid, you will be more effective, especially at reaching your students who learn more concretely.  You'll also grow an even better understanding of your own craft. 
As an old mentor once told me, "quit being an artist, and start being a teacher."  You'll discover that you carry your artist self wherever you go - we can't help it! -  but if you focus your lens more on being an effective educator, the results are magnificent. 
Often, we choral directors will approach rehearsals as one big litmus test, where we start each piece, listen while it's going, and run the rehearsal from a solely reactionary style.  Kind of like putting a litmus strip into a pond to test the PH, seeing that it's too acidic, and then adding, taking away, and changing things to make it right.  It works, but it's not long-term.  Having a plan with clear objectives is how we balance the "reactionary" choral director inside us, with the "proactive" choral director inside us. 
You got this!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 13, 2014 6:56am
Thinking in terms of objectives requires the conductor to consider the actual musical learning that is taking place in the rehearsal. It requires the conductor to think about specifically what musical skills that contribuite to developing individual musicianship are being acquired by the singers. Consider what new musical skills your singers need in order to perform a given piece of music - those would be your objectives as the learn the piece. 
Objectives in the early stages of learning would address the actual learning of the music, such as specific rhythms (e.g. Students will be able to accurately perform duple against triple rhythmic patterns), while later in the rehearsal process objectives would be more interpretive (e.g. SWBAT perform m. 1 - 32 with musical expression and sensitivity to the text).  Think about how different that looks compared to, "Students will be able to perform m. 1 - 32", which tells the reader nothing about what you as the conductor/teacher are trying to accomplish musically in that passage other than singing through ir, assumably, fairly accurately.
If all the conductor does is rehearse and practice, with the goal being only the performance, there may or may not be musical knowledge or understanding being acquired by the individual singers.  If the singers are passive in the learning process, being only told what they need to do to make the music sound better, and not being given the tools to understand why they are being asked to make a change, what  it is that the conductor hears that will make it sound better, how  to think about the music, then they are not being given the musicianship skills that will carry over to the next piece, the next choir, and their overall development as life-long musicians.  These skills are higher on Bloom's Taxonomy, as mentioned in another post. Simply singing back a melody, or sightreading through without a specific objective is very low on Bloom's Taxonomy. 
Utilizing objectives requires the conductor to think about what it is exactly that they are teaching  (what some might define as enduring learning),  rather than simply rehearsing for the next performance (which is, in effect, teaching to the test).  It also builds, over time, exceptional musicians in your choir - not just singers who are learning by ear and reliant on your gesture and leadership  - but true musicians who are able to make musical decisions on their own, enabling you as the conductor to become a partner in the music making.  It is a paradigm shift in thinking, but so much more satisfying to your sinters and to you as a conductor. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 13, 2014 8:14am
Just the other week, I did something I've never done before.  I had my non-audition choir take a QUIZ!  I never had to do quizzes in choir, and in my experience I haven't seemed to notice that many other choirs to quizzes, but in my efforts to be a more effective educator, I decided it's time to put all this artsy stuff into more concrete terms for my students.  They loved it.  Did they sing better after taking the quiz?  You betcha! 
I can send the one without the answers highlighted, in a word document, if anyone wants to edit this and use for their own purposes.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 13, 2014 8:31am
The student will      rehearse measures 24 through 48      in order to       sing this selection matching the pitches perfectly
The student will      rehearse measures 24 through 48      in order to       sing this selection with correct dynamics.
The student will      rehearse measures 24 through 48      in order to       sing this selection at the correct tempo.
The student will      rehearse measures 24 through 48      in order to       relate these measures to measures 108-132.
Et al
There is nothing new under the sun, just different ways of looking at things.  The remainder of the educational world is wondering how we musicians have been able to do what we do at our achievment level.  They consider a good grade at 85% proficiency.  We have the standard of 100%.  Since your first day of teaching, you have always done what they are requesting of you now.  It took them 25 years!  They are so slow!!  But they want your answer in their format.  The above works beautiully.  Silly isn't it.  You have been a magnificent teacher for 25 years and now they are going to tell you how to be a magnificent teacher. 
Inspire your students to know more than you!
John (~Jack~)  Briggs
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 16, 2014 11:48am
Don't you just love this?  With rare exceptions, these "bean counters" are not even remotely qualified to evaluate us, nor are they going to give up their control and assign another music educator to advise and guide us.  Just put all those things you do every day into objective form, go down the list and rotate in 2 or 3 objectives a day, then get back to business.
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