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Increasing student participation

I am a first year teacher teaching one section of 6th grade choir at a middle school in a very low socio-economic demographic. I also happen to be the assistant band director, and my primary duties revolving around the band program. Teaching choir is a new experience for me which I have realized is fairly common for many band/choir/orchestra directors in other states outside of Texas.
My class has about 22 girls and 8 boys, all 6th graders. Many of the students were not enrolled in choir at the beginning of the year, and were later added due to other scheduling conflicts, and many students who were intially in my class at the start of the year had not selected choir as an option on their choice sheets and were placed in the class because of the size and fullness of other electives offered to 6th graders.
What strategies and techniques can I use to encourage participation from students who don't have any interest in singing? I've been focusing 50/50 on "traditional" middle school choir music that I obtained from the high school choral library, and simple arrangements of pop songs that I've made myself.
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on March 27, 2014 11:51am
Hello Darwin,
Wow!  As a choral person, I can't imagine teaching band.  I don't feel equipped!  I can only imagine how difficult it must feel for you!  
The key ingredient for this age group is to incorporate fun into the singing.
Here is a link to a few YouTube videos of a fun game that I play with my students that teaches solfege. You'll need a solfege hand chart.  The rest of the guidelines are in the videos below:
Description of the game:
Video of me teaching the game to my 6th graders:
And here is a link to a power point with many more details for success with the game:
There are lots of materials on the YouTube channel that may be of help to you.
Good luck!
Dale Duncan
My blog for middle school choral teachers:
on March 29, 2014 4:31am
Forgot one more awesome resource!
Try this and consider ordering a subscription!
Teresa Jennings is the leader of this company, and she makes original music that the kids in this age group absolutely LOVE.  There are many choreography suggestions included that bring the song to life.  There are lots of options for parts.  There are instrumental tracks included in case you have limited piano skills.  I've used this song (Light the Candles all around the World) for 16 years at the holiday concert.  I actually light the candles with all 300 students.
I tried to cut it one year because I had grown tired of teaching it, and the kids revolted!  So, instead of cutting it, I now invite all of the choral alumni to come up, get a candle and sing with us!
They can't get enough of the music in Music K-8 magazine.  It is reproducible.  A new magazine comes out several times a year.  It includes CD's and/or mp3's. It's simply one of the best, most economical resources for this age group.
Dale Duncan
My Sight Singing Program for Middle School Teachers and their Students:
My YouTube Channel with teaching tips related to sight singing and classroom management:
My blog for middle school teachers:
on April 10, 2014 11:07am
Dale, your videos are great!!!  Thank you so much for sharing.  I am definitely going to use some of these ideas next year with my church youth choir.
Julie Ford
on March 28, 2014 8:24am
Hello Darwin,
This piece titled Refuse to Lose is not really choral but I wrote for schools to perform during the run up to the Olyimpic Games here in London 2012.  A lot of schools did perform it had a great deal of fun was had.  The idea was to hi-jack the Olympic athletes qualities and put them into words to help young people achieve in which ever aspiration they may have - not just sport.  Everything for leaning is available free on the website including the score for the four parts plus other aids to help.  Again it gave a lot of youngsters a real buzz to perform and it even made the BBC's Radio 1 broadcasts during the opening week.  Here's the link
Good luck and happy singing
on March 30, 2014 4:00am
Teaching middle school in a similar envornment, I began with Doo Wop....and movement.
Lion Sleeps  tonight, 3 part rote on the chorus becomes  your warmup. Barbara Ann, In the still of the night, Raggmopp,you name it, they will embrace it...and simple movement.
Hal Leonard has a book of doo wop selections...hope it is still in print...I started from there then wrote my own easy 3 part arrangements.
good luck.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 6, 2014 12:55pm
Don't you just love this?  Kids who did NOT choose choir are FORCED to take it!  Why can't the school open another section of those electives that are full?  Or at least another study hall?  What are we---- "overflow aides?"...........the "go to" problem solvers whenever our districts face a challenge?  Why not force the students to attend a second, repeated math, English, or PE class--surely there are seats available here and there.  Or send them over to the high school to fill up a calculus or AP biology class--makes as much sense. 
I have used and recommend Dr. Will Schmid's World Music Drumming (and singing) program.  He's past president of MENC, and this 20 year old program was developed in consultation with master drummer Abraham Adzenyah (Ghana) and extensively field tested in schools around the country.  There's a website, DVD, and week-long summer trainings in four different locations around the country.  The catch is obtaining drums, which cost $3000.  Another "hook" for uninterested students might be "songs of power", for want of a better term: protest songs and others arising out of challenging circumstances and extreme situations. 
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