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After School Middle School Choir

I just got hired at a middle school teaching general music/music appreciation/music class. In the county I'm in the only music options for middle schoolers during the school day are band and general music, any choirs have to be after school. Now, I'm fine with doing a choir after school, but should I put 6th-8th grade in a choir? Should I have three different ones? (One for each grade level). Or two, one for 6th and one for 7th and 8th? How long should I rehearse? And how many days? Thank you all so much in advance for your input!
on July 18, 2014 3:51am
How do you feel about numbers? If you would prefer a larger group that has the ability to produce a solid, healthy sound, then go for the combined group. Smaller groups would allow you to work more with individuals but may not yield a balanced ensemble sound. It really is your personal preference.
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on July 18, 2014 5:53am
Congratulations on your new job!  
Here is the approach that I would take:
1)  I would set a personal goal of getting my adminstrators to allow me to have a choir during the school day within three years.  Having a goal like that helps me work a bit more diligently on after school activities like this.  Make your administrators aware of that long-term goal.  It will help all of you work together toward finding ways to make that happen.
2)  I would combine 6th through 8th grade.  The numbers are larger this way.  Beginners in this age group are quite self-conscious about singing in small groups.  You can focus all of your work on one choir and make it great.  I would meet twice weekly for one hour or less each time.  Having more choirs means having more rehearsals after school.  Dividing our energies can deplete us...especially in a new job.  We have to work "smart"...especially with this very special age group that requires LOTS of energy from us!
3)  I would perform two types of music:  a)  Music that I, the teacher, am absolutely passionate about sharing with the kids.   b)  And music that will be lots of fun and engaging for the kids.  I often reference Music K-8 in this forum because, in my view, they understand what works for middle school and my own students love most of the music they create.  It is reproducible and comes with accompaniment tracks if you like to use those.  Here is the link:
Best of luck to you!
Dale Duncan
I'm having a special sale on S-Cubed:  Successful Sight Singing Course for Middle School July 21, 22.  Click below to learn more:
Latest blog post for middle school:
Connect to my Sight Singing Bundle "How to Teach Sight Singing to Middle School Beginners" to learn more:
on July 18, 2014 2:35pm
Dividing the grades into choirs depends on the numbers involved, and if you're starting from scratch, you won't know until they show up. Given that you have enough singers for your purposes, I would put 6th and 7th grades together and give 8th grade their own choir. This makes sense to me on three levels: voicing, social development, and emotional age. Programming SAB (or SATB)
music with all three grades together might overwhelm the few boys with changed voices. The 8th graders will have less in common with the 6th and 7th graders than 6th and 7th will with each other. Profound social changes begin during the summer after 7th grade. 8th graders are capable of working incrementally toward an unseen goal, and they share a sense of pride in their accomplishments that shows in their performance. The 6th and 7th graders crave the anonymity of larger numbers, and generally they are dogged by their imagined awkwardness on stage, reducing their dynamics in performance. May you have a group of Met or Broadway hopefuls who turn the conventional wisdom on its head!
Work with your choir(s) for as long as you can (up to about the length of a regular class) as often as your schedules allow. You are likely entering a world of after-school activities into which you must carve a niche in order to achieve success.
The more singing your general classes do, the more singers you will produce. It's the only instrument they can't misplace! P.E. isn't just for the coordinated, right?
on July 19, 2014 12:06am
Some of those kids are going to be really, like for real, talented.  I don't know that age is much a factor to be considered between 6-8 grade in determining how to split singers up.  I know plenty of 6th graders who are friends with 8th graders.  I know middle schoolers who are more emotionally mature than some college students.  I've known 10th graders whose voices have not yet changed, and 7th graders who already rumble.  Discriminating on age in this case will draw lines where they often don't exist, and create limitations where they shouldn't exist.  
Maybe you could start one giant chorus with all of them in it, and from there extract an awesome chamber group with a shnazzy name.  Having a top choir (with a spread of ages) is good for too many reasons for me to want to explain right now, but I'm sure you're picking up what I'm laying down.  I gotta go to bed.  I snore a lot.  Goodnight. 
on July 19, 2014 5:04am
My middle school select group is grades 6-8, but it is auditioned. For our regular choirs, we keep 6th graders separate, and then 7/8 combines- it makes more sense for changing voices that way. I also think that what you decide depends on number. If you are at a smaller school, 1 group makes sense.
on July 19, 2014 6:16am
I heartiily concur with Dale about making sure your administrators know that the long term goal is to get choir during the school day. Otherwise you risk the perception that there is not a much musical learning taking place in choir, and it is perceived as an "activity" as opposed to a curricular subject. It is important to change that perception, and make sure that quality learning is going on in every rehearsal. As to the groupings, it is really a matter of who and how many show up!  As William said, the more you get them singing in general music, the more likely you are going to have them come to you after school! Good luck!
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