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Freshmen Women's Choir

Hello all,
I have a Freshmen Women's Choir of 36 ninth grade girls. I've been struggling with (and I know this is a shock to most of you) chattering throughout the rehearsal. I feel like I've gone through all of my "bag of tricks" and keep looking for more. What have you done that has helped make chit-chat minimal in your rehearsals? I know this is a huge issue that every music director faces.
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on November 7, 2013 7:47pm
What have you done from your "bag of tricks?"
on November 8, 2013 7:31am
I had an instructor who would chant "Clap if you can hear me" and then clap twice. She would keep repeating this in rhythm. People would join in on the claps and focus on her. It was surprisingly effective.
Sing on,
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 8, 2013 7:59am
Examine your rehearsal planning. If you have not planned your rehearsal to engage their brains, and only have them sing back the parts you play at the keyboard, they will be disengaged and chat. Are you out from behind the keyboard? Have them listen to each other sing and critique. ("Altos, listen to the soprano line and tell me how accurate they are - thumbs up, thumbs in the middle, thumbs down.")  Guide them to understand that they need to know how their part fits with the other parts, so that when you are rehearsing one section and another is idle, they should be audiating their part as a form of practice.  How is your pacing? So many things can influence this!
Also, remember the population with which you are dealing - 9th grade girls - they are by nature very social. Think of ways to channel the energy rather than fight it!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on November 9, 2013 12:05pm
Our world presents environments that run the full barometer of engagement. To lead a successful life, people must learn to control their focus and energy.  Self-discipline is one of the greatest skills a human being can learn.  The primary reason many young people today struggle in college or can't hold a job is because they were not taught self-discipline.  Divising ways to keep students engaged is part of an educator's responsibility, and more power to you the better you can be at this.  A much bigger responsibility of our job is teaching our students how to discipline themselves, because the components of a successful life once one has found their passion, are hard work and perserverance, and the truth of the real world is that many environments we need to function in will not be engaging.  Self-discipline is a skill that can be applied to all of life's demands.  Enjoying an engaging activity is not a skill.
In my semesterly evaluations, my students comment on my enthusiasm and ability to engage them.  That's rewarding.  The much greater reward for me though, is knowing that regardless of what I have planned for the day or how well I Jedi-mind-trick them into participating, their default mode in my class is to be respectful, attentive, focused, and high energy because I teach in meaningful ways the value of self-disciplne, and how to use it.
Would you want to skype with my women's ensemble and/or one of my other choirs sometime?  Sometimes seeing is believing, and a positive model can make a big impact.  We could hold a live discussion between you and I, and our ensembles about these very things.
Let me know.
Best wishes.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on November 10, 2013 5:50pm
"... their default mode in my class is to be respectful, attentive, focused, and high energy because I teach in meaningful ways the value of self-disciplne, and how to use it."  
I would love to know more about this and exactly what you do to achieve this.  Care to share, please?  :-)
on November 22, 2013 6:29pm
Thank you so much for your insight. Yes, I would love to skype with our group. I'm not sure we would have the same time, but I'd love to chat about it. 
on November 23, 2013 2:40pm
Thanks for asking Mary.  My classes and I learn about respect, good listening, body language, hard work and attitude through student led discussions, group work, quotations, stories, and guest speakers.  I spend anywhere from 2-5 minutes on this kind of stuff every rehearsal, sometimes longer if it's a really cool activity.  It's taken a while to build this culture - I started working at this school three years ago, and it's still not always perfect - never will be.  I'm an advocate that the things listed above need to be taught as sub-subjects of every class to our younger generation.  Here are a few other things I live by in my teaching:
  • I never speak over students.
  • With the majority of physical instruction (take out this piece, let's stand, basses can have a seat, everyone get in a circle), I preface with the instruction "quietly"
  • I reinforce the things on the list often.
If you'd like to skype between our choirs, I am totally game! :)
ps. Also, if you'd like to check out a piece I wrote that works for any choir, here it is:
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