The June/July 2022 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Social and Emotional Learning for Choirs: Strategies for the Classroom” by Colleen B. McNickle and Coty Raven Morris. You can read it in its entirety at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction.
Students in choir explore, experience, and process their emotions through music making in a social setting on a daily basis. Using music as a vehicle for expression, choir teachers have the opportunity to facilitate conversations and musical experiences that allow their students of all ages to interact not only with their own emotions, but also with the emotional expressions of their classmates, school communities, and music communities at large. Whether they know it or not, most choir teachers are implementing tenets of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in their classroom regularly. The goal of this article is to share ways choir teachers might intentionally imbed SEL in their everyday interactions with students to benefit the social, emotional, and musical elements of a choral classroom.
Educational leaders at state and local levels are promoting SEL at unprecedented rates. Researchers predict that schools and districts will be adopting SEL more quickly during the coming years in response to increased reports of student emotional challenges following social isolation, high levels of student stress and anxiety, and a loss of engagement. For the past two decades, researchers and educational leaders have shared that learning is a social and emotional endeavor and that the arts are particularly suited to explore social and emotional processes. Choir classrooms can be a natural hub for this sort of learning: students socialize and build community within their sections and ensembles; singers explore the spectrum of emotions through varied repertoire; and choirs express those emotions daily through performance.
Choir students, however, do not gain social and emotional skills simply by participating in choir. A choir teacher with an SEL focus must intentionally integrate SEL constructs into their teaching and everyday interactions with students. By singing and performing, listening to, and analyzing musics from a variety of composers and contexts, singers at every age have the opportunity to interact with a plethora of social and emotional constructs. Although the idea of SEL may feel elementary, we have found fundamental benefits to intentionally addressing social and emotional skills with choristers in school, university, and community or church ensembles. In this article, we discuss the key components of SEL; the ways in which choir teachers may weave SEL into their lessons, expectations, and classroom culture; and provide activities and discussions that may enhance the social and emotional learning that is so important for the choral ensemble. Although this article focuses on students in the choral classroom, most, if not all, of the tools we discuss are appropriate for elementary, secondary, post-secondary, community, and church ensembles. It is never too early or too late to address SEL competencies.
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Read the rest of this article in the June/July 2022 issue of Choral Journal.