You know those teachers that can simply wave their hand and have all of their students scamper into place?
Neither do I.
Let’s face it, managing a classroom can be hard enough when students are seated in their desks with pencil and paper. But try to organize students on choir risers, where you constantly have to rearrange voices, and you can kiss any sense of order and discipline goodbye. Most classroom management techniques are helpful for other teachers, but those methods don’t exactly apply to choir teachers. Here are a few ideas of how to keep your choir class energized and well-behaved.
1. Don’t sing boring songs. Harsh? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. If you find yourself pulling out the same pieces of sheet music year after year, it might be time to make a change. We’re not suggesting that you scrap your entire choir repertoire, but adding in a new piece every now and again can’t hurt. Let your students make requests and then vote for which new song to include.
2. Create a routine, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Having a clear routine puts everyone at ease. Students know what to expect from class, and you know how to fill each class period. However, be careful of not falling so deeply into a routine that both you and your choir become bored. Try creating spirit days where students dress up and then perform songs that fit that theme.
3. Have breakout sessions. Continue to put your choir singers in new, diverse groups. This way they not only get to practice their music in small groups, but get to know each other as well. And if there’s any one key to choir classroom management, it’s students that get along with one another.
4. Mini-Competitions are another way to improve choir engagement. Divide the class along an arbitrary line: girls vs. boys, juniors vs. seniors, altos vs. sopranos. Few things are more motivating than competition. Just make sure that the teams stay light-hearted. There’s no reason to lose an eye over competing renditions of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
5. Maintain high expectations. Making choir students engage in self-assessment early on and routinely will help maintain a sense of order. If your students have aspirations to sing in a more advanced choir or as a career, remind them of the level of professionalism required to be successful. Finding a balance between serious straight-faced practice and fun competitions is key to a happy and productive choir.
What have you found successful in managing your choir?