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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creating a Positive Culture in your Choir - III

Last time I discussed Doug Lemov's 100% idea: "There's on acceptable percentage of students following a direction: 100 percent. Less, and your authority is subject to interpretation, situation, and motivation."
So, what are his principles for getting to 100%?
He says there are three principles to ensure "consistent follow-through and compliance in the classroom." The first of these is to use the least invasive form of intervention, and this is so you don't have to interrupt teaching (your rehearsal) to deal with a student who isn't following through (talking, not paying attention, slumping in his/her chair, music in their lap, not engaged, etc.) with your 100% expectation. He then gives a list, starting with the least invasive techniques, which means you should start as close to the top of the list (use the least invasive technique which will get the job done):
  • Nonverbal - gesture/eye contact - keep teaching
  • Positive group correction - quick verbal reminder ("sit tall" "focus" "eyes up")
  • Anonymous individual correction - quick verbal reminder, but makes it explicit that not everyone is doing what they should ("Two people are still looking down")
  • Private individual correction - if you have to name names, if possible do it quietly and privately (after rehearsal, at lunch or some other time after class)
  • Lightning-quick public correction - name the student and quickly give the correction ("Quentin, I need your eyes") - you can also follow up with a positive ("Looking sharp, back row! Thanks, Quentin, much better.)
  • Consequence - external consequences should be used as sparingly as possible, but sometimes it's the only way to deal with an individual (Lemov's further explanation: consequences should be delivered quickly and in the least invasive emotional manner; don't allow it to interrupt instruction/rehearsal; have a scaled list of consequences, so you can match the significance of the response to the level of disruption)
I have to say, there's so much more and the book is well worth reading, so take a look if you find what I've shared from Lemov interesting . . . or perhaps it could be a great dissertation topic for some DMA or Music Ed PhD--adapting some of the principles specifically to the choral situation or observe and/or video "champion teacher/conductors."
Again, a reminder that the goal is not "power" -- as Lemov states, "Students need to follow directions quickly and completely so that they can be assured of having the best chance to succeed." Interruptions, lack of focus, singers who don't use good posture or vocal technique, who are disengaged, lead to a poorer musical experience for all your singers. A choir which is focused, doesn't chat, consistently follows principles of good musicianship and vocal health gets much more done . . . and frankly, the experience is a better one for everyone. It allows you to concentrate on teaching: good technique, wonderful sound, musicality, and expression. Isn't that what we want for all our students?
Finally, why the "thumbs up" at the top of the page when I've been talking about interventions for disruptions to whatever you feel needs 100% compliance? Well, you should also to reinforce those students who are doing what they should. That can be to the group ("great focus today!" "what a fantastic sound you just made!" "did you hear how beautifully that chord was in tune?!"), but can also be to individuals ("I love the way you watch, Megan!" "Thanks for the great posture, Mike"). But I also (usually after talking about something like looking up) find a non-verbal way--and yes, I do use the "thumbs up"--while conducting to a student whose eyes are with me. It tells them that I noticed, that I care about what they're doing . . . and that also makes a difference.

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