Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wrapping the arms of structure around your Middle School Singers

Wrapping the Arms of Structure Around Your Middle School Singers

 I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or not, but I have been asked many times after a concert with my 300+ middle school choral music students, “What do you SAY to the students that keeps them so disciplined?”

When I hear that, I chuckle inside because it isn’t just one thing.  I wish it were.  It would be so much easier!

Middle school students thrive on structure.  How many times have your students walked into your class and said, “What are we doing today?” 

I usually make up a funny thing like “We are going to dissect cockroaches and sing songs about it” and then point them to the promethean board where the first activity of the day is ready for them.

From the first day of school, I make sure that when they walk into my room, they know that my classroom is a place where we have a plan.

Is it ok to let up on that structure once in a while?  Sure.  But only after you have established strong scaffolding and the daily routines are set in stone.

When I first started teaching public school middle school chorus, I didn’t understand how important structure is for them.  My verbal instructions were not clear.  I hadn’t thought through the sequencing with the brain of a sixth grader…which is different than the brain of an 8th grader…which I didn’t realize in those early years…and which caused me so much grief.  The kids wanted to do the right thing, but I was clueless about how to convey the information in an effective manner that yielded results.

We can’t just talk when we give directions. 

We have to demonstrate, and they must experience what we are teaching…not just hear it. 

We have to bring the learning objectives to life.

It all goes back to the three types of learners:  visual, auditory, kinesthetic.  In my experience, we have to hit all three when we are teaching this age group…whether we are teaching music or a process/procedure, and it helps if we can do it with humor.  Everyone likes to laugh. 

I created this video for my students, and we worked to make it as silly as possible.  I show it to my students at the beginning of the year, and they absolutely love it. 

 So, back to the question I get asked…”What do you say to the students that keeps them so disciplined”?

I have no idea.

…but I do know that I’ve learned to anticipate what they need.  I take time to teach processes.   I give them structure.  And we laugh. 

I think that all of those things combined encourage respect that is mutual and circular.   

Hope you are enjoying your summer rest!  I know that I am!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

District Purchases and Multiple license discounts!

When I started teaching 400 years ago, all we had were text books that someone else purchase that I rarely used, and a small budget to purchase sheet music and warm up books (that I DID use!)

Times are changing, and they are changing quickly.  

I received the email below last week.  

We are looking at sight singing methods for next year in our district. One thing that our district is having a question with is "Is there another way that this is published other than Teachers Pay Teachers?" I'm good either way, but if I can get the district to buy it, bonus!
Potential Buyer

Here is my response:


 I appreciate your support in getting your district on board with S-Cubed. S-Cubed is a 21st century textbook. Text books are part of the past. Young teachers realize that there are other ways to find resources. The text books that the district buys every few years will likely sit on the shelf while resourceful teachers focused on being the best they can be for their students are going to do some digital research and find the answers they need as they work toward creating paperless classrooms. It is the district's job to catch up and support those teachers for the good of the children, and it is our job to work them in that direction.

Here is some information for you to help you as you make your case to the people who will decide whether or not to purchase S-Cubed as a digital resource:

1) With the advent of Chrome books, Ipads, and Smartboards, classrooms that use digital resources are the future.
 2) Text books are far more expensive than purchasing digital resources because you have to purchase many text books, and you have to do it every few years. With digital resources, that is not the case. And on TPT, each teacher gets all product updates for free after they purchase.
3) Digital resources offer things that text books cannot. In S-Cubed, I offer specific lesson plans, video teaching tips to help teachers teach each lesson plan and video teaching examples of me teaching the actual lesson to my public school students...all by clicking a link. Text books can't do that.
 4) TPT offers a multi-license discount. A district can purchase a digital resource and then purchase the same resource for other teachers in the same district/school from 10%-50% off the original price.
he amount of the discount depends on the number of teachers for whom they are purchasing.    If they are considering purchasing S-Cubed for the district, have them contact me directly at, and we will work out the details.
5) These are resources that are created by real teachers in real classrooms. I hope that helps you as you work to convince your district to purchase the curriculum for your middle school choral music students.
6)  S-Cubed has been vetted, rating and reviewed for four years by teachers who are using it all over the world.  

Digital resources are the modern-day textbooks.

Thank you for reaching out, and please let me know if there is anything else I can do to facilitate the purchase.

And lastly, click this link or click the video below to watch a video I made about this district purchases and multiple license discounts.  

If you convince the district to purchase it for multiple teachers, and they need to use a purchase order, here is how!

Check out my blog!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Giveaway of the Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack!


Good morning!

The winner of the Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter pack is
Maggie Ragan!  I notified her earlier this morning.

50% off until Monday night at midnight!

To say “thank you for entering”, I have marked down several bundles in my store 50%, and they will stay marked down 50% from their regular price until 11:59 PM Eastern Monday night, June 5.  Please read the TpT product descriptions thoroughly, but I’ve included a quick description below as well.

The items that are marked down are:

Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack Normally $49, it is $24.50.  It contains the first 3 lessons of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program as well as many ideas on how to set up your classrooms, get your students to watch you better and links to many blog posts and video posts about classroom management.

S-Cubed Level ONE Normally $249, it is $124.50.  This contains 27 weeks of sight singing lessons (10-15 minutes per day) that take your beginners from “0” to two-part a capella sight singing with examples that include dotted quarter/eighth note combos as well as skips as wide as an octave.

The MEGA Bundle of S-Cubed, normally $349, is $174.50.  It contains 42 weeks of sight singing lessons that take your students from “0” to three part SAB sight singing.  Your students will also be able to sight sing chromatics in unison.

Learning a new way of teaching takes time, and summer is the perfect time to get the program and study ahead of time so you are ready when your eager middle school beginners show up in the fall!

Coming Soon!

*Updates to all S-Cubed Bundles
*Summer Facebook “Live” Sessions!

Enjoy the summer!

Mr D

Do you know anyone who is teaching middle school chorus for the first time next school year?

Here is something you need to share with them from Mr D! It's a giveaway of the
Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack!

In the product description, you'll find that this offering contains many nuggets of wisdom that have helped Mr D successfully work with his non-auditioned middle school choral music beginners in his program of over 300 urban public school students for the last 25 years. How to start off the school to help your students watch you includes the first three lessons of the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners.

Anyone can enter from 10 PM Eastern on May 31 until midnight on June 3rd. Just follow the directions below this picture!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Meet me on Facebook LIVE on Thursday, April 27 at 7:30 PM!

On Thursday night at 7:30 PM Eastern, I'll be on Facebook LIVE for about 30 minutes.  During that time, I will discuss several things I've recently blogged about including:  recruiting boys, working with sharp female singers, accountability, and dealing with difficult parents who make excuses for their children.  These are all based on my recent experiences, so everything is fresh!  :-)

We will also have time for questions!

As always, during the session, I will offer a freebie and a ridiculously good deal from my TpT store on one of the S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Accountability...One of the many reasons I love Music Prodigy in My Middle School Choral Music Classroom

Every voice matters.

I teach over 300 middle school choral music students each and every day.

I've always struggled with the fact that it was difficult to find time to listen to them individually in order to assess them in my classes of up to 84 students, and I've also worked hard to seek ways to hold them individually accountable for their contributions in my very large classes.

So, when I found Music Prodigy, I was elated for so many reasons.  I could finally listen to the students individually on my own time, and I could pick the students I needed and wanted to listen to based on the work my ears had already done in class while they sang in the large group.

Learning any new technology is not easy, but learning this one has been well worth my time.

Today, I have the opportunity to share the fruits of that work.

I received this email after posting the grade for a Music Prodigy assignment:

Hello Mr. Duncan,

Rohan said that he completed the first assignment in class, that was due March 24th. Please speak to him about that. We don't normally let him take his phone to school. But, if that is required to complete assignments we will let him do that from now on.  Thanks.

Note:  I teach in a Title 1 school.  I offer class time for students as a courtesy about once per month. If a child doesn't have a phone to bring to class, I give them an additional month to complete the assignment on their home computers/iPads.  If they have none of those, I allow them to come to my room during the morning after they arrive to school to complete the assignment on the computers in my room.    

My approach is "No excuses."   

Here was my response:

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