Feb 4, 2015

Surveying Your Students For Better Connection

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

I think this sentiment is also true for teaching middle school choruses.

Why? Because honest to goodness, from year to year, I have no idea who the kids are in my chorus. Even if I have had them for the last two years. Their personalities stay the same or change. Their social situations stay the same or change. Their lives change. Their tastes in clothes, music, sports, activities, academic subjects change. This is normal, it is to be expected, but it doesn't it make for selecting music any easier. But, I have to do it, for three concerts a year. It's almost 25 new or old pieces of music I need to find and teach and perfect and care for. So how do we, as chorus teachers, do it? What can we do in order to ensure a successful selection of choral music goes into the hands of our students?

Well, we can't ensure it. We can't ever be sure. We just have to be hopeful that the music we select is right for our kids. And here's a way I do it.

I try to think of the dynamics of my choruses. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Then I think about their personalities. What do they enjoy learning about? Who are some major influences in their life as a musician?

After taking that into consideration, I ask myself the bigger questions. What are the things we need to concentrate on? What are some musical skills that I can really craft and hone this semester? What do the kids want to have a better understanding of when it comes to music?

The easiest way for me to figure out all of this is by giving a survey made up of simple questions: who are their biggest musical influences in music, what their favorite part about singing is, what they want to improve on, etc. I poise each question as a positive one; the more I phrase everything in a positive light, the easier it is for the students to answer that way, too. The kids are really honest in their responses. They might write a lot, they might write a little. But everything counts. I take in their comments and answers and really think about what would make a good concert program. I talk to them about their answers, share my ideas, listen to theirs and it really makes for a good rapport between us. Because everything is heard, nothing is disregarded.

I ultimately get the last say in music because, well, I'm the teacher and that's how it goes. After I select the music, we learn the music and have our concert, I then ask for feedback (I have attached my questionnaire so you can read through it) so I can see where the students are coming from and learn more about how they evolved during the course of our time together. I am hoping that the more varied selections of music I give them, as well as songs they are comfortable singing, they will feel encouraged that chorus is a good fit for them and they will feel joy and pride in their work. It's an amazing feeling for them to have as well as for myself, as I know that I have done my job.


Name:_____________________________
Please answer the questions in complete and thoughtful sentences. 3 sentences each.
1) What was your favorite part of the concert (whole concert, it doesnít have to mean our performance specifically)?
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2) What song do you think we did the best on? Why?
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3) What song did you end up liking this concert that you werenít sure you were going to?
___________________________________________________________________________
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4) What would you like to improve on? What would you like the group to improve on?
___________________________________________________________________________
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5) What is some music you would like to work on in the future? What genre?
___________________________________________________________________________
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Moving forward,
Samantha
Samantha Prindiville is a preschool music and movement teacher, first grade music specialist and a middle school choral director for the Reading Public Schools in Reading, MA. Her goal is to instill a love, understanding and appreciation of all music in the students she teaches, just the way she was inspired when in school. When not teaching, she serves as the music coordinator for the St. James Episcopal Church in Groveland, MA, music director and accompanist for various theater companies in the Boston, MA area and a voice teacher in Burlington, MA. Her education web-site is samanthaprindiville.weebly.com and her choral blog for her students is coolidgeadvancedchorus.wordpress.com.