May the 4th Be with You!

Yes, I couldn’t resist 🙂  Hope that you enjoyed the day.  My son and I celebrated by watching the new (and final) episode of Clone Wars.


Safe to say, the last several weeks have been a little bit….nutso.



This spring, we hosted our huge middle school show choir competition.  The week after that, I accepted a new teaching position for next fall.  I was looking at taking a big break during Spring Break.


And then the virus hit.


The past few weeks have been a race to learn new technology, shift teaching strategies, and alter (or change altogether) curriculum.  I’ve talked to students that are stressed, parents that are stressed, and teachers that are SUPER stressed.  And in the midst of this unprecedented time, there’s one takeaway that I keep coming back to again and again:


Less is more!


When school started moving online, the mad dash to get “virtual school” set up was like prospectors ambushing California during the Gold Rush!  Teachers threw themselves into the daunting task, many using the situation as an opportunity to try new things.


The problem?  As quickly as teachers got things put in place, students (and parents) even more quickly became overwhelmed.  Many schools, in their rush to make sure that learning continued, forgot to think about the situation from the student and parent perspective.  They forgot to think about, for instance, what it would be like for a student to receive an email from each of their teachers, every single day, with “content” for them to choose from.


Some schools also didn’t think about the inequity that is present–especially the lack of devices/consistent wifi service and inconsistent parental support and supervision.


I, too, had grand designs for bringing new ideas and technology to my teaching.  And after one Zoom meeting with my students, I knew I had to dial everything back.  You could just see the tension and the stress on my students’ faces.  They did not need more subject matter in that moment–they were sad, stressed, depressed, even afraid.  They needed support and connection, both to me and to their fellow singers.


Kudos to all of the teachers out there that have been willing to go outside of the box to adjust to online teaching.  But folks, less is more.  Dial back the content, and dial up the opportunities for your students to connect with you and each other, because that’s truly what they need in this time.


That being said, I have incorporated some new activities into my teaching over the past few weeks.  And when I talk with other choir directors, the conversation almost always turns to questions concerning what and how am I teaching online.  So, this week I will be posting each day about a different idea, activity or piece of technology that you could use to further the online experience for your choir members.


Let me know if you have questions about anything I discuss this week.  I hope you are all healthy, staying safe, and that your online teaching is going well.  May the 4th Be with You!



Comments on May the 4th Be with You!

  1. Jessica E Bowen says:

    I agree with your “less is more” philosophy. I’m sure a lot of music teachers won’t agree with my approach, but my spring concert was cancelled and that meant there wasn’t a lot of singing to prepare. I couldn’t face theory and sight reading practice for weeks on end so I decided not to do it. I play a music game in our zoom meetings – like Encore and One Word (check youtube for the video of Jimmy Fallon and Alessia Cara). We laugh and kids who want to take a turn do. It’s optional. If singing and laughing is helpful to you right now, come join me. If it’s not, that’s ok too. I post silly assignments that are optional – teach someone in your family one of our warm-ups, sing in the shower, listen to this recording I’m posting – but that’s all optional too.

    1. mattwalker says:

      I totally get it, Jessica! We lost our Spring Concert and Large Group Contest as well. I actually am in a district where the students are still required to submit work. I am trying to give them things that will keep them productive, but not overwhelm them at the same time. I love that you are really supporting the emotional needs of your students, kudos to you! 🙂

  2. Rosalind says:

    Totally agree about “less is more”. I teach international students and everything is online. I would plan the normal level of activities, but actually, by the time I everyone has connected snd we’ve chattwd and gone into one activity ib depth and done questions and admin. notices, that’s 50 minutes done. You don’t have to share loads of videos or apps – breakout groups are good and using a virtual whiteboard, but keep it simple, yes. Better result!

    1. mattwalker says:

      Absolutely Rosalind! It requires us to sort of “streamline” what our teaching objectives are, and really think about what we REALLY want our singers to get out of the rest of the school year. Too many things, and our singers get overwhelmed. If we can narrow our focus and keep it simple, our teaching will be much more effective. I love your idea of breakout groups–how are you managing those? Do you “pop in” to each one, or do you have a student leader that facilitates things for you?

  3. sheila monson says:

    I teach middle school. We closed 2 weeks before our 7/8 musical and the day before our 5/6 concert. Have to strike the musical set as soon as we get back. Just tried to get them busy as soon as I could and tried to keep their spirits up. I’ve used materials from Quaver and Music Workshop to give them songs to sing or good videos to watch with a few questions to answer or a game to play. We didn’t start having regular choir Zooms until a couple weeks ago. Some of my kids have upwards of 5-7 Zoom meetings a day. I didn’t want to bombard them, so I’ve kept it light. We’ve played 20 questions and I played my band instrument for them or sang them my favorite show tunes. This week each choir will have a talent show. Only 5-10 kids are signed up to perform from each choir, but a lot of them said they will come to listen. I can get through the rest of the month but have a sick feeling about next Fall.

    1. mattwalker says:

      Hey Sheila! I totally get where you are coming from. The fact that we all had to do a 180 and totally upend everything that we were doing and go in a totally different direction, with just a few days to do it and very little guidance, is beyond ridiculous. I think what you are doing is great–students (and parents) are totally stressed out, and if we can give them musical activities for this last month that will brighten their spirits, then that’s a win in my book. We just have to make it through the month, and then hopefully we can all take a breath and really take some time to plan what this fall is going to look like.

      If anything else, the past several weeks has helped temper expectations. We now have proof of the things that don’t work, as well as where the expectations should be from a learning standpoint, giving the inequity in learning environments, technology, etc. That can help us move forward, and at the same time, maybe we’ll actually take some of the strategies/activities that we’ve used this spring and continue using them!

      Best of luck for the rest of your school year. Hang in there! 🙂

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