My back to school game plan
I've been reading, listening, and studying everything I can get my hands on pretty much all summer to formulate a plan that will work best for my students and I as we head back to school.
My district is currently operating on an asynchronous hybrid schedule. Families that opted to sign up for virtual school are learning through an online platform, and aren't currently being offered elective classes. For students I'm continuing to see in-person, we are operating on the following schedule:
Basically, my students are divided into two groups: A day (last name A-L), and B day (last name M-Z). I see A day students on Mon./Wed., and B day students on Tues./Thurs. On Fridays, only our faculty reports to the building, and lessons are done on a modified schedule through Zoom. Here's what that looks like:
From a combination of factors like: amount of students signed up for virtual vs. in-person, parents afraid to let their child be in Chorus, A day/ B day groupings, I have groups each day that range from 5 to 16 students.
Knowing that range, I tried to set up my classroom in the safest way possible. I tried a few options before settling on this one, but this ended up working best for me because:
It provides the maximum amount of space between individuals for the size of the room
It provides enough space for ME to remain safely distanced
We can still hear relatively well
So this is definitely new: I now have a sanitizing station right next to the entrance of my room. We are wiping chairs and doors in between every class, and encouraging students to get a squirt of hand sanitizer as they enter the room.
For Zoom meetings on Fridays, I discovered that elevating my laptop a little helped me remember to sit in a healthy posture, and provided a better camera angle. Solution? Two reams of paper!
I've also kept my classroom decor to a minimum this year. Less absorbent surfaces=less places for germs to attach. To be honest, I haven't even finished most of my bulletin boards yet, because I haven't been super positive about if we'll actually get to stay in school all semester.
Frizzy hair. Don't care.
Let me start off by saying I KNOW rehearsal safety is extremely controversial right now. For the most part, I've been left to formulate my own guidelines (which I'm taking very seriously), and I've been doing my best to keep up with the ongoing research. Remember, all research right now is emergent, and fluid. Things change as we find out more about how COVID-19 transmits to others. So, with that said, here are my current rehearsal safety guidelines:
Masks must be worn at all times. I actually had to defend myself on this one with my district.
Maximum singing time per class period is 30 minutes. (I have 50 minute periods).
We are moving outside when possible for activities. I have a door on the far side of my room that goes directly into a green area/faculty parking lot.
Masks have to be surgical or cloth masks. I'm not allowing students to sing with neck gaiters. Our school purchased neck gaiters for everyone, so I told them it was their choice if they wanted to wear it in other parts of the building, but they needed to bring a different mask to wear while singing.
Social distancing kept at all times.
We currently have no plans for fall/winter in-person performances. If we do have a concert, it will be virtual, and probably videoed during each group's class period and edited together.
No field trips or events.
No formal uniform distribution. If uniforms are needed, we will wear our casual uniforms (t-shirts and jeans).
Rehearsal and Remote Learning Schedules
Priorities are just going to be different right now. Since I'm only getting to see my students in person twice a week, this is what I think is most important:
Building solid singing technique
Here's a side by side comparison of my typical rehearsal structure, vs. my hybrid class structure:
We have been back in school for four weeks now, and haven't even gotten close to being ready to look at repertoire. Right now, I think we're going to concentrate only on rounds and partner songs for the majority of the first 9 weeks.
During the last 20 minutes of class, I've been doing team building activities, playing the name game, pass the beat, doing melody puzzles, and just recently started a composition activity with each class.
To maximize the amount of time we have in person, I've moved the majority of my theory and literacy curriculum online. I've taken my bell work questions and turned them all into google form based assessments, to allow my students to answer as many times as they need, and see immediate feedback to compare their answers to. I've also turned the rest of my theory/literacy curriculum into a Choir Karate based system. The idea is to give my students the freedom to study the concepts and master them at their own pace (within reason...they still have deadlines!). More on that in upcoming posts!
Long Range Plans
When I say long range, I mean maybe to the end of first semester, because who really knows what's going to happen right now?
During first 9 weeks, I'm focusing on building relationships, and establishing good vocal technique. Right now, I'm not planning on pulling out any repertoire until second 9 weeks. Our "repertoire" is currently a bunch of different partner songs and rounds taken from my two favorite books:
Here are some of the rounds currently in our rehearsal rotation:
And here are some of the partner songs we're singing:
At the end of the semester, I'm going to try and put together some sort of virtual concert. It might be all rounds and partner songs, or it might have some easy repertoire mixed in. Who knows?