• Millie

Turning my online curriculum into a karate based system

With the hybrid learning schedule my district is operating under, I altered my rehearsal structure to maximize our in class singing time. This meant that some things had to go, at least temporarily. Things like bell work, in class assessments, singing tests, etc. Everything that can be moved online WILL be moved online.

I sat down this summer and thought about what my online curriculum might look like. While brainstorming, I pulled out this Choir Karate book I picked up a few years ago at a conference.

I really liked the idea of a karate based system for several reasons:

  • Concepts are broken down into digestible units

  • The reward of earning a belt seems really motivational

  • Mastery based-once you show competence in each belt, you move up a level

  • Differentiation-students can work at whatever level/pace they need

  • Independence- Each belt level is set up with materials to allow for independent learning. Perfect for virtual days!

If you purchase the Choir Karate book, everything is set up for you to use as is with your students, and would work great! Lisa Owens includes study guides, checklists, and pre-written assessments in her program.

Ideas I adopted directly from the Choir Karate Book


I've taken the concept of Karate Belts, combined it with the necklaces I've seen my marching band friends wear, and turned it into bracelets. I made bracelets for each student with a choir bead (complete with school colors), and then as students earn belts, they can add coordinating beads to their bracelets.

Study Guides

All of the concepts I want my students to know are placed on a one page study guide for each belt level. They can refer to the study guide as needed while working at home.


Quick reference to see what needs to be accomplished (and how_ before mastering each belt.


We can assess in other ways besides answering multiple choice questions. Sometimes, the easiest way to see if a kid understands something is to ask them to demonstrate or explain. Flipgrid has been a great way to quickly check this for me.

Click here to check out my Sharp/Flat/ In-Tune Assessment for Yellow Belt. Some of the videos are sideways, but I'm too lazy to fix them.

Customizing the karate system to work for my classes

For those who don't know, I'm a fan of S-Cubed by Dale Duncan, and have used level one for years with my beginners. So, I took some of the concepts originally listed in the Choir Karate book, and combined it with S-Cubed lessons. To do this, I made a giant spreadsheet. On one page, I listed all of the concepts for the Choir Karate book by belt. On the second, I listed each lesson in S-Cubed, before going back and coding them by belt color.

Once I got the information in the belt colors I wanted them to be, I made a rough draft of concepts with the combined info from the book and S-Cubed. Using this, I made my study guides, checklists, and practice questions.

My practice questions for each belt are literally the warm-up questions taken from

S-Cubed lessons. I plugged them into google forms with correct answers and feedback so my students can do the practice questions as many times as they need to understand the concept, while also being able to check their answers and get good feedback about each concept. I'll share this practice question form with you, since it doesn't give away any of the S-Cubed material. If you're interested in those warm-up questions, check out S-Cubed on Teachers Pay Teachers! I also made pdf versions of my practice questions for students who need to print them out for at-home use for whatever reason (no internet, for example).

For each belt, I think about each concept I'm asking my students to learn, and then consider the best way to practice/assess that. Some online tools I'm planning on using for successive belts are:

  • Sight reading factory

  • Google Forms

  • Flipgrid

  • musictheory.com

  • Quizlet

  • I'm also potentially looking into purchasing a subscription to Breezin' thru Theory

All materials for each belt are accessible through Google Classroom. I'm releasing one belt at a time, and giving a deadline for all belt materials to be submitted. Kids have the flexibility to complete requirements in any order they choose and on their own timeline (as long as they meet the deadline).


For each requirement, I'm entering one daily grade. These grades are based on completion and mastery, so if the assignment is turned in correctly, all directions are followed, and it's evident that they understand they receive a 100. If something is left out of the assignment, then I'll send feedback through whatever platform we're using, and make a note in the grade book that the student needs to look at those notes and make corrections before they receive full credit. Students can't receive full credit or move on to the next belt until assignments on the checklist are completed correctly.

For some assignments (like google form assessments), I've set a minimum grade. The students have to make the minimum grade to check off that item on their checklist. If they don't make the minimum grade, they can go back and re-do that assignment until they achieve the grade.

Once everything for a belt is complete, students then receive a test grade for that belt.

Belts on Google Classroom

In Google Classroom, I have everything grouped together in one topic. All directions and links needed for each task are included with each task:

Students are beginning to look at orange belt concepts as they complete yellow belt. Our final deadline for yellow belt is this Friday!

If you would like copies of the Yellow Belt Materials I created, click on the links below for pdf, and editable Microsoft Publisher versions of the checklist, and study guide. Sorry, no practice questions! Out of respect for Dale Duncan and his S-Cubed materials, I won't be making my practice question material available. If you would like access to the specific practice questions I'm using, check out S-Cubed here.

I'll be adding to the Choir Karate folder throughout the year as I finalize each belt for my students, so check back for more!

Click here to access the Choir Karate Materials on Google Drive

Here are the directions I left for each Flipgrid assignment. My class Flipgrids are private, but you can copy/paste these directions into your own Flipgrid topics:

Solfege Hand Signs: Demonstrate proper solfege hand signs and body placement. Then, briefly explain which notes are half steps, and which are whole steps.

The Five Pure Vowels: Sing and model each of the five pure vowels (i, e, a, o, u). You may demonstrate by using your hands to show proper space and mouth shape as you wish. Sing each vowel on the same unison pitch of your choice. Then, briefly describe how to form each vowel correctly (space, tongue position, etc.)

A, B, and C Posture: Correctly demonstrate A, B, and C posture, and briefly describe some elements of executing each posture correctly.


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