Today my students had a state test simulation for the three periods prior to my chorus rehearsal...where they had to sit for two hours. Oh these poor children…And then I had 60 of them pouring into my room with an incredible amount of pent up energy. I knew that I had to have my game face on today because otherwise this rehearsal had the potential to be a complete disaster.
While I usually use lots of movement throughout rehearsal, today I had to super-size it. Typically middle school students tend to fluctuate from having lots of energy to being lethargic. Often this comes from their physical changes that are happening. Sometimes they get wiggly in their seats simply because they are uncomfortable. After all, they are growing! But today, after sitting for two hours I knew that they just needed to MOVE!
I started class with a call and response exercise using body percussion. They always love this. They become so focused on my combinations of snaps, claps, stops and vocalizing that it almost becomes like a game to them. I make it trickier as it goes along. This exercise also gets them using both sides of their brain because I use both hands and criss cross often. Immediately I transitioned to an energy ball pass where all hands are up and we pass an imaginary ball throughout the risers as fast as we can. And then I followed it up with a good shaking exercise where they literally shake each hand and then foot for 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, then 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, etc. This was all before we even sang anything!
Their attention after these movement exercises was much better than it would have been if I had started with vocalises, breathing or stretches. Every warm up that followed was accompanied by a movement. I used movement throughout the rehearsal as well as they learned the notes and rhythms of a new song. Sometimes the students chose the movement.
It’s so important to read the room and ask yourself, “what do they need today?” Sometimes the answer to that question may not be what you had originally planned, but go with it anyway! When a challenge presents itself (like 60 middle school students coming into the room after being still and silent for two hours), you need to double down and lean into what they need. Occasionally, these classes end up being the most successful and a lot of fun.