Forgive me if the this post is too harsh, but I’m feeling like it needs to be shouted from the mountain tops! Free time or “karaoke time” in a music class is a waste of time, and it is a poor representation of you and your program. And here is why:
What purpose is it serving? As music educators, it is not our job to “teach” songs that our students already know, and it’s not right to have them sing the way they sing in the car or in the shower. Sure, you could argue that a karaoke day can help teach stage presence or help students overcome stage fright, but is it an experience for the entire class that, in the end, makes them smarter musicians? In most cases, it’s just a sing-a-long.
I’m getting frustrated by students who share their love for their music teachers because they let them have free time and pull up YouTube for Karaoke Fridays. How can you love a teacher that didn’t equip you for higher music education, and now you’re struggling and behind your peers?
Ironically, I’m noticing that teachers who practice this, are producing students who can’t sight read, who have trouble navigating registers, and can’t define certain musical terms that they had previously learned in elementary school. It’s becoming a scary world out there.
Here are some great ways to fill your Friday free time that will be a break from the norm, yet still teach valuable musical skills.
1. Tonal and Rhythm Dictation. I call this “reverse sight reading” in my class, and somehow they like it more than actual sight reading. After we’ve been practicing these skills for a while, I’ll do a quiz and post the top scorers as our “Tonal Dictators.” They get a kick out of the title, but they also train their ears to help them when sight reading assessments roll around.
2. Sing ‘Till You Drop. Once you are done with rehearsal for the week, sing through everything you know without stopping. Record it, and listen to it for the remainder of the class period. Have your students take notes while looking at their music to make a to-do list for next week. It can be a ticket out, or a small classwork grade.
3. Team Building. Purposely schedule specific Fridays where you plan team building activities. If students see them on the calendar, they will consider it a “game day.” Plus, these are necessary skills for your ensembles! Any activity that fosters teamwork and leadership will be beneficial wrapped in fun.
4. Music Terms. Rather than taking notes and copying definitions of music vocabulary, give them a list of terms that they need to write a song or rap to that will show they understand the definition. Have them work in groups, and create a sense of urgency with a performance at the end of class time. Sometimes their creations can be the funniest thing to happen all semester. Fun and learning!
5. Performance Critiques. Pull up YouTube and find ensembles choirs performing some of your semester’s repertoire. Compare and contrast different interpretations, note the ensemble’s strengths and weaknesses, compare the ensemble to your own ensemble. There’s much to be learned just from hearing/viewing recorded performances.
6. Rehearsal Reviews. Have students reflect on the week’s rehearsals. What went well? What didn’t? What was your favorite moment? What frustrated you? What piece needs the most attention next week? What’s one thing your section needs help with? What’s one thing your section improved upon this week?
7. Sight Reading. Make it fun for Friday. Print/download a pop song but black out the title. Have them sight read the melody to figure out the song. Winning group gets a prize! (And make it a good one!)
I’m sure there are several other options for your free time, but these are some of my go-to activities. Sometimes we just have normal rehearsal like every other day. Sometimes we do something fun. But we are ALWAYS learning and getting better. You just can’t give up that valuable time!
How are you filling your Fridays? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/xtrah/