Middle School Sight-Singing Guru, Dale Duncan shares some stories from his early years and share this top 5 lessons for any middle school choral director.
Dale Duncan teaches Choral Music and Music Theater to over 340 eager middle school school students at Henderson Middle School in the Dekalb County School System in Atlanta, GA. He has over 23 years experience teaching this very special age group. Using a 21st-century approach including video teaching tips, video teaching examples and digital lesson plans, Dale originally developed and created S-Cubed! Successful Sight Singing program for Middle School Teachers and their Students in order to specifically help new and struggling choral music educators in the state of Georgia learn how to teach Sight Singing to the Beginners. Since developing and offering the system online in 2013, teachers from all over the world have discovered S-Cubed, and are using the system in their classrooms with great success. He has presented his work on the subject with articles in Choral Director Magazine, ACDA’s ChorTeach, in webinars for NAFME, in state ACDA events in Georgia and South Carolina and at Georgia Music Educator’s Association Convention on many occasions. His materials are available at Teachers Pay Teachers! He blogs about the subject at http://inthemiddlewithmrd1.blogspot.com/.
Today, you’ll hear my interview with Dale Duncan, a middle school music educator, who is exceptional at teaching kids to sightsing. He will be offering tips to you not only on teaching sightsinging but on classroom management and other important aspects of working with the middle school student.
When asked what he “does for a living” Dale explains that he teaches middle school choral music to “340 lovely children” in Atlanta, Georgia, a job that is not for the faint of heart!
He loves teaching beginners to sightsing but also has a passion for the middle school music educator and wants to help him/her as much as possible, especially after seeing so many colleagues come and go through the system, seemingly failing at their jobs or simply giving up. (Listen to hear how Dale feels about working with middle schoolers and hear more about his sometimes trying early years of teaching!)
Dale became passionate about sight singing when he got to Georgia because that state required such a high level of literacy in its testing. So he began to create games for the general music classroom to get kids who didn’t want to sing to sing. They loved it and everyone sang! His passion for this and his successes with it led him to offer workshops on the subject for his fellow teachers. Dale then created PowerPoints/videos so that his colleagues could watch him work, which he felt would be more advantageous than just reading the words of a book.
Dale is now the creator of a sightsinging video series called S-Cubed, which he uses with his own students.
Dale also talks in this interview about classroom management, a subject that he struggled with in his early years of teaching but gradually grasped as experiences brought him to a better understanding of the middle school student. He understands now that they need structure and thrive on it. (Listen to learn how Dale structures his class periods and how he captures his students’ attention from the minute they step into his classroom.)
“I try to do more and say less,” Dale says, in explaining how he engages his classes. He’s not a lecturer, he adds, but prefers to teach through activity.
Finally, Dale offers his top 5 daily practices for the middle school choral director
- Give the students the structure they need to succeed. Realize what they don’t know and help them learn it.
- Allow your students to fail. They won’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
- Have fun and laugh with your students EVERY SINGLE DAY! Be sure you connect with each other. It changes everything! Also stay abreast of current trends to ease that connection.
- Realize what’s most important as a teacher so that you don’t get to the point of burnout. Understand what you’re NOT going to get done. Just do what will let you best serve the children and what will nurture both your spirit and theirs.
- Build relationships with your administrators and counselors and remember that you’re not the center of the universe. Work within your building to get your program where you want it to be. Be willing to work with everyone who is at the front of important decisions, sharing your vision constantly but being patient and implementing it over time. Don’t have a “God” complex!
Want to hear more from Dale Duncan about his sightsinging techniques? Tune into our live webinar on Tuesday, March 8th at 8 pm EST/7 PM CST. Entitled “Middle School Sightsinging Mastery”, the webinar will feature tips from both Dale and I and instructions to make you a better teacher of sightsinging