Sunday, September 8, 2013

Big Group = Big Procedures

Every once and awhile, you teach a class that requires the ultimate preparation.  That is the situation I found myself in this year with my 86-member 8th grade choir.  The middle school choir room is not big enough, so we rehearse in our high school choir room (both schools are one connected campus).  I am teaming with a great colleague to teach this group.

It's a good problem to need this many folders
86 eighth grade students need to do the following in 45 minutes:
• Get in the room
• Put other books and materials elsewhere in the room
• Get the correct choir folder for class
• Have a spot to sit/stand
• Take attendance
• REHEARSE - maximize our worktime together
• Put folders away in an orderly fashion
• Get out the door

Don't forget that just finding 86 folders for a choir is an issue, storing those folders, and all of the technology I purchased and installed in the middle school choir room last year needed to be moved to the high school choir room.  This was shaping up to be a procedural mess of Harry Wong proportions.  But it's a good problem to have.

Here's the procedure we set up:
1.  The folder list is posted in the hallway
2.  I put wheels on an old music folder cabinet.  Before class, the cabinet is wheeled into the hallway.
3.  Every folder has a QR code with student name and folder number.  Since these are 8th grade students, I put clear packing tape over the QR code to (hopefully) eliminate doodling on the sticker that could thwart my plans.  The folders were purchased when a local office store had a 1-cent sale.  The limit was 10 per transaction.  Everyone in my family bought ten ... at multiple store locations ... on multiple days.  I got to 120 folders before a manager caught on to me.  Total cost was $1.32 including tax.

QR code on choir folders
4.  Students pick up their folder in the hallway.
5.  The QR code on each folder is scanned before entering the room using the Attendance 2 app.  Many thanks to Dr. Christopher Russell for this suggestion - read his great advice about it.  The app creates the QR code for every folder.  The iPad scans each folder as students walk by, and with the click of a button I know which 2 or 3 people are absent.  This also eliminates the dreaded "I don't need my folder" excuse because students need it for attendance.
6.  There are two doors to the room - men enter through one door, women the other.  This helps eliminate the backup as students are looking for a place along the wall to set down their other books.
7.  We have set up 7 section of risers instead of using chairs.  Students will get used to standing for most of our rehearsals.
8.  Now, we can actually rehearse!
9.  Five minutes prior to the end of class, the folders are given to four students who put them all away in the cabinet.  This eliminates the crush of bodies at the cabinet at the last minute and keeps my very expensive folders (ha ha) in good shape.  The cabinet is wheeled back into the room.

I also plan to set up a number of "jobs" for students this year to help things move smoothly:
• Attendance person - scan the folders and enter attendance into powerschool
• Secretary - If you need something from the teacher, or if I need to remember something for the next class, it will be this student's job to write it in my notebook.
• Sunshine - two students to check on birthdays and honor students each week.  With this many students, community building is going to be important, but it has to be efficient.
• Folder people - four people to put the folders away at the end of class as mentioned above.

These procedures were put together for an extremely large choir, but if they can work for a large group, think how they could help a smaller group maximize rehearsal time as well!

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