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Grading: Writing assignments for 6th grade choir

Thank you to all who responded. I received many wonderful ideas that I have already put into place. Here is a compilation of all the suggestions for those who are interested.

Thanks again

Bethany McKee-Alexander
Choral Director
West Port High/Middle
In my classes (grades 6,7,and 8) I have them listen to a piece of music and
they have to write about it. This is a journal that they keep in my
classroom. It takes only a few minutes because they write while they are
listening. I sometimes take 10-15 minutes on it because I ask them about
what they wrote about after they are done. When starting this I told them
that they could write about what the music made them think of, if they liked
it or didn't like it, what the music does (does it repeat, etc.) what
instruments they hear. They can write about anything as long as it has to
do with the music. They must write in complete sentences and they have to
write at least 2 sentences. I grade them on this randomly and if it makes
sense and is about the music then they get credit. It goes really well and
the students like to share what they have written. Hope this helps! If you
have any questions, let me know.


I have my middle school students watch "Music of the Heart" and then have
them write a letter to the school board convincing them not to remove choir,
or any music, out of the curriculum.

Karen Averill

I have used the following:
What makes a hit song?
If you were a professional singer, what kind of music would you sing and why?
If you could go on tour, where would you go and why?
What singer do you think makes the best actor?
What is the best song you ever heard?
What is the worst son you ever heard?
Who is the biggest star of all time?
Who do you think has made the biggest accomplishment in music?
Do music stars make go fashion designers
Are music personal really role models?

I have always done this as a warm-up exercise for my
students, regardless of age:
My students keep a listening journal. Each page is
dedicated to one day. They must write the date, the
title of the piece we listen to, and then their
comments on whatever aspects of the music we are
listening for. They are not allowed to make value
judgments unless they can back them up using musical
Teach your students how to listen to music. At first,
concentrate on one aspect of listening, then add
others as they become more proficient. I usually
begin with instrumentation/timbre, then move to
rhythm, melody, form, texture, dynamics (not
necessarily in that order). By the end of the year,
they are writing about all aspects of the music.
I play all different kinds of music and it is great
exposure for them.

Carolyn Dwyer
US/MS Choral Director
Holy Innocents' Episcopal School
Atlanta, Georgia

Try something with TV theme songs or commercials. Could always do the musical term of the day.... what does it mean (or what do you think it might mean.)
Write about a:
favorite song, a favorite composer, a favorite concert they performed in or attended
Discuss the lyrics of a song you are working on
What makes music music?,
What makes a choir sound good? (posture, dynamics, blending, etc.)
What would they like to sing in chorus and why?
Why are they in chorus?
Take a melody they know and have them write lyrics and tell why they chose this topic and chose these lyrics.

Hope these help.
Lynne :>o

Hi! When I taught middle schoolers, I used to play a music excerpt
(different genres: classical, broadway, gospel, symphonies, vocal stuff,
etc) and they would write in "journals" about the music. I used to have
them "discuss" in their tempo the genre they thought the music was,
describe the tempo, dynamics, instrumentation (if any), the mood of the
piece, and also simply whether they liked it or not! I found this was a
great way to get them writing AND introduce them to new music and

Good luck!

Kristin Gladish
Baton Rouge, LA

I have one suggestion that comes from my curriculum. I
start each class with a "listening journal". I bring
in a choral recording and come up with one simple
question for the students to ponder. At the beginning
of the semester they are very broad questions such as,
"Is this good singing? Why or why not?". As the
semester progresses I narrow the questions
significantly. "How is this vocal jazz piece different
than the spiritual we listened to yesterday?"
After the listening we discuss their responses. I use
this time to build their musical vocabulary and draw
their attention to concepts of aesthetics. In a short
amount of time students responses grow from, "This is
good singing because I like it" to "Vocal jazz singing
uses no vibrato. Spirituals have lots of vibrato and
louder singing."
All this requires is a large choral CD collection.
I hope this is a helpful response. Please let me know
if you decide to use it and have success.
Matthew Bumbach

Director of Upper School Vocal Music
Pine Castle Christian Academy, Orlando, Fl

Artistic Intern
The Orlando Chorale

Music Director
New Apostolic Church, Orlando, Fl

I would have them reflect on what they did the previous day which will get their minds focused on your class, meet the requirement, and also give them ownership in improving what they are doing in class
There is a book available called Music Journal Topics,
I believe I found my copy at Friendship House but I
have seen it in several teacher supply stores. Good
Christy Survoy
Music Experience Prompts
My mother's / father's favorite kind of music is ___________________.
My grandmother's / grandfather's favorite kind of music is __________________.
This kind of scares me:
Tell about a time when music brought tears to your eyes.
My teacher's favorite kind of music is _________________.
Name two songs that you associate with a holiday. What would that holiday be like without the music?
How do you feel when you hear Christmas music in July?
I always get a lump in my throat when I hear ________________.
I want this kind of music at my wedding.
A song that I associate with a particular place is _____________.
Tell about a time when you couldn't get a particular tune out of your head.
I've learned more songs from __________ than from any other source.
The music that most characterizes this region is ______________.
What songs do kindergartners sing? Can you sing one? Sing a parody of a familiar song.
Tell about your first radio, tape player, or CD player.
What was the very first song to which you learned all the words? How old were you?
Sing a lullaby.
Name a song that you sang when you were little, but don't sing anymore. When did you stop singing this song?
I can't understand why some people call ____________ music.
I can't imagine this [event] without music.
I can't imagine this [place] without music.
I can't imagine this [time] without music.
If you were about to spend a year all alone on a deserted island and could bring only one piece of music with you, what would you bring?
Name a song that you have sung on a bus.
When was the last time you heard the song, "I'll Fly Away"? Can you describe what was happening when you heard it?
Tell about a time when a song quickly changed your mood.
If you were to compare yourself to a musical instrument, which instrument would you be?
Pick a season of the year. Which musical instrument do you associate with that season?
Which is more important - having the ability to read music and play the notes, or being able to play "by hear," without notes?
Writing Promptshuge listmaybe you could put a music spin on some. Gives lots of ideas.
Class Journal Writing Plan more ideas
Chorus and Band Essay Topics-and others
1. Many people listen to music as they travel, work and play.
2. Think about the ways music affects you.
3. Now explain how music affects your life. lots of ideas on other topics
* What's your favorite type of music?
* What's one type of music you can't stand?
* What is your favorite oldies song?
* What is your favorite song and who sings it?
* If you could see any concert what would it be?
* What is your favorite song and why?
More writing prompt ideas maybe select music quotes.
More cool ideasprompting word list
Sound tweaks the emotional area of the brain. You can use music to enhance what you are working on.
Celtic , movie soundtracks, classical, period music like ragtime, jazz or blues, broadway music, 30's, 40's, 50's, etc., holiday, latino, calypso, aboriginal, country, sound effects, religious, native, opera, new age,
This site has a ton of great ideasquotes, and a list of musical genre to use.
Journaling and Writing Prompts to Learn About Yourself
If you are just starting to write in a journal or have temporarily run out of steam, here are some ideas.
If you were to select music for a soundtrack of the day you've had, what songs would you play in the background? Why?
Great question!

One exercise I love to do is have the students make up a story as they listen to a piece of music in a foreign language. Then we read the translation and listen again. Sometimes their stories are better than the original!

Rebecca Fields
Director of Choirs
Pulaski High School
Pulaski, WI

I do writing in high school, and I find setting a topic to write to music works well. An example would be, please write a short story that involves a tree, a rabbit, and a car, let the feeling of the music influence the way your story develops. Using this set-up can have infinite possibilities. You can change the topics to be anything. You can even write about history, science, and math. You can also play music and have students write down all the things they hear in the music. David Young Asheville High School Asheville, NC Vocal Arts

If you have taught them a new musical term or technique you could ask them to put it into their own words and give examples of how it would be used a song that you're performing. You could also put on samples of music (choral or instrumental) and ask them to write the story of the music, how it makes them feel, what they hear, etc.

Good luck,

Stacey Campbell
Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School
Thurgood Marshall Middle School
601 Pearl Harbor St.
Bridgeport, CT 06610