We have all had moments when our modeling for students was less than super and the student performance reflected it.  When I model vocally a passage from a piece and tell my students “like this,” I better make sure my body alignment, breath, vowels, soft-palate, diction, and body language are what I want.  Students are watching it all. 

The authors reminded us of how foreign language teachers will sometimes teach the entire class in that langage! It is an immersion into the language.  A great technique. I am becoming more aware that as a choral teacher, everything I do when I walk to the podium is on display and is being copied.  A choral rehearsal is an immersion experience!!! We are not just teaching content, the notes and rhythms of a piece, but the “how” it is delivered is vital to the final product. The pacing, the conducting gestures, body language, body alignment, breath, tone, phrasing are all being taught at the same time.  Yes, I will chunk the material and teach in layers but if I teach a phrase without all the elements, very soon the phrase will be socialized and cemented into the right or wrong way we want the final product to sound.  Better to take the time on the front in as it will take way too much time on the back end to correct things, and sometimes you run out of time and are past the window to make a change. 
I am learning that some good feedback questions to ask my choir is not only what they learned but how did you learn it.  

You Perform The Way You Rehearse
I often say, “you perform the way your rehearse.”  Number 18 says exactly this as the authors say, “people often perform in the big game in the way they have practiced, so monitoring the quality of your modeling is crucial.”

Author summary:

  • Model in the way you want learners to perform. 
  • Model the skill you are teaching, but use teaching time also to model any other skills that you expect people to eventually learn.

Especially in my entry level ensembles, I want to create a learning environoment where students at any level can enter freely.  I want them to be encouraged to enter.  I think one thing that helps is that the students know the learning process — my learning process.  I want them to be free to simply do as they see and hear.  “To think less and act more.”  Then it is my job to monitor, monitor, monitor.  If I don’t like what I hear, then I need to re-think the way I modeled or check for the understanding of the students. The auhors say, “Learners need to hear that direct replication of the model is a completely legitimate way to approach a technique.” You would think that in the choral/music world that a higher value should be placed on originality or creativity.  In order to be creative, you have to know the rules first. In our case, you have to have the tools to read pitch and rhythm along with good singing technique. 

Be My Echo
Elementary music teachers often use the phrase, “be my echo.”  Copying is a leginimate form of learning. I think making students aware of the process is important. It can really free up rehearsal time. 

I do love that moment in the movie “Young Frankenstein” when Igor says to Dr. Frankenstein, “Walk This Way.” Igor monitors and adjusts till the good doctor finaly follows exactly hunched over, limping,and even pretends to use a cane. 

Author summary:

  • When asking people to follow a model, a useful first step is for them to imitate the model exactly. 

The older I get the more difficult it seems to remember every step that I took to learn a certain technique. Many times I have had that “ah-hah” moment, “I forgot to teach a step.”  Then I stop and go back and reteach the sequence.  And sometimes when my choir has difficulty with certain techniques or sections, I have to rewind and chunk the material into smaller parts.  The authors call this modeling the “skinny parts.”

One of the first things I do when I am rehearsal planning a new piece of music is deciding what the sequence of micro modeling needs to be. With that in mind, I hit rehearal and continue to monitor and adjust listening to the choir to see if what I hear and see matches what is in my head.  

Author summary:

  • Model complex skills one step at a time and repeat when necessary. 
  • Play a game of “Copy Cat” with learners to model small skills until mastery and then build on that.

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Johnny Matlock 217 West 24th Street Hays, Kansas 67601 Phone: 785-623-1412 Email: