In what has been an unprecedented week with schools closing and students and staff getting used to a new way of learning, some colleagues at Sandringham have been keen to continue their extra-curricular clubs. It’s hard to imagine how this would be possible with teachers and students in their respective homes so I caught up with music teacher Emma Beaton to learn how she was able to conduct her choir online.

Emma, you have made your choir rehearsal happen for the last couple of weeks despite the school being all but closed.  Why was this important to you?

It was really important to me to be able to continue performing with our students despite all being stuck at home. We have such a strong love of singing in the music faculty which is shared by a large number of our students who attend one or more of our many choirs each week. There is a great deal of evidence to support the fact that singing benefits us emotionally and physically. Never before has it been so important to look after our mental and physical health. Singing promotes positive self-esteem, is a way of communicating, provides an outlet for our feelings and has many physical benefits including working major muscle groups in the upper body. The collective element of singing together however was the most important part for me. Singing together helps us to feel connected to our community and provides a sense of belonging. This is going to become increasingly important as we are isolated in our homes over a prolonged period.

How did you do it and how did it go?

In my last rehearsal with the choir at school we discussed whether they might like to try continuing to rehearse virtually should the school close, and there was a really positive response. I set the rehearsal up (at our usual lunchtime rehearsal time) as a Google Meet and shared the link via our choir Google Classroom. I also shared this with staff and extended the invitation to staff to join in, which several did. I set my laptop up next to my piano and had my guitar and ukulele to hand. Students and staff joined in the Meet and I led a rehearsal with students’ microphones and cameras muted but with mine on so that they could see and hear me and follow my instructions. I invited some students and staff to sing some short solos as part of the warm up which they did although the time delay makes interacting in real time quite challenging. We then learned a few songs and I played and the choir sang along in their own homes. We tried everybody un-muting their microphones and singing the last song but the lag made for quite an interesting and chaotic sound! It was a bit strange for me and I almost felt as though I was singing on my own but we used the chat feed to interact and I think this will be a feature I will use more next time.

Do you think you’ll carry on?

I am intending to continue rehearsing weekly during the school closure for as many students that would like to join as possible. We will hopefully build up a great repertoire of songs that we know really well and when we return to school we will find an opportunity to perform everything we have learned. It won’t be quite the same as being in the same room, but it’s the next best thing!

 

Emma’s choir was mentioned in this heart warming TES article celebrating stories of how schools have been teaching students remotely since the school closure.

If you want to learn more about how to set up Google Meets, click here for some helpful user guide from Google.  If you teach at Sandringham, this is a really helpful bespoke guide for setting up Google Meets.