Boys and girls mixed or separated? What do you do with your middle or high school groups? Last week we asked you, and responses showed a slight preference for having gender specific groups:
Yes for the split by gender 63%
No split by gender 38%
Your reasons reflect what the literature says: there are pro/cons to dividing choirs. Most decisions are based on the differing vocal needs and differing vocal technique for boys and girls; changing voices; social comfort and development; appropriate literature for adolescent voices; and scheduling challenges.
Member Jana Grace Williams commented in Teaching Music*:
“Singing is such a vulnerable activity and middle and high school students are at an exceptionally vulnerable state in general. Having a single-gender ensemble gives students the opportunity to more fully focus on the musical rather than the social.
“From a classroom management standpoint, females behave better in a mixed setting because of the presence of males, and males conversely may act out more.
“The men like mixed choirs, but they love singing with the guys…..additionally an all-male ensemble is a great way to get more males to join.”
Other members commented in the mini-poll last week:
We do have separate men’s rehearsals weekly, and the men definitely accomplish more there.
The 7th/8th grade boys are at a different maturity level than the girls of this age. Generally, I found the boys to be embarrassed to sing in front of the girls, and to hide this embarrassment, they act out and are disruptive. Boys of this age are a challenge no matter where they are, but at least the girls are much more productive with the boys out of the room.
Having a gender- specific choir in high school allowed us more time to work on parts, rather than sections sitting there getting bored because of waiting for their section to rehearse. It also gave us a chance to sing ‘girl music’ and ‘boy music’, as my students define it.
We split the choirs in grades 7 and 8. Each same-sex group was less inhibited rehearsing separately and working on literature specific for them. I also put them together for a few songs and rehearsals, but the majority of their work was done in separate groups.
Gr. 8 split. This enables time for the boys to work through their changing voice and continuation of constantly matching pitch.
In our grades 6-8, enrollment is 32 girls and 8 boys, so separating them doesn’t make sense. Many of my 7th grade boys start the year in “Part 2” (Alto) and end the year in “Part 3” (Cambiata/Baritone).
Thanks to all who responded!
–Sue Rarus, May 25, 2011 © National Association for Music Education