Reply To: Multi grade levels at once suggestions
First, I’d like to say that giving your older students leadership responsibilities is a good way to not only lesson a bit of the load on your shoulders, but too teaches your high school students how to become organized, manage time, and build leadership skills. Mentoring is a good way to build relationships between grade levels, and potentially (and perhaps unintentionally) assist with member retention. For example, a 6th or 7th grader who is paired with a freshman or sophomore, may be more likely to stick with orchestra into high school, if it means that they will be able to perform next to their mentor “buddy” later on. This is especially true if the scheduling issue is worked out to where the grade levels are split up into different classes throughout the day. Also, are all of these students meeting in the same room, or do you have access to different areas of the building during this time? If you have access to multiple spaces, perhaps while you are working with, let’s say the violins and violas in a mini sectional in your classroom, you could have the first chairs, (or assigned section leaders) of the cellos and basses work with their sections together in another area, perhaps an auditorium/stage or even the gym, if there are no classes in there during that time and if your school would allow you to use chairs and stands on their gym floor. After working with the violas and violins, you could move on to the cellos and basses, and have the section leaders/principals lead the violins and violas.
Also, I think that having a concert that involves all of these students would be a good use of your particular situation and time restraints. With the simpler arrangements of the music, the younger students wont be as discouraged or fearful of performing alongside their older, more musically experienced peers. If you did hold sectionals in the beginning of the class, at around 2:45, when your fifth and sixth graders come in, you could re-tune all of your students together, and have a full orchestra rehearsal. You had also asked about suggestions for keeping your high school students engaged. The mentoring and breaking off into sectionals are good ways to keep them engaged. You could also arrange a warm up that has differently arranged parts that are appropriate for each of the different grade levels, engaging/involving the entire orchestra. You could also incorporate mini theory lessons into the class, you could introduce the high school students a more difficult concept from 2:11 to 2:22, and water down the lessons for the other grades, when they come in later on. You could have short worksheets throughout the school year, to document their growth. I hope my suggestions were helpful, good luck with your orchestra!