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I had this exact issue with my 7th graders. I have a small group (11!) of mostly girls for their last class of the day…right after PE. They are physically exhausted when they come into my room. The way I overcame it was that I simply sat down with them one day and said, “Look, you’ve got lots of potential. You have beautiful voices when I can hear you sing. I know you don’t always want to do what I ask you to do, but I promise you that you will come out the other end of this better than you were before. If you trust me and do EVERYTHING I tell you to do (even if it seems “stupid” or silly), you will be a better singer because of it. I know what I’m doing…and when I don’t, I fix it as soon as I figure out that what I’m doing is wrong.” I am a little goofy, and female, but this worked wonders for me. My kids go all out when I ask them to. There are days when I know I won’t get anything out of them, so I don’t demand it because I don’t want to be disappointed, but we have a completely safe environment in which I can tell them if something is REALLY bad. We laugh about it and then we fix it. We rejoice in our mistakes and struggle through together. I think that is the key to middle school girls. You have to make them think that you are in it with them, while at the same time, making sure they know that you are NOT going to be “BFFs” with them.

Another thing that I do is mock (jokingly and lovingly, of course!) when they sing something REALLY awful (nasally, southern diphthongs (we are in the country, y’all)) and then I show them how to change it to make it sound beautiful. Their jaws drop sometimes. Also, try forcing them to sing with their eyes closed. I start this with them all in a spot on the wall, facing the wall. They only see the wall and they mostly hear themselves. Sometimes, the transition from wall to seat can take several months. Be patient with them. Don’t force them to sing too loudly or it will damage their idea of a good tone. I wish you the best of luck with this class!