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Classroom Management Using CHAMPS for Middle School Choir Teachers

Classroom management fails to live up to the excitement that repertoire planning or community building with your choir kids holds, but we have to talk about it. I know, grumble grumble complain. Classroom management in middle school, let alone middle school choir, presents unique challenges. But, what if your admin team adds an extra layer of challenge with a handful of letters - CHAMPS.

Keep reading if you are:

A.) A middle school choir teacher who wants a new strategy for classroom management


B.) A middle school choir teacher who HAS to use CHAMPS and you don’t know where to start

If you are NOT either of those teachers, then go read Sub Plan Do’s and Don’t for Middle School Choir Teachers. We always need a good reminder about how to think of sub plans.

What is CHAMPS?

First we had ELL, then IEP, then FERPA, FAPE, RTI, ESY, and so many more acronyms to learn and keep up with each school year. Now we have ... CHAMPS? To its credit, it’s nice to have a word. And that’s not an accident, in my opinion, because this classroom management system is directly communicated to students.

CHAMPS is a classroom management tool that explicitly describes the actions and expectations of students throughout your class. CHAMPS stands for:

C - Conversation

H - Help

A - Activity

M - Movement

P - Participation

S - Success

Conversation in the Middle School Choir Classroom

The first letter in the acronym refers to the voice level expected of students. Typically, this is conveyed as levels with 0 being silent, 1 as a whisper, 2 as talking, 3 as a “teacher voice” for presenting to the class, and 4 as “outside voice” i.e. shouting.

As a choir teacher, I felt that the norm needed some tweaks to fit a music classroom’s needs better.

What I like about the CHAMPS strategy for classroom management is that it gives teachers room to make their own levels or descriptions without changing the system itself.

Help in the Middle School Choir Classroom

Next is H for Help. Basically, this refers to how you want students to ask questions during class.

Do you, the choir teacher, want to be the point-of-contact for everything during rehearsal or instruction?

Or did you plan a group activity where peers have enough ability to answer questions?

Or is this an assessment where they can’t ask for help?

The H in CHAMPS helps define this accurately for students and streamlines their expectations for class.

Activity in the Middle School Choir Classroom

The A represents Activity, what the students will do in class. For a middle school choir class, the bulk of your activity will be rehearsing but there are times where you will have your students working on assignments.

You may be tempted to dive deep and be explicit with your Activity directives, but I advise keeping them simple for your students.

Movement in the Middle School Choir Classroom

Movement, the M in CHAMPS, lets students know how they can access things like bathroom or sharpening their pencils during class.

Do students need to ask you for every movement so they need to wait and raise their hand?

Or is your policy more free for students and they don’t have to ask to sharpen their pencil?

Personally, I think a clear Movement directive using the CHAMPS strategy helps save you AND your students from frustrating interactions. Nothing is worse than that exchange with a student.

“Johnny Jo Jo, why are you getting up during rehearsal?”

“To use the bathroom?”

“You need to raise your hand first. Sit back down.”

“Ugh. Oh my gosh, what is the big deal? Ms. Strant lets us just go without interrupting.”

“Well this is choir and this is how we do things.”

That exchange leaves BOTH parties involved feeling frustrated. I’m not promising that using CHAMPS will solve that common problem, but having a quick to reference guide to point to during class is so much faster and effective than engaging in that conversation with a student. (Plus, students will also point to it after consistent use. I’m telling you, students are creatures of habit.)

Movement doesn’t have to mean micromanage, so clear parameters will go far.

Participation in the Middle School Choir Classroom

Defining how participation looks through the CHAMPS strategy for classroom management was a paradigm shifter. When I was first introduced to CHAMPS, I felt that the first four letters were self-explanatory. Participation, though, was interesting to me.

By explicitly defining how participation should look, students have a concrete guide to follow rather than rely on the verbal instructions that evaporate instantly in the air and their peers, who they definitely look to for modeling behavior. Again, like any educational tool offered to you, nothing is promised because students vary greatly.

But telling students what participation looks like can only help, not hinder, your rehearsal and class. A quick gesture to your expectation can serve as a good reminder to your day dreamers.

Success in the Middle School Choir Classroom

The final letter of CHAMPS stands for Success. You could explicitly define success for students, but personally I don’t.


Success fluctuates. You can’t exactly pinpoint what success will look like after a rehearsal where all of your students remained on task by following their CHAMPS parameters.

Maybe your students did nothing wrong, but they didn’t get through the entire octavo as you anticipated that day. That shouldn’t mean they were unsuccessful. But if it’s listed as the “success” for the class period, then it could demoralize students.

Best to avoid labeling anything specifically.

Instead, frame the S in CHAMPS as the result, whatever that result looks like on any given day. In totally scientific math form, CHAMP = S instead of CHAMPS = explicit success target.

Classroom Management Benefits for Middle School Choir Teachers Using CHAMPS

Now that the acronym isn’t foreign, what are the benefits of using CHAMPS in your middle school choir class?

1. Clear Communication

Speaking the same language as your students mitigates any miscommunication of expectations, which is what the CHAMPS strategy strives to establish in your classroom.

Remember, students see more teachers than just you. They have to keep up with multiple teachers who all expect something different ON TOP OF the content they are responsible for learning.

This isn’t an excuse for the students, but evidence to support the idea that communication needs to be clear to avoid any frustrating feelings.

CHAMPS can give students a consistent system that they can refer to when they don’t recall your expectations. Maybe you class rules posted somewhere (You know, the good ‘ol “Be a participant” or “Be Responsible”), but generally those don’t tell Johnny Jo Jo how YOU want to be asked.

Will there be some students who blatantly disregard anything you post or teach? Sadly, yeah. Comes with the teacher territory. But for your other 90% (because you’re frustrating students probably don't make up the majority of your class, just the majority of your head space), they will thrive more with clear expectations communicated consistently.

2. Documentation

Discipline depends on your admin/school site, but everyone requires some kind of documentation and intervention.

I just mentioned our frustrating 10% of students who bear their own burdens that ultimately come out as oppositional in your choir class.

When it comes time to document their behavior, using CHAMPS provides solid proof that you explicitly demonstrated your expectations to the student easily.

So, when you have to document repeated off task behavior, you have a quick reference for your write ups. List the CHAMPS expectations shared for the class and cite the observed off task behavior from the student and how you attempted to intervene.

3. Streamline Your Class

Having a handy, easy to understand, chart of expectations can reduce repetitive questions and off task behaviors faster than you losing your voice as you repeat everything all over again.

The time that can be saved, especially with the Help and Movement descriptions, is a boon to a busy choir teacher.

4. Your School Already Uses It

CHAMPS may already be implemented in your school. If so, that makes using it easier because students are familiar with the framework already. Plus, it’s helpful to the rest of your school when students see ALL teachers using CHAMPS and not just their core class teachers.

You are just as important as the core classes, choir teachers, so don’t create the illusion that you’re not on the same level by ignoring school-wide initiatives. Kids notice and that will shape their perception of your class (so don’t be shocked when they give you such a hard time when you ask them to write a concert reflection down the road.)

How to Use CHAMPS in Your Middle School Choir Class

If you want to start using CHAMPS in your choir class to improve your classroom management, then first let me remind you what CHAMPS is NOT.

CHAMPS is NOT discipline.

It is a framework for students to understand the expectations in your class.

CHAMPS does not describe any consequences or disciplinary actions that you need to take as the teacher in the classroom. That will be up to you/how your school handles discipline issues. (Now, remember, CHAMPS can serve as good documentation when students are off task, but that isn’t a consequence. Just part of the documentation process.)

With that reminder in the front of your mind, use this classroom management strategy to effectively communicate your expectations with your middle school choir students.

Your CHAMPS expectations should be displayed prominently in your room where all can see.

There are two ways you can display your CHAMPS expectations: physically and digitally.

Physically refers to your traditional bulletin board approach.

When I taught elementary music, I used CHAMPS and bought this set of awesome CHAMPS printable for elementary music but man was it overwhelming. I made it work by putting little velcro stickies and making velcro arrows that could be moved during class to correlate to what we were doing. (This ended up becoming a student job for upper grades who could move the arrow because teachers should always outsource as much as they can to students lol.)

Classroom management example using CHAMPS in a music classroom
Love the velcro arrows, HATED the maintenance

Why was this overwhelming? So. Many. Choices. I didn’t actually print all of them, just the most pertinent.

When I designed this CHAMPS resource for middle school choir, I started with the mindset of KISS, Keep It Super Simple. So there are only four options for each aspect of CHAMPS.

Another option for a physical display of your CHAMPS expectations is to print the CHAMPS letters, put a sheet protector next to each one and slip in the expectations you want.

With the advent of tech in the classroom, I would encourage more teachers to display their CHAMPS digitally.

Example of using a CHAMPS chart with Google Slides or PowerPoint for middle school choir classroom management

This has everything listed but there are moveable grey boxes to shade out the expectations I don’t want. I first saw a middle school science teacher do something similarly except she highlighted boxes instead of greying out the inapplicable ones.

That inspired me to create a digital display for CHAMPS because that was so much easier to manipulate than a physical display.

Can You Make Your Own CHAMPS Expectations for Choir?

Yes! That’s how I started making my resource because I wanted to provide choir teachers with something that they can take and use immediately or make their own.

Editable classroom management for middle school choir and middle school chorus teachers
Put your own instructions to fit your needs - no one can predict someone else's needs fully

Closing Thoughts on Using CHAMPS for the Middle School Choir Classroom

CHAMPS provides a great framework to quickly communicate expectations to your students, so classroom management becomes easier. Less repetitive questions = less annoyed teacher. And that’s good for everyone involved.

CHAMPS doesn’t replace any classroom rules or discipline. It serves as a great communication tool that also functions as effective documentation when you need to record off task student behavior in your choir classroom.

I hope this helps your classroom management or it has helped you think of how you can incorporate CHAMPS into your class if your school already uses it.

If you want a ready-to-use/ready-to-customize CHAMPS resource specifically for middle school choir teachers (though high school choir teachers could also get away with using this too), then check out my resource on TpT!

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