A Few Ideas for Guard Class…

| August 30, 2012 | 4 Comments

I am fortunate to have a Color Guard class period during the school day and have been coming up with ideas to keep the students engaged each day.

Some kids think by joining the color guard class they automatically get an “A,” but my students are finding out that they actually have to work for that grade.

**Note – I do have a syllabus that was approved by the band director who is the “teacher of record,” even though I am the person who runs the class each day.

Here are some of the projects and assignments I use:

Daily Point System

Students begin each class period with 5 points.  Those points can be lost as follows (with the lowest possible score for the day being zero):

  • Tardy (-3 pts)
  • Inappropriate dress (-2 pts)
  • Missing equipment (-2 pts)
  • Absence without notification, except emergencies (-5 pts)
  • Behavior (1-5 pts)

Quizzes/Tests

  • I occasionally test students on choreography and drill responsibilities.  I always let them know about any tests a few days in advance.
  • I do an equipment quiz where I hand out a blank drill page and ask each student to draw where each piece of their equipment is set.
  • I also test on equipment warm-ups, making sure they know the counts to initiate, free hands, hand placement, silk not rolling up on spins, etc.  On movement warm ups, they need to know when to plie’, releve’, point their feet, breathe, shapings of legs, upper body alignment etc.
  • Sometimes I may give my kids a few days notice and let the weapons line know they will each have to show me 5 triples or whatever, with clean setup (we use 5-7 set-up: this is 4 spins, then flip to a left spin position on 5, hold 6, then dip on 7), initiations, breath, release points and CLEAN catches.  To keep it fair, I’ll have my flag line do 5 singles or 1½’s with the same instructions.

Today, I came up with something new that I thought I’d share.  While in our warm up block, I had each individual demonstrate a different phrase of choreography in front of the class while talking me through it (counts, points in space, body/equipment responsibilities).  This not only helped each individual but it also provided the team members an opportunity to help each other out.

Assignments

In addition to using the class period to rehearse I sometimes require additional assignments.  Some examples include:

  • A page-long written video review of performances. This is due on the Monday after each performance.  Performers must list things that went well and things they can individually improve on for the next performance.  (This also satisfies the writing sample requirement our school asks of the students each semester.)
  • A character sketch of their field show character (if we have one that year).  This can include a drawing of their character and a written paragraph describing the traits and qualities of their character.
  • I also teach a fair amount of dance terminology and will occasionally have the kids take notes with correct spellings of terms and then have a take-home quiz where they have to match up terms with their descriptions.

Homework

I had an instance recently where half of my flag line forgot most or all of a few phrases of choreography I had taught the day earlier.  Rather than scream and yell, I showed them the choreography again (at record speed by the way!).  Then, as a homework assignment (on their weekend off!), they had to write out the 3 phrases of choreography.  I had them draw four columns and label them Counts, Equipment, Body and Drill.  They had to write their choreography out count-by-count for those phrases using as much detail as possible (points in space, pathways, direction changes, etc).

Not only did I get my point across that there are consequences for not meeting the requirements but the consequences helped them to learn the skills by employing the idea of asking the student to teach. In this case they were describing the choreography as if they were teaching someone (on paper). Win-win!

These are just some of the things that have worked for me in teaching guard class during the school day.  Yes, this all does create more work for the instructor, but in the end, I think it will teach the students more in the areas of accountability, responsibility and being detail oriented…which in turn makes our jobs EASIER :)

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Category: Instruction, Rehearsal Planning & Management

About the Author (Author Profile)

Lorraine has been involved in the color guard activity since 1989, first as a performer, then as an instructor and adjudicator. She is currently instructing the color guards at Saugus and Valencia High Schools in Santa Clarita, California, as well as designing for other guards in California. Lorraine also has worked with programs in Utah, New York and Georgia. She was the Instructor/Designer at Littlerock High School from 1995 to 2008. LHS was a semi-finalist at WGI World Championships in 2004 and 2005 and the Fresno Regional Scholastic A Champion in 2005. She is an Adjudicator for SCSBOA, WGASC, and UWGA, and has also traveled to Oregon, Nevada, and Texas to judge marching band and winter guard contests.

Comments (4)

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  1. Melissa Joyner says:

    I too have a Color Guard class. I include my team in the song selection process for public performances, as we perform for different community events as well as competitions. I too give quizzes on equipment sets and such. I’ve had mine explain the geometry in choreography. Glad to know someone else also seizes those cross-curricular teachable moments and holds the kids accountable.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am a band director and have a color guard class. The instructor comes in a few days a week, but he has a life too. What do you do after marching season? I am looking for additional teaching/learning activities. I know all about the indoor winter guard but this year we are opting not to field a guard due to expense and several brand new people. Instead we will be creating a routine for our concerts and to use for recruiting, as well as teaching new people the basics to be ready to next year marching band. But not here to discuss that.

    Anyway, besides working on a routine or teaching new equipment (sabre, rifle), any ideas what other activities to do in a classroom setting now that marching season is done?

    • I posted your comment/question on our facebook page. Check in over there to see what conversation is generated!

    • Sue Cechal says:

      Hi! I just retired from being a HS band director with a guard class. Does your class meet the same hour as the band? Mine did, that was an issue, but I found a teacher that was willing to help out and supervise when choreographer was not there.

      I have instructional videos that they watched, from competitions (I get the Iowa State ones as they are put out in the fall, even though I am in Wisconsin…) and WGI instructional ones. They can work with equipment, but I wanted an adult for liability reasons. I also got dance videos that worked on “across the floors” concepts.

      Some days I would book the computers in the library and give them a list of you tube videos to watch and critique.

      We were approved to have a facebook site available to us, a closed group of the guard only, and they would find flag designs and critique them and post them. One year the seniors designed a flag and sewed it from remnants I found…projects, admins like projects.

      They can inventory the equipment (on a power point, take pictures!) and clean it up and keep it neat. I tried to keep it interesting and relate-able to the interests of the guard for that year.

      Now, when I just do guard, I am still operating from a band director’s view…I like to have them critique, create and grow. I like giving them equipment they are not used to, like dance ribbons, giant flags, or hula hoops and say “go, make up a routine to this music…” The national music standards list creativity as a standard, and I will always view guard as a musical group!

      Good luck!

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