How do you write a lesson plan? How do you know how long things will take in rehearsal? Is it best to start with something new or something familiar? What do you do when they stop paying attention? These are some of the questions I had in my first years of teaching and I'm sure they resonate with many of you, as well.
The answers to these questions really depend on what kind of teacher or director you are or want to be and what kind of group you're working with. After a few years of working with children's choirs, I found a quick pace with lots of music and related activities seems to keep everyone's attention while still working toward my learning goals for the ensemble.
Here is my basic children's choir rehearsal outline:
1. Rhythm Activity or Game (5 minutes)
2. Warm-Ups (5 minutes)
3. Hymn of the Month or Gathering Song (3-5 minutes)
4. Scripture Verse
5. Opening Prayer
6. New Anthem (8-10 minutes)
7. Review Anthem (3-5 minutes)
8. Change of Pace (optional)
9. Review Anthem (5 minutes)
10. Closing Prayer
And here is an example of a rehearsal plan for an elementary choir (1st-4th grade):
Rhythm Activity (5 minutes)
Chant rhythm of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” using consonants. Perform with and without rhythm instruments.
First phrase: Sh- (sand blocks)
Second phrase: K- (wood blocks)
Third phrase: T- (metal instruments)
Fourth phrase: Ch- (ridged instruments)
Warm-Ups (5 minutes)
Sing warm-ups ranging from around D above Middle C on the low end to around F above Treble C on the high end. Sing without accompaniment.
nah, neh, nee, noh, noo (5-5-5-5-54321)
shoo-la-loo or doo-dah-dee (543 432 321)
ah-leh-loo-ee-ah (5 4 3 2 1)
breathe in, hold for four beats, breathe out on "s" for four beats
See more warm-ups here.
Hymn of the Month (3-5 minutes)
Sing "All Things Bright and Beautiful" - vs. 1 and Chorus, with accompaniment. Discuss verse/chorus form using some sort of visual (a poster of the text or a printed copy of the music).
Scripture Verse of the Month (read together)
Read a short opening prayer together. See some of my favorite choir prayers here.
New Anthem (10 minutes)
Introduce The Lord is My Shepherd (Moore). Discuss the meaning of the title and text: What does a shepherd do? How is God our shepherd? Teach the first verse phrase-by-phrase, with music, without accompaniment.
Change of Pace (optional)
Take a minute to do something fun or silly - a movement activity, singing game, silly song, clapping game, or tongue twister like "Betty Botter bought some butter..."
Review Song (3-5 minutes)
Review a more familiar song, "I love the Mountains." Sing once without words (neutral syllable: doo), music, and accompaniment. Sing again with words (by rote), without accompaniment.
Read a short closing prayer together or offer a few words of thanks and praise to close rehearsal.
Remind singers about anything important coming up (e.g. "We're singing on Sunday! Remember to meet in the sanctuary at 9:15 a.m.").
Ready to get started?
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What do you do with your children's choir? What is your choir's favorite part of the rehearsal? I'd love to hear!