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Activities for 4-hour choir rehearsal

Hi everyone,
I am a middle school director at a small private school and my program has about 30 students all told.  My principal very graciously offered to have a "fine arts day" on one of our early release days, wherein all the students involved in fine arts, be it band, chorus, or visual art, would be with their teachers for the entire day (8:15-11:55).  When it was first scheduled back in the fall, I thought it would be a great opportunity to have a clinician come and work for the day with my choirs, to rejuvenate and reenergize them in preparation for our festival performance.
Then came the email...
About three weeks ago, I received an email letting me know that about 30% of my kids would be gone on a field trip to South Carolina for the ACSI Regional Science Fair.  Combine that with National ACDA happening this weekend (to which most of the people I would have called for a workshop will be going) and you have me and two-thirds of my choir for four hours, my strongest singers gone, and no clinician.
I have sketched out a rough outline of what the day will entail, but I need ideas for team-building group activities as well as fun new physical warmups that all the choirs can do together before we begin.
Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!!!
on June 25, 2013 4:31pm
Hi Claudia,
This sounds like a tall order. If you will begin well and with some innovation, this will go a long way to holding their attention for the rest of the four hour time. Build a rapport with them right off the bat by having them introduce themselves in a fun way - name, grade, and favorite animal (or superhero or food etc.). There are a number of fun PowerPoint games that can be played to break up the time (do a Google search - is one of my favorites). You can even change the questions to actually teach some elementary musical information. Movement during the time should be choreographed well and is essential.
Keep things moving and have a great day with these young people!
on June 26, 2013 5:29am
I'm impressed at the generosity of your principal allowing students to be away from "core" courses for a day! 
I have seen a team-building activity that was a type of interpersonal scavenger hunt. The activity involves a grid sheet with various fun facts culled from conversations with your singers, such as who has seen a Broadway show, who is an only child, who's favorite subject (other than choir!) is Math, etc. The kids go around to each other getting others to write their name in any space that they can honestly say they have done. You can participate in this as well as being one of the people surveyed and writing your name in squares.
You can say how much time they have for the scavenger hunt and then doing a review of results as a group ice breaker.
on June 26, 2013 7:59am
Just a few ideas:   begin with a really well-planned warm-up that begins with stretches, elongated alignment or standing on one foot, some staccato arpeggios, some long tones on pure vowels, some two part long tones with a cresc./decres. and some fun diction warm-ups, then a round, or solfegge pattern that can be done in a round.    Next go to some ear training with a large solfegge chart on the wall -- you sing a pattern first, and they sing it back, and then have one section at a time sing it back, feels fun and a little competitive, and if it goes well, a volunteer can then become the teacher and so forth.    Then work on a song for upcoming performance, really isolating the vocal part(s) and breaking it down in as many ways as possible:  words alone, words on the rhythm, melody on oo vowel w/o words, 1/2 group singing a phrase, then the other 1/2, and so forth, so that you are building in success, or building up your non-leader singers.    After rehearsing that piece, try performing it through and ask the kids to rate it with a rubric, and break them into groups of four to make their assessment, then ask one speaker from each group to share out what in the piece went well, and what needs more work.  They will surprise you!  It also can work to advantage if you let them know this plan before the final sing-through.             I would next have a staff paper segment, (have two choices of size of staff paper, as some can not write notes if the staff is too small) writing notes on four spaces, on five lines, naming them, (leger lines, 1-2 above/below) and in pairs challenge them to make up words on the staff (FEED, BAG, etc).  and if they can use a few leger lines, even better.  Warn when 1 minute left, and then after 'stop', share out while you or they write the notes on the board, and so forth!  High fives for the pair who got the most words, and give them a bow at the front of the room or in place.   Then sing again, another performance piece, either old or new.   After second singing session, do some rhythmic drills, with hand claps, thing hits, stomps, etc., and notate rhythm on the board, OR begin simple and build up the rhythm patterns as they do in STOMP. Any kind of rhythm and rhythm notation work.  After rhythmic drills and fun and rhythm notation, sing a third time, preferable something long and lyrical that they can really enjoy.   End the class with a 'ticket out' 1/4 piece of paper, on which they tell you 1/what they learned today and 2/what they need to work on next class.       All variations of these suggestions should come to you to customize to your group needs.  Enjoy!
on June 29, 2013 11:19am
The exercises and musical ideas in previous posts are all excellent.  The secret to surviving four hours  will be breaking up the singing with other acitvities.  If yours is a school where all students have iPads you could divide the kids up in teams, and use a site on Wikipedia--Bach's biography, e.g.-- Put several questions on the board, and see which team can get all the answers first.  You could do the same thing by distributing  a printout of an article.  It would take some prep work, but you could possibly design a musical Bingo game,or  a game show format--anything to spur competition and interest and learn something at the same time.   Also teach them some new rounds. Ravenscroft wrote a number of them, some quite catchy, and they are probably available on cpdl.
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