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Activities for Starting the school year

Clear Day

Dear Listers,

Here is the compilation of Creative Ideas for Starting Off the School Year.
Once again, list subscribers have really been generous and helpful. Thank
you so very much for all the suggestions—they’re great! In my haste to cut
and paste this compilation I didn’t include a name or two of contributors,
and am truly sorry. I hope all those who teach in the classroom have a
great year.


Vicki Taylor
Dir. of Vocal Music
Orangewood Presbyterian Church
Maitland, Florida


1st, hopefully you don't have 170 at the same time. Then,

Divide your class into equal teams (about 8 per team). Put 2 pieces of duct
tape on floor in parallel lines width wise across room. about 15-18 foot
apart. Then every 5 yards put a strip of tape from line to line. You
should end up with a ladder looking area.

In each section place 8-10 pieces of construction paper around - as if they
are rocks scattered across a stream.

Put 1/2 of each team across from each other. Each team should have a
rectangle with paper strewn across it.

Goal is for each person to cross the "stream" blindfolded following the
directions of the teammates across from them. If they step on the
construction paper or the duct tape, they have to go back and start again.
when all have crossed they sit down.

You will create a group fun, listening and will at the same time see who the
natural leaders are and be able to watch how your students work.

Winning team gets...tootsie rolls or an atta boy, whatever you prefer.
Taken from a workshop with Paul Gulvigsen at Show Choir Camps of America

Also from Paul's workshop,

Put class into 2 teams. Line up across from each other in two lines.

Then, without talking (or using hands-to make it harder), students must get
into a single line (with their team) in the order of their birth month and
day (or middle name, or first name if they don't know each other). They
have to then find ways to communicate without using the voice!!!

This was a fun, team building activity....After the groups get in the
correct places, they call off down the line and get a point for any
incorrect lineups....The team with the least points gets a treat.

My students loved these activities, (except, of course, for those few who
were too good for them....but they were drawn in before the games were over)

Another activity from Judy Hanson, Chicago Children's Choir, I learned at
the SCA workshop is morphing.

Students all start as eggs. They have to squish down and waddle to each
other as an egg would, get into a pair, play rock paper scissors (of course
you review how to play it first) and the winner gets to become a chicken.
The egg has to find another egg and replay. The chicken looks for another
chicken and they play rock paper scissors. The winner gets to become a
_________ (I think dinosaur). The loser has to go back to being an egg.
So if you win you go up one, if you lose, you go back one. Order of beings
is: (and you must act like these beings to play)
greek god/goddess
untouchable one (where they stand to the side, cross their arms and look
down over all the others)

Someone will end up being the egg still. You will see how the students
handle challenges, celebrations, winning and losing and it is really fun.

Debbie Barton

I've used a human scavenger hunt.
Everybody gets a list with things like
"has same color of toothbrush, pet, etc." "has lived in another state", "has
been to a foreign country", "has same number of siblings",. etc.--whatever u
want. First to fill list up wins (I usually have one boy and one girl
winner). Also, brainstorming goals within sections then sharing those w/
the large group can create a sort of mission statement or shared vision.

Chris Harris
OHS Choirs
Owatonna, MN

On the board write the following "key". Have the students mimic each one
back to you. After doing each one, do all four in a row without any stops.
On a steady beat, of course.

1=shout (a diaphragmatic "hoo")
2=two stomps
3=three snaps (finger snaps)
4=four claps

Then he would write a "composition" just using the numbers like this:
1 2 3 4

He'd count off and we'd perform it with a steady beat for each sound. 1 2 3
4 would sound like this: "Hoo" stomp stomp snap snap snap clap clap clap

Then, he would have the men do it in reverse while the women did it as
before. Then he would add another line to the "music" and change the order
of the numbers. Example:

1 2 3 4
4 3 2 1

We ended up doing three lines of this and sang it in reverse as I described
before. I plan to use it because I know everyone can be successful with it
to a certain degree. Plus, you can expand it if you like for more advanced

Mr. Jussi Doherty
Diplomat Middle School
Cape Coral, Florida

Try this one for rhythm studies--works best in groups of 20.
1. Form 1 or 2 circles (depending on the size of your choir)
2. Have a student think up a short rhythm pattern. The entire body can
be used (simple example using 4 beats-beat 1 clap, beat 2 right hand
hits left shoulder, beat 3 snap fingers, beat 4 left foot hits floor).
3. Now pass this pattern around the circle as quickly and accurately as
possible, with every student doing the assigned rhythm. If someone
messes up, then the circle goes back to the first person. In other
words, you aim for accuracy as well as speed. The group completing the
circle first wins that round.
4. Now, if that is too simple, repeat #2 example going clockwise, but,
add another rhythm going counterclockwise. At some point in the circle,
some student will have to do both rhythms simultaneously. It's great
5. You can match sopranos and tenors against alto/basses, almost any
combination. You can use very simple rhythms or complex ones. I might
have some candy or other prizes for the winning team, or a person who
can perform both rhythms.

Mark Downey

It is hard because we all basically have the same warm up, sight singing,
repertoire routine, right?
My first year I went to and took some ice breaker
activites from the site. Although not choral related, it really helped me
get to know the kids and they really liked the activiities. The one
activity that they like the most:
Everyone wrote down something that they didn't think anyone knew about them
and gave it to me. Then I put the hints on a piece of paper....they have to
go around and find out who matched each clue and turn it could
not give your answers had to get your answer from that
person....everyone had to meet everyone in the choir that day and have a
personal conversation. This also started a lot of fun jokes throughout the


One idea - teach a round, sing it everyday for a week, in circles, in small
groups, every which way - but everyday.......on Friday afternoon go
somewhere really obvious like the hallway, cafeteria (with admin. permission
of course) and invite students to come hear...... I had some students drop
out of other electives to come to chorus.
This also makes my new students feel the joy of a performance early on and
they get to know each other sooner.

Outline the entire year for the students and share it with them:

_Are you going on a trip or to a festival?
_Can you team up with other choirs in other schools for a mini-festival?
_Can you do a field trip? (to perform or SEE performers)

Share these plans to get them excited about being the choir.

Create something that will provide some unusual interest:
_Can you sing on your local cable TV station at the holidays?
_Can you plan a CD recording (closed session) where you will have 'the best
of . . . " C.D. at the end of the year?

Can you host a college choir to come in and do a joint concert?
What about a local community or semi-pro choir to sing with as a mentoring
type sponsorship - -maybe even with a small orchestra?

Can you host a "Choir Idol" (aka "American Idol") evening with prizes? (Gets
the soloists out and enthused).

Share the repertoire in advance: pick something special for them, talk about
it the first day: perhaps a medley or something with piano, bass, drums.

Can you combine with a large Church choir to perform in a great space with a
fab organ?

Can you get the administration to grant a 'school performance' early in the
year? Or, maybe just offer to sing the National Anthem at the first game of
the season or at the 'pep rally' or similar.

Line up a soloist, duet, or quartets for each sports game (or a number of
them in football, basketball, etc) for singers to sing the National Anthem.
Talk to the athletic director and create a schedule for the students to sign

Get 8 of your best boys and teach them a quick a cappella tune and take them
around the school at the start of school - - maybe the principal will allow
it - - or - - have them sing in the cafeteria during lunch as a 'commercial'
for the choral program. Burst into the café singing something groovy that
everyone will stop and applaud.

Do you know some professional singers that would come in the first week of
school and sing something FOR the students for inspiration?

If you plan some of these things and share them the first day or two - -
students will see this will be a 'fun' year.

Now, if you need some tips just for classroom activities:

sing immediately: learn a round the first day and make it happen. Use the
round all year as a 'call to begin' each day. You can start singing the
round as students enter the room so by the time the start bell rings they
are already singing while getting their folders of music and not talking.

Sing a unison song they'll like right from the start that can be used as a
warm up all year.

After you do the above the first couple days - - ask for a person to come to
the front to sing it for everyone - - have a candy bar or little prize
ready. Do it again the next day - - but only for those that want to
volunteer. A mini-solo at the start of class each day on that same song.
That builds enthusiasm for the singers and their egos.

Create a sound track with your computer and synthesizer of a bass line, drum
beat and chordal accompaniment to play on the stereo to a tune they did last
year that was simple and up-beat: Sing it again on the first day with this
'new' accompaniment just to get started.

Have a choir picnic or an all-night shut in party somewhere with parental

Learn a tune and videotape them and play it back. Discuss how they are going
to be even better this year by commenting on the tape: looks, posture,
intonation, etc.

Can your best choir sing in the entryway as students arrive the first day or
second day? Can they brush up something fast from last year?

Richard Garrin

I use some ice breakers I found on the internet. I have the students get
into birth order month/date/year without talking. I have the students write
a song using a simple melody from a song they know about our high school
(showing school spirit). You can make a bingo game card with different
things in each square. example: a football player, someone who wears
contacts, someone wearing red etc. The students go around the room and have
to fill in each square with a different name. The first one with the card
filled is the winner. This is a great way for new members to meet.

Brenda Woelfel

Don't be afraid to start off small. I began a vocal music program in a new
high school last year and had only 10 students in the whole choir. Talk
about a challenge! First off, we had a school wide talent show in which the
choir performed. We also performed at all assemblies and went to Tri-State
Music Festival to compete as a large ensemble. We received a Superior
rating and most of our soloists received Superiors as well. Being visible
is key. This year, we have over 40 students enrolled in vocal music this
year. It's slow growing but it's a fun way to start. Kids will participate
in activities when they know they'll have opportunities to go places and
perform. This year we'll be performing at the state capital, a children's
hospital, and two elementary schools. The students from last year wanted to
do this as a community service project. Let them give you ideas of ways to
reach out to the community. They'll be really excited to do them because
the events were their ideas. I hope this helps a little.

Rebecca Rankin
Director of Choral Activities and Drama
Harding Charter Preparatory
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

An increasing number of schools are introducing barbershop
instruments; minimal expenses; FUN!!!...a full educators package available
from the Barbershop Harmony Society. In many locales, there may even be a
small ensemble willing and able to spend some class time supporting the
teaching effort.
Suggest you go to:
Also prepares them for more competitive involvement at the College level.
Hope this helps and........HAVE FUN!!!!
Dave McCaffrey

I will be a new teacher this fall and I plan on
1. loving the quality music that I have chosen for my choirs
(hopefully this will catch on)
2. showing interest in my students in and out of the classroom
(hopefully they will see that I care about them and will perform
better/be happier)

One thing that we used to do in college was "Choir Sentences." This was
actually done at our weekend retreat, but it could easily be adapted for the
classroom. The first day, have the students write a one sentence phrase
that describes them, starts an embarrassing story about them, what they did
over summer, etc. They can't put their name on them. The next day, you'll
read a few of the sentences and the kids have to guess who it is. The
writer stands up and explains his story. It might take a bit of time so you
could do 10 sentences a day until they are all read or something like that.
It was a great ice breaker and helped us to get to know one another better.
The more creative the sentence, the better. This was a tradition with our
choir. So much so that people would be thinking up sentences all summer
long. One girl made a photo collage to help with her story. It is usually

Alison Rohrbach

Do up a sheet that has at the top "Find someone who" and then write any
kind of thing you think of (takes private voice lessons, plays another
instrument, has been to an opera, plays in a rock band, likes spumoni ice
cream, etc.) It can be anything you want but something that is reasonable
for high school students. The students go around the room and finds one
person to fit the description and then puts their name in the box or on the

Sally B. Murphy
Oak Bay Secondary
Victoria B