Teaching children chant, tips please more tips
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Here we go Janet, Are you ready? This is just things I can remember for now. I have to go now to teach them. I'll put some more later, if it's ok. (I hope it's not too much)
    I'm sure there are people who can put theirs here too.

    Children’t schola. Sample lesson plan

    Every lesson I need:
    Easel and Easel pad,
    Colorful Markers
    Pointer (the one used in ward method is a good one. Sknny stick with red paint in half and green on the other, Red for internal singing notes and Green for vocal)

    Other favorites
    Bean Bag
    Cd and Cd player
    Prize Bag (includes cross necklace) once a month
    Colorful scarves

    Sample Lesson plan (lesson plan must, but flexible, rarely happens that I can do exactly as I planned)

    Beginning (about 15 min)
    *Body Strectch
    *Breathing Exercise
    *Vocal warm-ups (start with fun excercise like going to the zoo and imitate owls, hyennas--) and make sure they have a big pear in their mouth or a tennis ball...(of course imagine)
    Focus on 5 pure vowels (add different consonants too, be careful in choosing consonants. might end up saying a weired thing)
    *Prayer (recite or chant the ones they know very well)

    *Review the Chant you learned the previous week (5 min)
    *Learn a New chant or new verse (do a short game) (15 min)
    *Solfege (not more than 10 min)
    *Reciting time (whoever memorized any chants we learned can come up to the front and recite-3 stickers)
    *Introduce a new chant (about 10 min)

    *Any annoncement?
    * Finish with ‘Benedicamus Domino’ and Respose ‘Deo Gratias” (3 note response) hand folded together

    Fun Games

    Body and Breathing Exercises
    Strech like big trees.
    Breathe your favorite flowers (Deep breathing and slow exhale)
    Dive and swim to the end of the pool (Inhale with your hand with as if you are diving and exhale, or blow bubbles as you swim)

    Learning words
    Pass the Bean bag around while saying the texts together, at some point stop passing it (decide which part of the chant they stop before strating the game, In Puer Natus, we decided to stop on Alleuia and the last word) and ‘it’ has to say whatever you decided for it (favorite saints, prayers, of special dinner, Christmas present…)
    Kids take a turn to point the words

    Melody Games
    Which syllable has more than one note (sing a short part of the chant for them) whoever finds it gets to come up and underlined that syllable
    Hum the part ot the melody for them and have them find which words? Sing it together
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,115
    Solfege and more solfege.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    You can either follow Kodaly, Ward or mix and do your own in teaching solfege. I am trained to teach Ward method long time ago with Dr. Marier. And I used it excusively for my first school job. Dr. Marier was so kind to help me with many details, including coming the school to accompany us. I'll never forget that. (I didn't reaaly know he is a real big guy in Chant. He was so humble)
    Since at that school I managed to have them almost everyday, Ward method worked. I see my schola now once a week, I combined eveything I know.
    Start with three notes (either start with do, re, mi -ward method or mi, sol, la- Kodaly)
    Add one note after when they are comfortible singing them in different combinations. I draw 3 notes on 4 line staff and point the notes in short combinations with the pointer, often snuck in a phrase of well known tune or new chants. Use hand motion, again you can choose Kodlay or Ward. Kodaly is a bit more complicated, but they get used it quickly than you think and they like them. Ward hand motion is simpler but show a relative pitch levels on your body with an arm and even shows a half step. Do note games. Kids love games. I don't do it too long in one day, but never skip solfege singing in my lesson.
  • fp
    Posts: 63
    Thank you so much Miacoyne for sharing your experience!!!....and please post more....it's never too much! I have plans to start a children's choir at our parish and need lots of help! This board has been a great source of informations and inspiration, thanks to all the contributors!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,203
    Here's what I did:

    1. Choose a target date/ liturgical celebration. For those starting now, Holy Thursday would be a good early choice, and Corpus Christi might be a nice far choice.
    2. Make an appeal one week at all the Sunday Masses for singers. Include something like, "Parents, if you would like your children to be involved..." Make sure it's a CCD Sunday (if applicable) and not a 3-day weekend. Mention that the first Mass that the singers will sing at will be Holy Thursday (or whatever).
    3. Register children after Mass, that weekend and the next. Have registration forms ready on 5-10 clipboards. Display choir robes if you have them. I actually cornered children and said, "Hello! Are you a singer!" This was an oddly effective technique.
    4. I'm embarassed to say that we skipped solfedge entirely and relied almost exclusively on rote and very rudimentary sight-reading. 6 weeks of one-hour rehearsals was a little short, but they learned, pretty well, to sing one Mass setting, one Marian antiphon, 2 proper antiphons, and some hymns during 6 weeks. We used the Marian antiphon as the closing prayer. For the proper antiphons, I'm doubly embarassed to say that we relied on excellent youtube videos from the Schola Gregoriana Mediolensis: http://www.cantoambrosiano.com/ Before Christmas, I had kids come in by ones and twos for rehearsals of the introit.

    My experience was that the kids themselves became very curious about the neumes. They wanted to know what, and why, about all of the shapes. They are VERY enthusiastic and responsible, and the feedback I receive from the parents is very positive and indicates that the children are growing spiritually. So I can't say enough that it's worth doing!!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks, Kathy. How to recruit the members is the first step we need. Seasonal choir is a good idea. I agree that solfege would be too much in a short session. It has to be reinforced a lot.

    I just came back from teaching my schola. The room is full now. Two more boys. I don't have a luxuary of splitting the group, room and time (some parents have brothers and sisters, and they probably want them together). But if you can split the boys and girls, that would be nice. I just have them once in a while sing seperately and challenge each other. (I tend to praise boys more for a good reason. And have them do like passing the papers, or bring more chairs and stuff. They love helping you.)
    Since I was writng the post, my leasson plan was very organized today. The more you organize, the smoother your lesson will be (but remember to be flexible, they might get excited on something or need more time, you don't have to do eveything you planned. Having more activities planned is better than less. My first lesson with them, I underestimated, they knew Agnus Dei too well already, so I have to come up with more ideas there for Sanctus. I didn't want to teach too many new chants in the first class.

    Solfege game
    Today, we sang 'Star light , Sar bright' with shiny star on the stick. Go around touch their head gently with it. At the end of the song, that person has to tell us the wish. Next, have them sing the solfege of that simple folk tune with hand gestures. (they sing as you do them) They will recognize what the song was. Sing the solfege on the 4 line notes. I have notes on the board in order from low do to high do', we don't have 'ti' yet. (They are anxious to add it.) Lots of game songs can be found in Kodaly method books.
    I'm sorry taking lots of space here. I taught children more than 20 years in different settings. Coming up with new ideas become easy as you teach. But most important thing is you have to enjoy whatever you do with them. Share the Joy and passion for music with them. And organize your lessons and materials. Very crucial. Children will get distracted and you loose control if you have to pause to look for pages or cannot find things you need for the next step. Smooth transition comes with organization.

    I think Kavin in Atlanta has a good program. Is it Royal music school program? and I remember he promised to share his decorum booklet too, no?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Click, gee, my post is long. I hope I'm not overwhelming anyone or taking her place here.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,203
    I suppose a lot also depends on the age of the children. I start at 8 and go to 17. The strategy would be much different if I started with 5 or 6 year olds. But 8-12, these are the days of memory! Just teach them things, and they remember.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Oh, I forgot to mention the age group. Thanks for pointing it out. I wouldn't do this kind of activities with high schoolers, of course. I told parenst this class is from the second grade and up. Some 6 and 7 came in with their siblings. Parents asked. So I tried and kept them to see whether they get any out of the class. Actually they are doing well. But older kids, middle school kids enjoy all the games too. (The game is only for a short time, and one a day at the most.) Also we practice in the church at the last class before we sing in the Mass, then there will be no game and stuff, but sing chants straight through. ( I wish I had time to do a class with high schoolers.)
    Learning solfege can be fun or can be hard. Children learn more when they are having fun.
  • Thanks so much Mia... I plan to use many things... if you think of more, please post! I was talking with my husband about another class I'd love to see from CMAA -- a week-long Ward method course. I cannot take the time off from home to attend the full-classes that have been offered in the summer at Catholic University... maybe a condensed version could be designed for folks like me? There must be more of us out here!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Janet, i remeber you have such a beautiful voice and sincerity to sacred music. That's better than any method. (sorry if i embarrased you.) I think everyone has something 'forte' that you can use in teaching kids. Just dig into it and make it to become fff. (there might be a condensed class of Ward method in the future' Chant University')
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,115
    The program in question is the Royal School of Church Music and the curriculum is called Voice for Life. I have modified it so as to work for Catholic choirs in regards to chant and I also have created a book of customs for the children. As soon as I have done some re-editing, I will be happy to share.

    RSCM materials are not cheap, but really worth it. You do have to join to get the materials.

    I also split boys and girls because of gender development issues and the simple fact that boys voices are different from girls.

    My .02.
  • fp
    Posts: 63
    Janet, I'll sign up with you!!!......I need "condensed Ward training" too......!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "condensed Ward training sounds good'. But at the same time, you can start to learn it with the method books (they are in the CMAA front page, is is under Teaching Aid? ). It's not complicated. After you learn the basics, you can elaborate it . It's a very slow pace. And if you have questions, why don't you post here (maybe start a new Thread, like 'Ward method questions"), I'm sure many can help to answer the questions in this forum (I'll try too as much as I can). And then when the real class starts, it will be more productive, and you might even teach it later. (my 2cents)

    Kevin, I have one more question, Is the Royal School of Church music program, do you need to be trained and take classes to follow the curriculum? (are there any classes offered?) Thanks
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    CMAA has the whole set of Ward Method Books under Teaching Aid.

    Ward method uses numbers for solfege. The numbers can be good and easy for the children, especially little ones (maybe even for adults who are not used to the solfege). But I skipped the number stage, and my schola is doing pretty good. This kind of decision you have to make according to the ability of you group and the situation.

    It just occured to me that the seasonal choir sounds like a good idea to try it now, and you will learn many things that you cannot learn from books. (Also teaching any method and solfege is almost impractical for such a short session. Just teaching simple Kyrie and Sanctus and Agnus Dei and a simple chant hymn for a communion would be more than enough. Any way I don't start solfege right away.) And start a year round one in the fall, and in the mean time you can do more research about methods and learn more if you like them, like Ward method (and try to get to know the children in your church.) I teach CCD class too. (my girl is in that class.) They are very different from Home schooled children, I might have to do differently if I had my CCD kids in my schola. I'm not saying who is better, just slightly different.
  • I actually have the Ward books already. I have read them and am trying to use the techniques with the children. I do think I lack a great deal of understanding that I could get from attending an actual class and learning from someone who has really done it all correctly. The books are very helpful...
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Hmm, I see. I did Ward method a long long time ago and I actually lost all my materials.(I really miss them). You are in a better positions than I am, because I don't even have books anymore. (as you noticed, I don't exclusively use one method.)
    You know what? try calling CUA and ask Father Skeris or whoever is in charge of Ward method now. They know who is actively using the method. And they might have a teching video, or a sample lesson video. If they don't have it yet, we can suggest to make one. It will be a big help for so many people. How's that sound? When I have time, I'll call CUA too. (I went there.)
    Are you coming to colloquium this summer?
  • I can't decide... I can only really do one week of something... either another go at Chant Intensive, or the Colloquium, or if there were a Ward training class for a week... what about you? One way or another, I'll be at a CMAA function for a week this summer :)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Hi, Janet. I'm going to colloquium (I'm planning to at least. I have to start saving money now), becase I want to start to add some polyphony to my adult group. It's just my opinion, but you might like to do Ward moethod class, if you really want to do chidlren's schola soon. I think it will give you more confidence in teaching children. As you know, in teaching children, it's not just the method, there are many other things involved, and the class will help you with those details too. The teacher's confidence is important in establishing the healthy dynamics between the teacher and kids. (also you get to meet others who are in the same line at the class. Sharing ideas with them, priceless)
    Chant intensive is good, but there are chant workshops throughout the year.(Scott seems to be all over the country all year round. I don't know whether he ever takes a break.) I wish we can all get together again, but our needs are different. Just like my boy, who is a real proud Marine now, went to a different special trainning from other bootcamp graduates. (our chant bootcamp is the same.;-)
    Let me know anything I can help.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Also, are you planning to do schola for parish children or home schooling children from various parishes? I'm posting this so others might want to think about ,if they want to start a children's schola. If you are a Md for a parish, maybe you are more likely obliged to do for your parish, if not, you have more choice, I think.
    If you have many home schooling families in the area and have a supporting group or co-op, it might not be hard to get good number of children. I just sent emails about the schola, and the reponse was great. This can be their music class (singing the Church's most sacred music, what can be better?), and the class time can be more flexible. I do it from 1:30 to 2:30, avoids conflicts with afterschool activities. As you know, children are extremely busy these days with sports and stuff.
    With homeschooling schola, you might not get as much as support from the parish, (especially financially), but you are also free from the pressure that you get from the parish. I don't charge anything to parents of my homeschooling children's schola, (although they gave me a generous gift for Christmas that I can use for materials), but you could ask for a small material fees if you need to. They will be more than glad to help you. (There are many little things I need to buy. For example I give two pocket folders to eveyone with their name on it to keep all the materials there. I used to have two different colors for two different groups for two part singing.)
    Well, you know the situation of your parish and the area. You could also start children's schola for any children, and open to children from different parishes. Whatever works for you. Just an idea to consider.