Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sticker Day!

Key to nurturing the liturgy in any parish is teaching the next generation the Lord's song.  This brings in not only the art of music, but the art of teaching as well.   As part of our consulting work, we share "solutions" that work with choir directors seeking to hone their craft.  Here's a report back from Emily Woock, Director of Music Ministries at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Illinois.  She's a friend of ours who would like to share the great success she had with one of our ideas:

I was recently introduced to "sticker day" when Cantor Phillip Magness graciously agreed to let me observe one of his choir rehearsals so I could get ideas for my own children's choir. I watched as he placed stickers on the foreheads of his choristers as they modeled correct posture, answered questions correctly, or anything else that warranted a sticker. Watching this I soon realized that these stickers were not simply just an extrinsic reward, nor were they used as some desperate attempt to get results. Rather, the stickers served as visible affirmation of behavior and hard work that was expected at every rehearsal. Who doesn't need affirmation now and then? We all do. 

Excited about this idea, I resolved to try it with my own young choir, but decided to save it for later in the year once we had established expectations and the normal rehearsal routine. So last week while we were doing warm ups, I casually explained that today was "sticker day" and the basic principles- that they could earn stickers for various tasks today, and those stickers would be put on their forehead or hand, (not to be played with during rehearsal, of course) and that everyone might not get the same number of stickers and that was OK. Right after warm ups I noticed that only one of my kids was sitting tall, feet on the floor, music held correctly, and ready to go. Ordinarily I would have simply made everyone stand, but today I walked over, said "look at this wonderful posture", and planted a sticker in the center of her forehead. Immediately everyone else had correct posture. I never gave out another sticker for good posture. I didn't need to. That one little sticker was all it took! Their posture was fantastic for the entire hour. As I continued to give stickers throughout the rehearsal for various things, I found that even my very young and usually shy choristers were mustering up the courage to raise their hands to answer questions. The hope of a little sticker was just enough encouragement to coax them further out of their shells. It was wonderful to watch. I was quite pleased when rehearsal ended, both in how successful this had been, and how excited the children were. 

The best and quite unexpected surprise, though, came when the children were picked up. As I sent them out of the room with stickers peppering their foreheads, I overheard even my junior high kids excitedly explaining to their parents why they had stickers on their foreheads. They not only explained the concept of sticker day, but in many instances told their parents exactly what they had done to earn each sticker. So not only did these little stickers result in a fabulous rehearsal, but they helped further educate the parents about all that we do in choir! We won't have "sticker day" for every rehearsal, but I will certainly be using this idea more often in the future. 

Thank you, Emmy, for taking time to share your experience with our readers.  We look forward to sharing more "solutions" with you in the future!  

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