We all have our own unique favorite parts of the holidays and activities that we involve ourselves in that make it feel like Christmas. For some people, they don't feel like it's Christmas until they put up their Christmas Tree or wrap their presents. For me, Christmas starts with "Sing Along". My students love "Sing Along" too! They come in after Thanksgiving begging to start getting ready for "Sing Along". This year, with an entire extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas break we've had time to do other very important learning, but we made sure to include at least a little "Sing Along" preparation in every lesson.
Top 10 ways to have an excellent and stress free "Sing Along".
1. Teach everyone all the songs - It's a "sing along" not a performance. This includes your fellow teachers
2. Even the most complex songs have parts that your younger singers can handle.... For example, Silver Bells has complicated verses, but even kindergarten students can echo sing the refrain. Every student should know at least part of every song.
3. Spread out the "fun" songs! Spread out the "slow" songs! Spread out the "sacred"! Spread out the "secular". The idea is to keep the interest of your participants. Keep the contrast and movement alive!
4. In every way possible tailor your song selection that represents the winter holidays celebrated by your students. There are so many great songs to be sung! Maybe your campus needs more Hanukkah songs than mine. I have songs in Spanish...maybe you need songs in Japanese for the Japanese Snow Festival.
5. Time your "Sing-Along - you might not have time for every song. Keep it simple! You don't need all the verses of Little Drummer Boy.... I promise! At my really busy K-5 school I aim to have everyone seated, singing, finished and on their way in 1 hour....45 minutes if I can manage it. I constantly take the temperature of the room and will cut things or add depending on the feel of the crowd.
6. Use technology well but only if it will work for you. Burning all the songs onto one CD or playlist is great. A hand held mouse can be a life saver. Have ALL of the sheet music ready and have an alternate instrument ready if the power goes out.
7. If your "Sing Along" happens during the day time, make sure that your power point presentation is primarily white with black letters. Don't put too many words on the screen at once. You do want your students to be able to read the lyrics and if they can't see it in your classroom with the lights on there is no way they will see it from the back of the cafeteria.
8. If you intend to invite the entire student body, be sure to create a clear seating chart and path to and from the common area. Safety first! Keep movement during the "Sing Along" to a minimum.
9. Nothing kills the Christmas buzz or shouts "unprofessional" like a cranky music teacher trying to get kids quiet....Train your participants to respond to signals. If you don't use a power point, then use some hand signals. If you do use a power point, then use graphic cues. Your students need to know when to sing, when to stop, when to listen. During musical introductions, interludes, bridges and tags I have some animated graphics that "dance" to the music. During times when they need to be silent I have a graphic that gives the quiet sign.
9 and a half. Show case the talents of staff members and students. My 4th graders audition for a chance to lead the songs. I've had fellow staff members play guitar, and trumpet. During one of my favorite "Sing Along" we even had a guest brass quintet. Featured performers like soloists and dancing reindeer or sugarplum fairies are a plus, but think LONG and hard before you invite Jolly Old Saint Nick ..... After all, you don't want to Jingle Bell Rock your way to riotsville. If you choose to invite Santa, make sure he has a SAFE place to be.
10. Build traditions that students look forward to and change at least one thing every year. Each year, there should be something new that keeps your "Sing Along" fresh.