Singer motivation: Merit reward system for Children's Choir
Dear List, thank-you all so much for your extremely helpful reply's. Below
is a compilation of reply's.
I am still weighing-up the benefits of each system.
Choristers Guild have a syllabus titled: 'Stepping Stones'
RSCM has a syllabus titled 'Voices for life'
Also highly recommended are John Bertalot's 2 books
'Immediately Practical Tips for Choral Directors' & '5 wheels for Sight
singing' Well worth reading!
I've had a lot of experience with kids choirs.
First thing I would try is candy even though I don't like it my self.
Stickers on a name board is also good with a reward in the end.
The trick to this though is consistency. Don't let one slide and then the
other. Make a game of whatever you do. Too much harshness and "Gestapo"
tackticks will make the kids miserable. Remember to let them have some down
time to get the wiggles out but then during practice they need to practice.
There is a fine line here. Keep your parents abreast about what you are
doing. Have them on your side. Maybe a few of them can help monitor the room
during rehearsal for you. Remember, They are a volunteer choir and we need
I strongly recommend the RSCM training scheme. You can affiliate your choir
with the RSCM and obtain cards by which you can record their progress and
award medals for achievement. They also publish very high quality choral
music as well as The Church Music Quarterly magazine. There is a lot of
information on their website at www.rscm.com
Choristers Guild has many possible incentive helps. Maybe they have a
website? They publish a monthly magazine and sell music, charts, etc, etc.
Check them out.
Try ChoristersGuild. They have some excellent programs. I'm not sure about
merits but they have great ideas. They are on the web at
I direct a children's choir in a church and a training choir for a regional
boychoir. In both cases we use a system as follows:
1. Each child has a card with their name on it.
2. Each card is placed in seating order in front of the director during
3. If a child or section does exceptionally well, the director places a
"dot" or "star" on their card.
4. At designated times the children may attend a "store" that we have on
campus stocked with goodies that they can cash their "dots" in for. The
prizes range in value with really awesome prizes that children can save up
5. The lower valued prizes are pencils and stickers while the higher
valued prizes are star wars action figures and nerf footballs. The cheaper
prizes will take a few rehearsals to earn, while the expensive ones will
take an entire year. In the end, the $4 you spend per child per year, will
result in much greater musical growth and commitment. I guarantee it!
The program is so effective at both the church level and the more
professional boychoir level that I cannot imagine getting along without it.
When a section or child is disrupting, I begin to award dots to children who
are doing things correctly, this IMMEDIATELY refocuses the whole group.
The Royal School of Church Music has a program, but I didn't find it very
useful for my needs, so I built my own. I did a little booklet with
several categories: Rhythm, Pitch, Hymns, Sight Singing, Vocal, and
Worship. Each category had several skill tests to be passed. Only a
perfect score would pass. Passing the first test on any category
resulted in a colored ribbon on their name tag. Subsequent tests
resulted in cheap little gold pins on the proper ribbons. Nearly broke
all my fingernails with those nasty pins!
Rhythm, they started out naming the note values and how many beats. Step
two was to clap simple rhythms with quarter and half notes.
For pitch, they first had to pass a written test of the notes between
middle C and high G (each note was on the page several times). Other
tests were to sing in their head and chest voices (above and below
certain pitches), sing 5 note descending scales, then more complex
Hymns - one pin for each verse memorized of any hymn.
Vocal - kids had to explain and demonstrate good singing posture. Open
mouth while singing, how to hold music, etc.
Worship - had to sing Doxology, Gloria Patri, other service music. Know
about hymnal, how to find your way around, what the different indices
were for, recite books of the bible, recite Lord's Prayer, etc.
I had an assistant take a couple kids out at a time to test, and any kid
could stay after to test. All of the kids loved it at first, but not all
of them kept up on it. I didn't have anything on there for discipline,
but there needs to be something. That's perhaps the most important part
of the whole thing.
There's a wonderful system, plus a lot of great information for church music
directors, in John Bertalot's Immediately Practical Tips for Choral
Directors. I highly recommend this book. [COMPILERS QUOTE: I have ordered
and just recieved this book - It is very highly recommended to all of you:
it makes fascinating reading!!!!!]
we follow the Royal School of Church Music program: graded requirments,
medals, etc. We customize it to our needs.
Do you or your church belong to Choristers Guild? This group has
numerous ideas for
working with children's choirs. Look for them on the web.
Also, please consult the Summer Session and Saturday Seminars at
Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Princeton, NJ. The Sacred
Music Department frequently offer excellent training for church musicians
during the summer as well as all-day Saturday sessions during the academic
Try Chorister's Guild and RSCM (the Royal School of Church Music). RSCM is
Anglican-based, but has a wonderful system using ribbons of different
colors, a testing system for children to "graduate" to the next level, etc.
In my experience, it has always been better not to place the children in a
situation where they are in competition with each other. We have "Mommy
Brigade" for the youngest group -- parents who "drop in" on rehearsals
regularly; that keeps discipline and focus going. For older kids, we expect
more but, honestly, we've taken the approach of having fun first...Frankly,
given all the other distractions which kids have, including intramural
sports, we are happy to have a sturdy program in the first place. They could
just as easily be involved in soccer or dance or other secular endeavors.
In my opinion, merit suggests competition or at least some state of things
whereby children are judged one against another. By this, it is very easy to
jump to an "award" subsystem. In that regard, whatever you give to one
child, give to all. This is church and about building community, not just
another dog-eat-dog enterprise which mimics adult life in the world.
That is not to say that you don't insist on self-discipline, good general
behavior and enthusiasm. Just make it a loving experience for all the
children and be grateful for whomever is sent your way.
The Royal School of Church music has lots of stuff.
I recommend that you think of it as a scout Merit Badge and make it
additive so that there are different ways to achieve a top score
I helped to administer our church's children's choir, grades 1 - 6, for a
few years. When we changed the schedule so that choir participants were
required to arrive an hour early on Sunday morning, the number of children
in the choir dropped and attendance became erratic. We instituted an
attendance prize each fall and spring (based only on attendance, not on any
of the other more intangible factors you mentioned). The kids were excited
about the idea of the prize and commitment did improve. The actual prize
varied; once we gave a tuning fork, another time a watch.
You may already know of the Royal School of Church Music.
I like their set up and their 'rewards' ~ You, the director , could
implement with no problem a merit system to achieve these awards. You
can access their website and contact the area representative for more
information, and/or packet about joining.
The sort of thing you describe corresponds to the "Standards" system used by
the Royal School of Church Music Training Programs. A slim volume available
from GIA Publications in Chicago, entitled "Chorister Training Program of
the RSCM," provides an excellent written introduction to this system, which
is descended from the methods used to train cathedral choristers in England.
In this country the RSCM is a pretty loose, non-centralized kind of
operation. Its most valuable components are 1) a slate of week-long summer
courses meeting in various locations around the country, all great
opportunities to observe ordinary kids working to a very high musical
standard; and 2) contacts with other directors--either at one of those
summer courses or (if you are lucky) near you--whose brains you can pick for
advice on how they do what they do. More information should be available
from the office of RSCM in America, in Akron (they have a modest website).