/, First Rehearsals, New teacher, New Year/The Power of Positive Planning for Choir

The Power of Positive Planning for Choir

For the month of August, my Choral Clarity blog focuses on the topic of Preparing for the First Rehearsal. The way we prepare for our very first rehearsal as well as our first week of rehearsals will set the tone for the entire year. These are the most important rehearsals of the year, and fortunately for us, we have the greatest amount of time to plan, as long as we know where to appropriately focus our planning.

Self-Assessment Rehearsal Participation Rubric(s)

The Power of Positive Planning & Posting for Choir:  Positive “Ways to Rephrase”

The two most important goals for successfully starting off the year are to create a positive/nurturing learning environment and to set/reinforce clear rules and procedures. The Power of Positive Planning & Posting involves the gelling together of these two primary goals; this all happens prior to the first day of school and requires a consciousness in the way we prepare.

Just as every interaction between the director and choral member is important, every posted sign provides our members with a potential interaction as well. In fact, our members may experience frequent interactions with the same sign throughout a given rehearsal; if as “No Calling Out” sign is positioned in the front of the room and a student happens to stare at it over and over again, it can subliminally negatively impact their learning atmosphere

How to Train the Student’s That Can’t Sight-Sing – a simple system

It is quite common for students to internalize a sign just as they can personalize a message from the director intended to reach the entire class.  I’m sure we can all recall a time we spoke to the entire class but personally affected an individual student.  Signs can be taken personally as well.

When starting off the year, there are many important rules, procedures, and expectations that we may wish to communicate right off the bat. If we take the time to find a positive way to phrase the important information, they can have a different impact on our members.  Every rule needs to be posted, along with the posting of certain procedures and expectations.  When posting, we need to choose positive posting.

The Best Aural Training Exercise you will ever use!

Ways to Rephrase

Here are some rules or guidelines that are commonly used and frequently given in a negative light.

NEGATIVE Guidelines rephrased in a POSITIVE and Equally Effective Way.

1. No Calling Out

Please raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged when you wish to speak.

2. No Chewing Gum

Please keep all food, including chewing gum, outside of the classroom.

3. Don’t be late

Consequence Form for students who choose to break our rules

Please be on time.

4. Don’t have work for other classes out & No cell phones

Please only have your choir folder and pencil available during the class. This includes cell phones.

5. No beverages other than water

Water is the only permitted beverage.

6. Don’t forget your music

Please remember to bring your music.

Instantly Downloadable Choral Sheet Music (SSA, SATB) – attainable, all with recordings

The concept of turning each negative phrase into a positive doesn’t always come naturally; it may require thought. Sometimes it appears difficult or nearly impossible to change long-standing, negatively phrased guidelines and procedures, as it seems like there is only way to say what it is we want to say. Once we become aware of a previously posted negative phrase, we can take the time to challenge ourselves and see how we can “turn it around”.  There is always a way.

These concepts might not seem like a big deal, but the power of positive posting is infectious, and so is the power of negative posting. Guidelines and procedures create the culture of our class. Negativity can breed fear and/or resentment of our laws. Clear but positively stated class expectations, especially followed with a positive verbal explanation, is more likely to be received by the choir members with understanding and observance. In addition, consequences can be stated in a clear and positive manner as well.

Please join the Choral Clarity Facebook Community in order to converse together and share your vision!

Here is an example of how consequences or penalties for not following the guidelines, which should also be posted, can be stated:

Clear Consequences that are written without any tinge of Negativity

1st offense – Warning

2nd offense – 15 minutes of community service

3rd offense – 30 minutes of community service

4th offense – 30 minutes of community service and your parents will be notified

For the purpose of building community, community service is a far better consequence than detention. With that change in title comes a change in action. Instead of a rule offender being babysat, they can find ways to give back to the ensemble on their own time. Perhaps they can straighten the chairs, organize papers, or even make a positive sign for the class, etc.

In addition to positivity phrased guidelines, consequences, expectations, and procedures, posters and sayings that reinforce positive thought can also aid in creating a positive learning environment. Whether handmade or store-bought, thoughtful choices of signage and posters can make a real difference; posters that welcome, unite, build community, and inspire will contribute to building a positive atmosphere from the moment our students enter the choir room. While many of us already utilize these positive posters throughout our room, they may conflict with our negatively worded phrases that reinforce our actual classroom way of life.

Positive Progression

Re-phrasing the signage of our guidelines, procedures, and expectations is only the start to sparking positive changes within our rehearsal atmosphere. After turning around the negative postings, the next step is becoming more aware of our word choices regarding all written instructions and handouts. As we progress in our awareness of ways we can rephrase, we may find an improvement in the way we give verbal directions and offer constructive feedback. Positive progression begins with positive postings because we take the time to get it perfect; we have all summer to prepare and ensure posted words are phrased positively. The power of positive posting can be the start to the power of positive thinking for us, and in turn, our choir members.

Instantly Downloadable Choral Sheet Music (SSA, SATB) – attainable, all with recordings

Please join the Choral Clarity Facebook Community in order to converse together and share your vision!


By | 2019-07-07T07:19:30-04:00 August 1st, 2016|Cultivating Choir Culture, First Rehearsals, New teacher, New Year|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 23-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla, and son, Nolan.


  1. George George August 7, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Very good suggestions. Thanks.

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