The first activity is called Essence Circle. Everyone sits in a circle and puts their name into a box in the middle of the circle. The person that begins chooses a name to describe but does not say the name. He/She doesn’t describe the person’s appearance or clothes; he describes the person’s essence. He talks about how this person (trying not to reveal gender) always helps make everyone feel better, is always willing to take the time to listen, etc. After a good essence description, people can say who they think it is. Try to describe in enough detail that it really singles them out, or at least narrows it down to a few people.) Then the person they were describing describes the essence of another and so on until everyone has been described. It’s basically half an hour of compliments. For teenagers, the biggest challenge in describing a peer is to not talk about appearance. I would suggest that you, as the leader, describe the first person as an example of what kinds of things to say. You can also set up this activity by having a short discussion on what it means to describe a person’s essence and have the singers come up with examples.
The next activity is similar to the Essence Circle but is done with one singer standing in front of the choir. This activity is called Praise Shower. Use the same box with everyone’s name in it. Pull out a name and have that singer stand in front of the choir with his/her back to the choir. Choir members take turns shouting out compliments for 3 solid minutes. Be careful that the singer in front of the choir hears all compliments. Remind singers to not focus on appearance but to talk about their soul, spirit and heart. What’s nice about this activity is you can usually compliment 3 or 4 singers at the end of rehearsal and because you are pulling names out of a box, be able to keep track of who has not been in front of the choir so you can eventually compliment all singers.
The last activity is one I use on a regular basis. It is called Affirmations. Affirmations are words of support and encouragement. My singers love this activity and when we get a little stressed, it is the singers who ask to end a rehearsal with affirmations. Everyone sits in a circle. Ask if anyone has an affirmation to offer. A singer raises his/her hand and says, “I’d like to affirm ________” and names another singer. The affirmation should include the reason that a singer is being affirmed. Singers can affirm one person or groups of singers. For a group affirmation, a singer might say, “I’d like to affirm the soprano section because they have work hard to memorize the music.” You, as the director, will have to make sure that not all the same people are being affirmed. You can involved your leadership by explaining that you need their help to make sure all people are eventually included in an affirmation. Singers are usually very anxious to help out the choir.