Don’t Play Your Instruments
Don’t play your instruments! Do you ever feel like you say this over and over again? Well, experience is the best teacher available, and it has definitely taught me a few classroom management strategies that really work.
- Have rules and keep them. Keep rules concise so that kids can remember them. Rules can be general so that they encompass or cover many things. For example: Take care of school/church property. That rule covers tables and chairs but it also covers instruments, mallets, and music.
- Follow through with consequences. A consequence without follow through is nothing more than a threat. Kids today (most of them) are not phased by threats. The most important aspect of a follow through is kindness. We have an awesome responsibility to be a teacher in this moment and not just a “rule enforcer.” Show the student that there are consequences for broken rules. Teach the to the character trait that is being built in the moment.
- Be consistent. To help with consistency, review the rules often. This not only helps keep the rules in front of you, it also keeps them in the forefront of the minds of students. I, personally, have three rules in my music room. At the beginning of each year, I say the rules at the begining of each class. I do this every class for the first three or four weeks. Within a month, the students can say them back to me. To remember to review them often, I write “Rules Review” in my lesson plans. By doing this, the rules are always present when students come to music or choir.
So, what are the rules? They are general and broad, but they have worked for me for about 15 years. The following list is the rules and how I explain them to students.
- Be respectful and kind to one another. Is name calling respectful and kind? No. Is jumping ahead in line or taking someone’s instrument being respectful and kind? No. Is yelling out answers being respectful and kind? No. Is raising your hand being respectful and kind? Yes.
- Take care of property that doesn’t belong to you. Is writing on tables or chairs taking care of property? No. Is throwing, tossing, or snatching instruments taking care of property? No. Is hitting someone with a boomwhacker or rhythm stick taking care of property? No. Nor is it being respectful and kind to others.
- Fun and learning for all. Is acting out, or not participating in music fun and learning for all? No. Is messing up a group activity fun and learning for all? No. Is not doing an assignment fun and learning for all? No. Is talking over the teacher fun and learning for all? No.
The consequences for each of these rules are also concise and easy to remember. The more offenses a student has the more the consequences also grow in severity. This is the case with all 3 of the rules. For the first rule, the first consequence is an apology. For the second rule the consequence is loss of use of the property that was damaged or misused for a length of time deemed necessary by the teacher. For rule three the consequence varies. If rule three is broken usually there is more investigation needed.
To prevent having to use consequences, having simple rules in effect is simply a place to begin. Students need to understand what is expected of them. However, here are three preventions that will also assist in the success of classroom management.
- Be Prepared. Never walk into a music room or a choir room without a plan in place. No matter how well you know the music, the absence of a plan lends itself to chaos. Flying by the seat of your pants in a classroom does not work. It is not a recommended classroom management strategy. Having a lesson plan keeps classroom time moving and students’ attention. Preparing a lesson plan will help you get all the supplies you will need, ready to use. And last but not least, if you have any interruptions, from a student or staff, a lesson plan helps to keep or get you back on track.
- Use transitions. Transitions are a great tool to help keep your classroom moving. Transitions can be non-verbal communication – such as hat to begin center time; lights going out for listening or quiet time; etc. Transitions can also be short little songs or chants that give instructions. Continue to repeat the short song or chant until the instruction you are singing about is complete.
- Set a goal. Goals can include learning one or two need transitions or classroom management techniques. Write the new techniques in your lesson plan so that you remember to use them. Learning a new method of teaching in your area of expertise might also be a goal. A goal could be getting a painfully shy child to participate. Whatever the goal, give yourself fully to making it happen. You will be a better, more confident teacher.
Putting these techniques and tips in place will help you become better prepared regardless of the teaching method or curriculum you use. Out of all the benefits you receive, your students will benefit the most.