As the school year approaches, you are likely considering how best to manage your music classroom. Classroom management is the key to successful teaching and learning process in any class. Classroom management is not just about keeping your students quiet and attentive in the music room. It is about creating strategies that will help you keep track of your students’ performance, behavior, and participation so that you can address their needs individually. Even more importantly, it’s about creating a safe space for your students so they can express themselves freely. This article will help you with some tips on how you can set up an organized music classroom that leads to a more effective teaching and learning process this coming school year!
#1: Get to know students
Getting to know your students will help you understand their needs and difficulties better, which in turn will help you create a better learning environment for your students. But how do you get to know your students when you have hundreds, or possibly thousands, of students? In this blog post, I wrote about six strategies to remember students' names; many of these strategies would also work to get to know students better. You could also take a few minutes at the start or the end of music class to ask students questions such as:
- What are you doing this weekend?
- What did you do this summer?
- What will you do next weekend?
- What's your favorite thing to do?
These conversations can take a quick few minutes at the start or end of class, but can go a long way to getting to know your students better.
Another great way to collect information about students and get to know them better is to have students fill out a survey, such as this one. This can give you great information about your students!
#2: Mindful Minute
If you’re not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it is basically being aware of your surroundings, emotions, and thoughts in the present moment. This is a great way to set up classroom management because it allows students to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It also promotes a sense of calmness and relaxation. To set up a mindful minute in your music class, you can start by asking your students to take a few deep breaths before beginning an activity or before transitioning to the next part of the lesson plan. You can also ask them to pay attention to how the music makes them feel and how it affects their mood. This mindfulness exercise will allow students to become more in tune with themselves and clear their minds of unnecessary thoughts and feelings, which will help them focus better during the lesson. I also love using videos like this one:
#3: Quick pacing
Pacing can make a huge difference in how students are engaged. When a lesson has slow pacing, students are much more likely to get distracted, act out, and talk, but when a lesson moves quickly, students are much more engaged. I try to talk as little as possible when I teach, and keep the activities fairly short so that the lesson flows smoothly. Check out this podcast episode, all about pacing in the music room.
Smooth transitions are a wonderful way to keep the lesson moving and make it feel magical! Here is a video I recorded about transitions in the Kindergarten classroom:
And here is a video I recorded about transitions for first and second grade:
#5: Be firm but loving
I've found that there is a delicate balance between being firm but loving, and this can go a long way to have a music classroom that runs smoothly and effectively. When students are not meeting the expectations you've set in the music room, there should be consequences, but it is essential that students still know that you care about them. In my first few years of teaching, I would too easily get upset by something a student did and take it personally, and the students knew it. I've learned over the years to take emotion out of it, especially because there are often situations the students are dealing with at home or at school that we just don't know about.
Let's say many students in the class keep yelling out and are consistently disruptive. A firm but loving consequence might be you calmly saying to them, “Because you keep yelling out, we can't play the game. We are going to move on.” You can say this firmly, smile at them to let them know you still care about them, and move on. I've found that students do like boundaries, and often seem more respectful after a consequence like that. And then they learn that their actions do have consequences (and hopefully won't be so talkative next time, so they can play the game!)
Creating engaging lessons with time for reflection, space for conversation, and firm but loving consequences can go a long way to fostering a positive environment where the lesson can flow smoothly, students are engaged, AND students are learning!
I hope this is helpful to you as you consider strategies for classroom management. Happy teaching!