It is a truth universally acknowledged that a wandering child is in want of distraction. I wonder if Jane Austen ever wrote commentary on the social interaction and distraction of children. Perhaps there's a journal of hers waiting to be discovered, wherein she points out just how often procedures create the potential for distraction and poor choices among children. There's certainly enough evidence in my own experiences to state with confidence that well-executed procedures are vital to classroom management.
You know as well as I that music teachers have unique challenges. Teaching from a cart, supply-sharing, and limited set-up time are just a few examples of the obstacles music teachers face when planning, teaching, and implementing procedures. So I've compiled my top five procedures with a few tips sprinkled in for improving classroom management.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned to other adults that I had to teach procedures to my students. However, if I had, it would've probably gone something like this...
Me: I have to teach them how to come into the music room.
Adult: *chuckling* Sure...
Me: No. Really. I do.
Adult: Blank stare.
As adults, we take for granted those things we learned as children, such as standing in line and walking in hallways. We forget that we ever had to learn those things at all. We may even forget why they're important.
Student: Why aren't we allowed to run into music class as a group? Why do we have to stay in a line and walk?
Me: Because if you don't, people will fall over, get trampled, and have an all around terrible time.
I'd never actually say it in those words, but you get the idea. Back-to-back classes make this procedure hard when you (inevitably) aren't fully set-up for your next class. When this happens, try putting itunes on shuffle (from a steady beat playlist) and tell students to create their own non-locomotor movements to the music while you finish preparations. You may be surprised what they invent in the short time it takes you to get ready. Plus, it's great steady beat practice.
I always found exiting class to be a tricky procedure to implement. I spent the entire music class winding the kids up (so-to-speak), and then expected them to be presentable for their trip through the hallways with their homeroom teacher (so as not to disrupt other classrooms). I had to have activities ready that could be performed as students stood in line, while providing the opportunity to quickly get quiet once the classroom teacher arrived. Thus the Sound Game was born. The homeroom teachers thought I was some sort of magician when I made the "freeze sound". You can download the freebie and read more about it >HERE<.
For every supply or instrument in the classroom, there was a procedure in how to get it, handle it, and put it away. It may seem like a waste of time for some items, but trust me when I say that it will save you from bent Boomwhackers and broken pencils in the future. My favorite way to teach proper handling of supplies and instruments was to melodramatically handle everything incorrectly while the kids laughed, telling me that I was doing it wrong. They really liked it when I pretended to lick and/or put objects up my nose. Fun times.
For transitions, I most often did steady beat activities or call/echo patterns. For example, I might ask the students to get in a circle by tiptoeing/hopping/jumping to the steady beat. If they needed a short rest from physical activity, I would sing familiar Solfege patterns and ask them to echo. If they needed extra focus, I would ask them to "name that tune" after they echoed.
My procedures for whole class discussions were simple: wait your turn and listen. I think it's important to teach the art of conversation, which is that we don't just hear what others are saying, we listen (think about what they've said). Also, I wanted them to understand that every voice deserves to be heard. Always.
That's it for my top five procedures in elementary music class. What procedures do you find vital to your classroom management? Please share them with us in the comments below!