When I tell people that I teach music to grades K-5, the response is uniformly the same: "You teach music? Kids like music! They must love your class!" While it’s true that children do indeed like music, in a tough school, the general music class can be anything but fun. That’s because, unbelievably, you could spend an entire period just trying to get the children in their seats with their attention focused on you!
How is teaching possible if the children refuse to quiet down and behave? As a New York City Elementary School music teacher for the past 25 years, I have had my share of out-of-control classes. Here are a few ‘outside the box’ ideas for those music teachers who find it impossible to teach due to poorly behaved students.
MAKE YOUR MUSIC LESSON A GAME: Children may like music, but they LOVE to play games. Set up teams, points, prizes, etc…
For example, let’s say the aim of your lesson is: To understand the value of a quarter note and quarter rest. Before your music class, prepare four flash cards: two with quarter notes and two with quarter rests. When the class begins, divide the class into two teams. Explain and demonstrate both quarter notes and half notes. Choose four students from a team and distribute the flash cards. Play a rhythm pattern using two quarters and two quarter rests – instruct the students they must line up in the correct order of the pattern played. If all four students are lined up properly, give that team four points.
LET STUDENTS WRITE ON THE CHALKBOARD: Children love to come up and write on the chalkboard – especially if you have big ‘sidewalk’ chalk.
Any music lesson in which children write the answers at their desk, can be modified to let kids write their answers at the board. For example, in the previous sample lesson of quarter notes and quarter rests, students can write the rhythm pattern on the board – with each of four students notating one beat each.
MOVE, MOVE, MOVE: Children love to move around the room!
Again, most music lessons can be modified to allow for student movement. Using the above example of the quarter note/quarter rest lesson, you could write four rhythm patterns (using quarter notes and rests) on cards and place each card in different areas of the room. Then choose four students – play one of the four rhythm patterns – ask the students to walk to the corresponding card.
I hope the ideas I’ve outlined here are helpful to you. If you’d like to explore more ideas for discipline in the general music class, you’ll find them in my book, Winning Over Your TOUGHEST Music Class.