This post is written by August Artist of the Month, Ben Stiefel!
A new school year is almost upon us. And since you, as a music teacher, teach the best subject ever, are you feeling joyful anticipation and excitement (as you should be!)? Unfortunately, many of us are feeling the opposite: apprehension and tension. The cause of these worries rarely have to do with the joy of teaching music, but rather, the difficulties of classroom discipline. If you find classroom discipline overshadowing your love of teaching, I’d like to offer up a few basic tips that have helped me for over 25 years. They’re not new or revolutionary. But they will definitely help get you through the tough times.
Tip one: Each student must have an assigned seat that you can refer to on a seating chart. Whether you have your own music room, or you travel classroom to classroom, it’s imperative you make yourself a seating chart for each and every class you teach. Making seating charts on the first day of class is both time consuming and tedious. Children can potentially get restless while you’re taking names and creating your chart, but, it is vital to classroom discipline. During the school year, both well-behaved and problematic children will want to change their seats for a variety of reasons. Maybe they want to sit near a friend. Maybe they want to cause another student trouble. Without a seating chart, chaos could ensue. With a chart, you can decide who may change their seat and who may not. Additionally, children both like and need structure. A proper seating chart benefits both you and your students.
Tip two: If you say it, mean it. Don’t make statements of behavioral consequences to a student unless you fully intend to follow through. In other words, don’t say, “Johnny, if you don’t stop fooling around and take your seat right this minute, I will call your parents,” without actually making the phone call. If you say you’ll do it, do it! Once students get the idea that you don’t deliver on your promises, they will be emboldened to misbehave.
Tip three: Rewarding good behavior is effective! When you’ve tried everything, and your classroom is still in chaos, try positive reinforcement. You can’t teach anything if the children won’t sit, won’t listen, and only want to play, argue, and fight. Here’s a quick way to summon everyone’s attention and put order back in the classroom: grab some maracas, a tambourine, a triangle, anything that kids love to play – hold it up – and say, “I’m looking for someone sitting properly, with hands folded, to come up and play this.” I’ve seen poorly behaved children straighten right up for a chance to hit a bongo drum. Once you’ve regained control of your class, you can proceed with your intended lesson (which would, ideally, incorporate the percussion instruments!)
My book, “Winning Over Your Toughest Music Class K-6” is filled with ideas to calm the most unruly classes. And many of my CDs, including “Just Be Cool – Follow The Rule!” and “Awesome Activities To Win Over Your Toughest Music Class” have songs, games, and stories all designed to reinforce classroom discipline in the music room.
To view all of Ben Stiefels excellent products, click here!