10 Must-Try Music Classroom Management Tips

from the Music Classroom Teacher Index

A well orchestrated classroom is a place where learning happens. We believe that there are two basic ingredients to having a well orchestrated classroom:

A) Students who understand they must respect one other for learning to happen. Basically, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

B) Teachers who establish routines for success, are consistent with consequences for students who don't respect other students, and design lesson plans that are so engaging that the students won't want to be off task.

It's a pretty tall order, but the reward is great. The following list begins with a few general music classroom management tips, and are followed by our favorite strategies for keeping kids happy and engaged - avoiding the need to modify behavior.

1) In the Round

Consider seating students in a circle. It is sort of a Knights of the Round Table approach. Each student is given equal importance because everyone is in the front row. It also gives teachers easier access to misbehaving students. A boy-girl-boy-girl arrangement typically works best.

2) One-Two-Three-Freeze

The One-Two-Three-Freeze approach is a quick and effective way to get your talkers back into the lesson. By the time you say "Freeze" all mouths should be closed and all eyes should be on you. How effective this is will depend on how consistently you provide consequences. Usually a time-out will be all that is needed to keep talkers on track.

3) Ten Second Countdown

Getting kids to move quickly can be a challenge if the transition isn't coordinated. Giving them clear instructions and then telling them that they have 10 seconds to get to the next place is incredibly effective and fun. For example, "When I say 'Go' you will have 10 seconds to put your rhythm sticks in the box and get back to your place in the circle. 'Go.' 10-9-8..."

4) Grandma's Rule

"If you finish your dinner you can have dessert." If you want kids to do something, you need to find their currency - the thing they are willing to trade for the thing you want them to do. If you can find their "currency," students will be consistently motivated to meet you expectations.

5) You Move Me

Kids enjoy being active. One of the best ways to keep kids on task is to keep them moving. If you're teaching a lesson on music form, create a dance that defines the sections with distinctly different movement. If you're introducing a rhythm, find a variety of ways to express that rhythm through movement.

6) Manipulative Lessons

Manipulative are wonderful tools because they get all of the kids actively thinking about the lesson and they provide physical activity - at least on a small scale. Manipulatives also provide teachers with a great way to evaluate student understanding.

7) Everyone Orff

Teach every part of the Orff arrangement to everyone. Ask your students to sit in a circle and place an Orff xylophone or metallophone in front of every other student. It doesn’t matter if it's the right instrument for the part at this point. The goal is to allow your students to play frequently and stay on task. Begin teaching one of the primary parts. Give the first group of students a few opportunities to master the part, then pass the instruments to the right. Give the next group a few tries and pass the instruments again. Continue this routine until every part of the arrangement is learned. Finally, assign select students to the correct instruments for a final performance.

8) Cooperative Groups

Kids love to talk, so give them the opportunity. Organize students into groups of 3-4 students. Give them a goal and a time limit, then set them free to work on a project.

9) Let's Draw

For most kids, one of their first great loves is creating art. From the moment they are old enough to hold a crayon, they are creating masterpieces for mom's refrigerator. Including opportunities to draw or color is sure to keep kids on task, and provide you with another lesson that you can use for student assessment. The next time you introduce the instruments of the orchestra, consider having your students draw them while recordings play in the background.

10) Candy

If all else fails there's always candy. Give your students a goal, and provide them with an incentive - candy. It's basically Grandma's rule, but this time there's a real dessert.