Teaching music poses its own set of difficulties and finding suitable classroom management strategies is not easy. Middle school music classes can be a challenge to manage. With students of varying ages and musical abilities, it can be difficult to provide an engaging environment that is also conducive to learning. Fortunately, there are several classroom management strategies that middle school music teachers can use to ensure their music classrooms are a productive and positive learning space. Read on to learn about five effective classroom management strategies for the middle school general music classroom.
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Classroom Management Defined
Before delving into the 5 classroom management strategies, it would be helpful for classroom management to be defined. The Oxford Dictionary definition for classroom management is –
Classroom management can be defined as the actions teachers take to establish and sustain an environment that fosters students’ academic achievement as well as their social, emotional, and moral growth.
Notice that in the definition it states “… the actions teachers take to…”. All classroom management strategies rely on the teacher to take action by setting and consistently maintaining the classroom management strategies that they wish to use in their own classroom.
Please note, that classroom management strategies can be implemented at any point in your school year. Sometimes we think that it is too late, but, establishing and resetting good classroom management strategies is good for any class, and at any time.
Set Clear Expectations
All effective classroom management strategies start by first establishing clear rules & expectations from the beginning. The first step in managing any music classroom is by setting clear expectations for behavior. It’s important for all students to know what is expected of them and what consequences will follow if they don’t meet those expectations. Make sure to display these rules in a visible place in your classroom and review them with your students at the beginning of each year or semester.
Some music room specific rules and expectations that you might find helpful, no matter the age of the class is to use – M.U.S.I.C.
In Music Class I will:
M- Make good choices
U – Use kind words
S – only Speak, Sing, or play when asked
I – Involve myself in all activities
C – Care for the equipment & the room
These 5 simple rules will set both you and your music students up for success. It is best to go through each of these and discuss what that will look like in your classroom. Below are some questions that you might want to use to discuss the M.U.S.I.C. rules.
- What does it mean to make good choices in music? What does that look like?
- What are some kind words that we can use in the music classroom?
- Why is it important to only speak, sing or play when the teacher asks you?
- What does it look like to involve yourself in all activities? What activities do you think you will do in the music classroom?
- Why is it important to care for the music equipment and the music room? What does it look like to care for the equipment or music room?
If you would like to make it easy on yourself, check out the printable M.U.S.I.C. Posters in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. There are 6 different sets to choose from, use the links below
Teach, Model and Maintain Routines
After you have taught your music classroom rules, the next classroom management strategy that you should teach is your classroom routines. It is best to teach, model and maintain these routines quickly in the beginning of the class. Being in the music classroom has a number of challenges that other teachers do not need to worry about. You will need to decide what will be your routines for everything that you do in your class. Please note that you do not need to teach these all at once! But instead, teach and model the routines as you need them. Some routines that you might need to consider are listed below
- How students will enter the room
- Beginning of the lesson routines – what do you want your students to do?
- Seating arrangements
- Marking the roll
- Group work routines
- Independent work routines
- Handing out equipment
- Rehearsal routines – warmups, performing together, sectionals, etc…
- Class discussion
- Using technology
- Returning equipment
- Asking questions
- Going to the bathroom
- Going to “sick bay”
- When an injury has occurred
- How to pack up
- End of lesson routines
To help you with how explicitly you need to teach your routines, read on to find out the steps an experienced music teacher “teaches” their students to go sensibly to collect/play/return a guitar/ukulele.
- Show students where to get a guitar/ukulele from
- Show students how to collect their instrument from the wall/rack/case
- Show students where the picks are located and how to use them appropriately
- Assign each student a number – that will be their instrument. Show students where each of the instruments are located and where they will be expected to return them
- Give instructions about “right hand resting” – this means that students are not to play their instrument while the teacher gives instructions
- Send students to get their instrument in groups of 5. Students are to collect their pick on the way back to their seat.
- Continue until all students have their instrument
- Lesson and instruction time
- Return instruments back to their correct place, picks are to come back to the same container that they collected them from
- Students to return to their seat until all instruments are put away to the satisfaction of the teacher
You can see that even for a simple practical lesson on the guitar/ukulele there are a lot of routines to consider! Remember to take the time to show explain each routine that you want your students to do, then model it, then rehearse going through the actual routine. By going “slow” at first, the classes will go much quicker and faster later on and you will have instruments and equipment that will last for years!
Reward Good Behavior Classroom Management Strategies
Another effective classroom management strategy for you to use is to reward good and expected behavior. This simple classroom management strategy technique focuses on recognizing and praising desirable behavior rather than punishing undesirable behavior. For example, when a student makes good progress in mastering a complex piece of music, you can reward them with positive reinforcement by complimenting their hard work or offering encouraging words of affirmation. This motivates them to continue working hard and reinforces good behaviors in your class overall.
One thing that many music teachers forget is to use the reward system that your school already has in place. Every school has a way to recognize student behavior, so don’t reinvent the wheel! Use what is already available to you and make it easier on yourself at the same time.
Encourage Positive Interactions Classroom Management Strategies
Encouraging positive interactions in your music classroom both between you and your students, as well as between the students themselves, is a very important classroom management strategy that is often overlooked. It’s important to create a positive atmosphere in which students feel comfortable expressing themselves musically and socially without fear of judgement or ridicule. Encourage positive interactions between your students by allowing them to collaborate on projects and get creative with their musical ideas. The more connected they feel to one another, the more likely they are to stay engaged during class time.
Creating a positive learning environment takes time. You will need to be the example and leader for how to treat people in the music classroom. But it can happen quicker if you choose to play some games that will help develop and foster positivity in the music classroom. The games you play will depend on the space you have available as well as the age of your music students. A simple Google search will show you stacks of games that you might want to try and use with your students. Don’t forget to teach and model your expectations and routines for the games so that everyone will have a good time.
Consistency is the Best Classroom Management Plan
The best classroom management strategy is to first have a plan and then be consistent with that plan. Consistency is a vital key ingredient when it comes to effective classroom management techniques. Establishing and consistently maintaining rules and routines helps students understand what’s expected of them in class and makes it easier for everyone involved to stay focused on learning tasks at hand. Additionally, ensure that all rules are applied consistently across the board – no matter which student has broken them – so that everyone knows what kind of behavior is expected from the music class as a whole.
Having effective classroom management strategies is an important part of any music teacher’s job, but there’s no one right way to go about it. Each music teacher has different needs, so it’s important to consider what type of environment would be most conducive to helping your music students succeed before deciding on a specific method or style of classroom management strategies. By taking the time to decide on what is important to you and your students, as well as explicitly teaching and modelling each classroom management strategy, both you and your students will be set up for musical success.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya