Reply To: 8th Grade Boys
Been there!! Not with keyboards, but this was my first year. I still teach in an inner-city district. …. First of all, understand the being of a middle school boy. They appear more adult (physical changes), they think and act like children — but they want you to treat them like adults. …. Oh! They have a genetic predisposition to talking!! Just kidding. Early adolescents are extremely social beings. My first year I pulled my hair out because I could not get my 8th grade boys to give me the time of day in any given class. One day I happened into the classroom of an experienced teacher. The same students were in her class, sitting in the back and talking. 🙂 That’s when I knew I had to give up!
What you really have to do here is lay down the law, but at the same time relax with them. They see you getting mad and they have achieved their objective – to get control over you!! If you stay calm and speak to them in a low-pitched voice you will sound in control. They will try and brush you off, but continue with requests in this kind of voice, calm mannerisms (no folding arms, hands on hips or screaming — not that you have done these, but I know I did). Is there a master computer / keyboard which can turn off the student keyboards?? If so, turn the student keyboards off and explain to the boys that you think it’s great that they enjoy exploring the songs and sounds on the keyboard, but there is a time for that. And that time is at the end of class. Explain your objective at the beginning of every class in kid-friendly language. ex. “Today we’re going to identify notes then practice playing a piece of music. Then if you get through that you may plug in your headphones and play around on the keyboards.”
They may claim to not care (may or may not be true, so much at this age is the appearance of being cool). Tell them that part of their grade is participation and you expect them to participate and TRY! That’s a biggie in my classroom still – it’s one of my rules. It’s an easy answer to the students who say they don’t want to do something or don’t feel like it. After asking if they are sick or sad (I’m talking grades 3-6) I explain this.
Make sure the activity you give them is simple, but with several steps. The simple part will appeal to all learners and the multiple steps will appeal to the kids who are capable of more. For example: Step 1: use a key to identify the notes of a particular passage / exercise in a method book. Step 2: write notes under staff. Step 3: play notes on the keyboard. If they do this well, allow them to pick a sound effect. Step 4: practice several times and play without stopping or picking up one’s hand!! I don’t know what you’re working on – that was just a simple example.