Reply To: Get Quiet Procedure

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I make a point of greeting students in the hallway to remind them of my behavioral expectations and to give them a brief overview of what is on the agenda for their class that day. I also greet the homeroom teacher and make a point of complimenting them in front of their teacher if they are focused and ready in the hall. This engages them right away and sets the tone. I never just allow them to enter my room without having been invited first. I insist they enter my room silently and respectfully. Sometimes, the older students have a “do now” assignment to focus them. What this does is to let them know that I am aware of their behaviors and they should be, as well.

I also use the echo signal either on a clap or with a “sh” sound, and I use it with all grades in K-5. The “sh” sound is great for letting off steam. I also use an incentive for every class to earn: a single “note” on their class chart. When they’ve earned five notes, it means they can enjoy a “prize activity” for the last 5-10 minutes of their next music class. I have the word, NOTE, on the wall in front of them. I first made each letter with the Ellison machine but then replaced them with large punch-out letters and pasted each on a rectangle of cardstock that is then laminated. With Velcro on the back of each letter card, each letter can be removed each time the class interrupts or ignores a signal call. Often classes who “lose” a letter or two will learn through the weeks that they need to be more aware of their behavior. These classes often won’t allow themselves to lose letters at all as time goes on. At the beginning of the year, I tell them that as long as one letter remains they have not lost the note. In February, the rules change: All classes need to keep every letter up to earn the NOTE. I do give second chances as a reward for turning the behavior around in that they can earn letters back from Feb. to June. I also give a report to their HR teacher when class is over. Many staff members will give rewards in their classrooms for a good report.

Something that I found to be very helpful is announcing my expectations of their behavior just before every transition. This way, they know whether or not it is appropriate to converse. Listening to directions requires a lot of focus for students especially when they come to music if they just had an intense lesson in the classroom before. If I see them getting restless, I give them transition directions with a countdown. “You have 10 seconds to get your chairs back to their original position.” Once the time is up, I do the echo signal, and they are settled. Sometimes they just need to get their energy out. I learned this from the HS band director! You might get more focus if there is “give and take.” If there is a behavioral expectation with your directions, you are giving the students the rules of “the game.” I find that they are more apt to cooperate when they know what’s expected of them.

If there is a high-energy activity where students are overly excited, I find that it’s better to keep it moving with simple directions and reminder checks of behavioral expectations. Then there will be less room for undesirable behaviors. Always pointing out appropriate behaviors is key throughout the activity. I tend to preface the mood of the activity, too. If students will be performing “silly” vocalises, then they know ahead of time that we will be silly but we must be able to get back to “serious” right after. They can be intrigued by having the opportunity to be silly so much that they’ll focus on the “serious” with similar enthusiasm.

Finally, a colleague of mine took a course in brain “exercise” where students are more engaged when they do cross-body movement activities. These can be two second breaks where they move arms or other limbs from one side of their bodies to the other and back. Chattiness comes from many things: lack of focus, fatigue, lack of interest, etc. Just have them perform one or two movements across their center line and you might see a difference in their engagement level. It really works! Hope some part of this was helpful.