Classroom Management WITHOUT Grades?…HELP!

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    Good Afternoon. After accepting an elementary music position that has lost 3 music teachers in 3 years, I’m now finding out possibly why: my special subject colleagues told me, and the principal confirmed it, that SPECIAL SUBJECT TEACHERS DON’T GRADE OUR STUDENTS – NOT EVEN CONDUCT GRADES! In all my 18 years of teaching, I’ve NEVER heard of good classroom management without ANY student academic motivation! The major positives about this situation are: (1) the administrative, teaching and non-teaching staff seem unified and mutually supportive; and (2) the PE teacher told me that core teachers don’t tolerate bad behavior in “special subjects” classes. I have a few ideas on how to approach this. But any tried and tested management strategies that y’all have, especially from those of you who currently succeed in “non grade” music classes, <;-[) PLEASE forward them to me! Thanks, and have a great school year.


    I hear ya! In my school kids get grades from Specialists for Cooperation and Effort. Has nothing to do with academics. The fact that admins and specialists work together in your school is a positive thing.

    Here are some ideas I’ve collected; most of which I use.
    Primarily, have a simple parent contact system. This could be a copied form for each child once per month which says something like “In Music class my behavior has been ______ (Unacceptable, Good, Excellent or whatever you’d like)” I have learned: (let the kids fill in this part). Do this during the last half of one class per month. If the behavior report is negative, the form must return signed by a parent/guardian. Encourage your students to do well so that they can get positive reports home.

    Make clear to the kids on Day 1 that with or without grades, you expect respectful behavior and cooperation at all times. Explain your rewards system (essential!). I don’t discuss consequences on Day 1 because it’s never the same with all kids. IF kids see you altering a consequence sequence they’ll call you out on it (happened to me!) thinking you’re not being fair. Then it takes extra time (which I don’t have!) to explain that the same consequences aren’t appropriate for each student.

    Rewards: I teach at a PreK-8 school. I do random individual awards / prizes AND a whole class reward system. I have a re-purposed plastic container which I labeled “PRIZES!” It’s full of CHEAP stuff I get this time of year from Walgreens (coupons for 30 cents each pencil sharpener for ex.) I also get novelty erasers, pencils and other small school supplies. The older students have lockers so if I find cute magnets on clearance I snag those also. (Clearance rack!!!) Also, Oriental Trading Company is a lifesaver for cute little stuff. Of course this is in addition to stickers!! ….. I give prizes for when I catch kids doing random acts of kindness, kids who normally struggle but did well one class, kids who answer tough questions and such. It means a lot to them.

    For the whole-class prize I make a “Bravo Board,” inspiration from Pinterest. Each class meeting the class has the opportunity to earn a whole point (quarter note) or a half point (one eighth note) or no points at all. They have to earn between 4 and 8 points (time signature of 4/4) in order to earn a game day. Classes who I see once a week have to earn 4 points; classes who I see twice a week have to earn 8 points. On game days majority can rule to play one of the singing games I taught them or a hand-clap game they know (Tarzan the Monkey Man is popular). They can also choose to spend part of the time dancing to clean pop songs. Radio Disney CDs are great sources for this. IF kids disobey while most of their class is behaving in a random class meeting, I warn them that they may have to sit out of game day. That usually nixes behavior. If disruptive behavior continues I do my usual sequence of consequences.

    Good luck!!

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