Frontpage Forums General Music KEEPING MUSIC STUDENTS ON TASK

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    I find that my students tend to space out rather quick and it is very difficult to pull them back. Can anyone share some methods that you use to either keep them focused or how to bring their thinking back into the classroom? Any help is appreciated. Thank you!


    Here are three approaches to regaining students’ attention:

    1. Frequently engage your students in focused vocal improvisation.
    For example, at the beginning of your class you can ask them what is their
    favorite fruit or vegetable on so, la, mi pitches; they sing their response.
    You can use this approach to regain their attention:
    Sing a question to a student that has to do with their immediate learning,
    and they likely will sing a response back. Use their response as momentum
    for re-engaging their learning.

    2. Frequently engage your students as musical leaders for a variety of tasks.
    Plan for student leadership throughout the lesson. Be ready to incorporate a leadership task when attention is needed.

    3. Upper elementary students are ready to work together for project-based learning (for example, a small group composition). When setting up instructions for their work, list no more than three steps at a time. Write/type out the steps and display them prominently. If students become off task, ask them which step they are working on and what they need to do to complete their step.

    Dr. Katie Carlisle
    Georgia State University


    I agree with what Dr. Carlisle had to say in her reply.

    For me, I find that having and maintaining a schedule of events helps my students stay on task. Just like adults, students want to know what is coming next. Think about when you get up in the morning…You know what you will do before you head off to school, what time you have to be there, when your next class will come in, etc. Kids are the same way, they want to know what comes next.

    I have the same format/schedule to each lesson (varied if necessary–for example, if we are doing xylos or a focused dance lesson) but the students like the routine and it keeps them focused knowing every 5-7 minutes we will be moving to the next activity–yet the activities are all inter-related using a focused standard (or two). (FYI–I cannot take credit for this schedule–my master teacher in North Dakota gave it to me. The psychology behind the ebb and flow of the timing of the lesson is fantastic…but that is another story for another day…)

    1. Warm-up (rhythm clap and/or melodic warm-up–always using movement–that relates to the lesson)
    2. High Core Concentration Activity–this is the main standard that will be covered (pentatonic scale, half note rhythms added to the other rhythms we know–but this is integrated with a piece of music they will be using later in the lesson)
    3. Move to another place in the room (moving their bodies to half notes, move into a circle for a game…but do it using a freeze dance activity…etc).
    4. Medium Core Concentration Activity–This activity gets them moving (although we already have done a lot of that throughout the first 15-17 minutes) and this activity also reinforces the main standard being covered. We cover 4 different standards in one lesson, but they are focused on one or two. For example, they will be moving to AB form but also performing the beat and moving their body piano for the A section and forte for the B section–there are three standards right there with form, movement, beat, dynamics, listening and analyzing. But they are focused on AB and piano/forte.
    5. Review = back to our seats to review the standards we learned and what pieces we used to learn those standards.

    The schedule is always posted in the room (on my Promethean board now and before I had the Promethean board I wrote the schedule on the whiteboard each morning). The objectives/standards are also written out for the students to see and review. The students are not happy when they come in and there is no schedule for them to go over and see what we will be doing for the day–they have found comfort in knowing what comes next.

    They also know that the movement/instrument activity is #4 and we keep a pretty fast pace with the lesson.

    The older students learn the high-core concentration activity fast so we can get to the group activities–as Dr. Carlisle mentioned above.

    I also have to say that I stay quite animated throughout the day–it gets tough at 2:00 in the afternoon sometimes…but I had a great mentor a long time ago who reminded all of us “new teachers” that the class coming in doesn’t know what a rough morning it was or whatever happened in the last class–and we owe it to them (the new students coming in) to maintain our energy throughout their lesson and for the next two or three that are coming along.

    Good luck as you continue your journey of teaching! It is a wonderful adventure.


    Bridget James
    Western Division Representative
    Council for General Music Education
    National Association for Music Education


    I liek the other ideas. Whenever I see that my kids are not engaged, tired or bored I change it up. Ask them to stand and echo me in singing or clapping/ body percussion rhythm patterns – if possible, from the song we were just practicing. I may ask them to follow what I do (move my hands higher, lower, faster, then I clap!). A little movement gets the blood flowing and refocused. Then ask kids what were we doing before we stood up and continue with the lesson. Choose students who you believe understand the concept, but are choosing to not participate, or “cop out.”

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