middle school classroom management/technique/style
September 26, 2012 at 10:21 am #12749
Ok…so here is my back story before I get to my dilemma:
I teach middle school, 6-8. We have six periods a day and I’m on an A-day/B-day schedule, teaching 4 periods a day. Now, in theory, they tried to split up classes by instrument families; and what I mean by tried is that woodwinds always end up by themselves and brass and percussion end up in some concoction.
The way I’ve been trying to do these classes that I started last year (and I’m a second year teacher) is the check-off system. We always do a beginning activity (rhythm reading, vocab, listening journals) and the rest of the class is independent time for the most part because of the different playing abilities and the fact that I let kids join band whenever. We do play together sometimes out of the book and then when we have concert music, we play part of the time together (we haven’t gotten to that point yet).
Now, my biggest challenge is 6th grade, 6th period B-day. This is my brass and percussion class. 7 percussion (5 w/ IEPs/504s) and 12 brass (3-4 w/ IEPs/504s). I cannot give most of them independent time because they can’t focus for more than 3 seconds. My percussion has 3 of the 7 who are brand new and the other 4 are not really strong. I am just having such a hard time as to what to do with them. Even if I have them set up as a group with snare exercises, they argue and cannot work together. My 6th grade woodwinds are simply awesome; they are no problem. My 7th grade is really great with it because they started it last year. 8th grade is hard because they were broken last year when I got them as 7th graders, but I generally do full rehearsal with them. Except for the 8th grade percussion; almost as bad as 6th grade.
Does anyone have any advice? I’m willing to try anything at this point, especially that it’s still early in the year before it’s too late. Thanks in advance!
BrittneySeptember 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm #13077
I am not able to post a reply to your topic.September 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm #13079
OK, maybe now it will work! I use a method book, Warmups and Beyond (for MS) and Habits of a Successful Musician (for HS). It uses about 1/2 the class time for MS. Drilling the basics is important. I work the whole class together (6 – 8 grade), but use repetition a lot.September 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm #13080
I have 8th grade play, then 7th grade, then 6th. Or, perhaps just the girls then the boys. Or, just the brass, just the ww, just the percussion.October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm #13375
I’m not entirely sure I understand your situation, but here are a few ideas that may/may not work for you:
1) Have worksheets that DRILL the basics (counting, note names, etc). When students are not able to be playing these are perfect for keeping them engaged, educational, and will keep them from tooting on their instruments when you’re trying to work with another group.
2) Find your natural, talented leaders. Ask them to be “section leader” and give them a goal to teach their group each time they come in for rehearsal. That way, when you’re listening to another group, you can have the other groups led by someone you trust/put trust in and can hold accountable. If the students are able to take part of the ownership for the program, they’ll likely want to do better!
I hope that helps, and good luck!October 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm #13402
From my experiences teaching percussion at the high school level, sometimes students that seem like they cannot pay attention for more than three seconds are either bored, or do not have enough changing stimuli (especially if none of them actually have a form of ADD, which is also a debated issue). I have one student that, when in a full ensemble setting, is constantly a behavior problem, but when we split into sectionals and they get individualized attention and there is constantly changing stimuli with new and exciting things going on, he is fine. Snare exercises can sometimes be boring and too much like work; maybe give them a percussion ensemble piece or make your own with the same rudiments or rhythms from the snare exercise to make things more interesting and musical. This could also be something they can perform for the class, or for a grade, which will hopefully motivate them enough to work together and produce a good end product. Also, if you put the students together by themselves you absolutely need to appoint a good leader (like Andrea Feige also mentioned in her response) that can take charge and keep the group on task and be able to compromise with the differing ideas of the group, or else you end up with everyone yelling at each other and nothing getting done. I also agree with Andrea’s idea of using worksheets to keep the students fully engaged even when working with other groups. You can make worksheets that encompass the rhythm reading, vocab, and listening journal aspects of your lessons now, and take turns working with each section individually while the others do these worksheets to turn in for a grade. I guess the main issue is you need to keep the students engaged and interested at all times or else behavior problems occur. I am an avid believer in setting goals and expectations for students and holding them accountable (with grades), especially if the class is curricular. I hope this helps.October 16, 2012 at 12:17 am #13772
Andrea and hassingr both make excellent points in this. I especially like the idea of a routine of drills and exercises for the students to do. This will give them things that they can expect to play every rehearsal and they will be able to focus on the task at hand if they are expecting it more often because it is familiar to them. However, having a routine of exercises may worsen the situation if the students become bored with it, so try and rework it if the class seems to be loosing interest in the activities. The basic concept should remain the same, but find ways to get the whole class involved, like a focused breathing and posture warm up, or anything that can both prepare them for the rehearsal, and keep them focused.
Ryan, KSU Music Education Student
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