Students are less likely to have behavior problems if they feel welcome in your classroom and if they’re learning music that’s engaging and challenging. The following techniques can help you create an atmosphere that promotes good behavior.
- Learn your students’ names as soon as possible. Be an authority figure and a role model. As much as you want your students to like you, they need to respect you first. “Using specific, positive feedback often, teaching with an assertive approach, and maintaining consistency with one’s classroom management plan will earn the students’ respect, as well as their affection,” says Scott Iseminger, NAfME member.
- Use a firm (but not harsh) voice and maintain eye contact. Give specific instructions while speaking slowly and clearly.
- Engage students in the music. Begin class with a warm-up that captures their attention. Ask students what they’re interested in and try to incorporate those aspects in your lesson.
- When things go wrong, re-examine your methods. A number of factors can affect behavior. Iseminger recommends adopting the rule, “Never blame the student.” Focus on your own methods and consider how you can reach that student by teaching with enthusiasm and creativity.
- Be aware of how outside factors such as the weather can affect student behavior. Instead of blaming students for reacting to these conditions, adapt your lesson by incorporating movement, for instance. Know your plan inside out so you can guide students back to the lesson if they get distracted.
- Give genuine praise when students are doing well. This will motivate them and help them identify their strengths.
- Keep a routine. Be consistent and organized. Use procedures for tasks like passing out music. Minimize the time that any student or group of students could be idle.
- Don’t play favorites. Give each student the attention s/he deserves.
- Focus on your students’ potential. Your students may have family or emotional troubles outside of the classroom. “Remember that you may be the only adult who makes a positive comment to this child during the day,” says Iseminger. “How will your teaching help this child know that you care about him as a whole child, not just his recorder fingering technique?”
NAfME member Scott Iseminger teaches at Krejci Academy in Naperville, IL, and is director and accompanist for a professional children’s choir organization.
Haugland, Susan (2007). Crowd Control. Lanham, MD: MENC/Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Rossman, R. Louis, ed. (1989). TIPS: Discipline in the Music Classroom. Reston, VA: MENC.
Spotlight on Transition to Teaching Music (2004). Reston, VA: MENC.
–Becky Spray, Oct. 13, 2011, © National Association for Music Education