Strategies for Managing Music Classes

Instructor: Sheanalyn Chisum

Sheanalyn has taught 3rd grade and has a master's degree in Elementary Education with reading and TESOL endorsements.

What are some best practices for managing a music classroom? Learn about establishing classroom rules, teaching & rehearsing, and how to organize the classroom environment.

Music Madness

Picture this: it's the afternoon on your first day of middle school and as you walk to your next class, you feel a rush of excitement the moment you realize you are heading closer and closer to the band room. You've had dreams of rocking out like your favorite musicians since you were little. Now it's your chance to play an instrument and learn some music theory fundamentals!

However, the closer you get to the band room, the music madness gets louder and louder. As you reach the door you realize it sounds like a herd of elephants is fighting in there. You reluctantly walk in, only to find a bunch of students running around and instruments being played randomly. The teacher is in the office with a headache and the students are running rampant trying out all the new, shiny instruments. How are you possibly going to be ready in time for the upcoming Thanksgiving concert? You've already invited your grandparents!

Managing the Music Classroom

All teachers need to have classroom management skills under their belt. Classroom management can be defined as the process teachers use to maintain student behavior. It includes a number of strategies used to keep students attentive, organized, and focused on academics during class. Without effective classroom management, it is very difficult for learning to take place.

In the music classroom, there are many strategies and procedures teachers can use to manage their class. Initially, the rules must be set. Then, teaching and rehearsing can take place. Finally, good classroom management also entails keeping an organized environment.

The Rules

In the beginning of the year, students enter a new classroom wondering ''What is it going to be like in here?'' Immediately, teachers must come in on day one ready to answer that question for their students. Teachers should take the time in the beginning of the year to establish the classroom's rules, then discuss the reasoning behind each rule. Students tend to follow rules more if they feel they understand the reasoning behind them. In the music classroom, these reasons should tie into musical considerations. For example, if the rule is ''No talking while I'm on the podium'', the reason may be ''because we need to listen to instruction on how to achieve musical superiority.''

With rules, there are consequences. Students should understand that teachers are merely observers and the responsibility of the behavior lies with the student. One consequence students could face is a lowered grade. Even if the student is a brilliant clarinetist, if they are disrupting rehearsal, they are disrupting the entire music class. Since their report card is labeled ''Music'' and not ''Clarinet'', they should be graded on being a poor music student, not a great clarinet player. Another consequence could be that parents are called in and made aware of any disruptions. Especially if parents are investing money in instruments and time on rehearsals, they should be involved as much as possible in their child's musical career.

Teaching and Rehearsing

Once the classroom is effectively managed, music can start being made. Students attention to rules will soon be replaced with attention to music. Students who are learning to make beautiful music will have no interest in misbehaving.

Whether in the rehearsal room, concert hall, or marching field, music class can be divided into teaching and rehearsing. Teaching is done whole-class and it is during this time that musical skills are taught. For example, when teaching concert etiquette, the teacher can discuss and demonstrate their expectations to the class. Afterwards, rehearsing can be done whole-class or in small groups. Students can then apply the skills they were taught in the teaching phase during the rehearsal phase. Students put their teacher's concert etiquette expectations into practice and the teacher can observe and fix any problems during this time.

Organizing

Like in any classroom, time should be managed as efficiently as possible. Time can be spent rehearsing whole-class, or smaller groups can be split up to rehearse independently. It is important to make sure students are playing their instruments as much as possible in music class. Students cannot talk and misbehave if they are playing their instruments. Students who get to play are happy students and happy students will continue to improve musically.

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