I start every year thinking about changes I’m going to make to improve my classroom management. I have so many colleagues whose calm, quiet, relaxed personalities spread to their students. I think I need to accept that my energetic and excitable personality just won’t bring those results the same way. But for any kind of teacher, there are some strategies we can use to keep things running smoothly, particularly in starting and ending class.
Ready to learn
Before the students even enter the room, they should be quiet and class-ready. For my early years classes, this means they have shifted from playground mode (most of my classes come after a playtime) to learning mode. They are quiet, with hands to themselves and bodies under control. They usually line up outside my classroom. Sometimes I will select individual students as I see they are ready, which quiets down the rest of them quickly, thanks to “gotta-be-first” syndrome. If I want them all to experience the same thing, in the same amount, as they enter, then I will wait until the whole class is quiet and focused on me.
Seating charts and line order
I have never made a seating chart before. I have agreements with certain students that they shouldn’t sit next to each other, but I’ve never actually given everyone an assigned place to sit. However, my (music) colleagues last year gave the students a line-up order, and had them sit in rows all year, and I was intrigued by how well this routine worked, so I’m going to give it a try this year! These colleagues are all the calm, quiet-voiced types I mentioned before, so I guess we will see how much of it is due to the assigned order, and how much was about the teachers’ personalities.
I have often had music playing for the students as they entered the room. It may have been something I would reference later in class, something I wanted them to listen for in particular, or just something I wanted them to be exposed to. Having something for students to focus on as they enter helps get the children in the music-learning mindset from the moment they set foot in the classroom. Having music playing also gives them regular practice in the (increasingly difficult) skill of listening. This year I’m hoping to add to this routine, but more on that later…
Give the students something to think about as soon as they enter the room. This is a great routine to teach the students from Day 1, so they can independently shift their focus to music class. It might be something to listen for in the music, or something to manipulate quietly as they sit down.
Want something fun and easy for your first week? Download this free music survey!
Every few weeks, I like to check in with the students to see where they are in their learning. A fantastically quick and easy way to get a formative assessment is by using exit slips. Sometimes it can just be as simple as getting one, two, or three fingers to show how well they feel they are keeping up with the learning.
Finally, get everyone lined up to go. (They can’t line up until they tidy up.) I intentionally do this a few minutes early when I can. While my stragglers are getting in line, I do some echoes with the class, usually singing some directions or salutations.
Getting things started the right way makes a tremendous difference in your classroom management. But when I get them riled up, I’m sure to wind them down again before sending them back to class! So what are your top tips for classroom management?