Teach, Model, and Reteach Routines
Explain and show students how you expect them to do EVERYTHING. Include even the easiest behaviors: entering the room, where to build instruments, where to store cases, how to set up the music stand as a workstation for the class period (pencil, tuner, warm-ups, music). Insist that routines are done correctly every time and it will become habit for you and the students.
Use Nonverbal Signals
A simple arm raised by a teacher indicates all students need to raise their hands and become silent. Nothing proceeds until the room is silent. This sounds too simple but it works. When used consistently and diligently it quiets a noisy room of 80 sixth grade brass players in about 10 seconds. We have gotten to the point that students will initiate the arm raise when they hear talking among the students. Develop your own plan and use it every rehearsal every day.
Keep Rules Simple
Our classroom rule is “Act in a way which does not create problems for others.” We follow that up with our posted Rehearsal Expectations:
- Pencil on EVERY Stand
- Music out of Plastic
- Mark Corrections (The more you mark, the less we stop!)
- Eye Contact with Director (Track)
- Instrument to Mouth on Count-Off
- Correct Playing Position & Posture
- Raise Hand for Comments & Questions
- Positive Body Language & Energy
- Apply What You Already Know
- Behavior Is Productive & Effective
Organize Your Space
Set up the room with aisles for you to be able to roam the room. Get off of the podium and move throughout the ensemble. Proximity does wonders for student behavior and allows you to see the rehearsal from their perspective.
Keep the room clean and organized. Have the room set with the correct number of chairs and stands. Have a spot for everything: extra music, pencils, tuners, lost and found, etc. Use binders for student materials to eliminate lost music. Put a pencil pouch in each binder to hold reeds, oil, tuners and pencils. Put the daily plan on the board so students know what to set up for when they enter the room.
Play More, Talk Less
Students are in band to play their instrument. The more they play the more they will like it. Many student errors can be fixed through slow repetition of small sections. Do not be afraid to repeat something a dozen times if needed. Your kids are tough, they can do it. When stopping to make corrections use three short phrases to include: who, where, what. For example: trumpets, measure 43, staccato notes-put space between. It is also very effective to model the correction on your instrument or by singing. Every stop should be 30 seconds maximum.
No matter how tired or frustrated you might become, calmly insist that there is only one way to do things in your classroom: the right way. What you accept is what you will get. Firm expectations and a loving attitude toward the students will create a comfortable and secure environment for you and your students. The whole point of music classroom management is to develop a system that removes distractions and logistics and allows students to focus on the task at hand-music.
Jessica Corry is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Music Education. A current member of he National Association of Music Education, she is classically trained on clarinet and enjoys playing jazz tenor saxophone. Ms. Corry currently serves as a director of bands at Traughber Jr. High in Oswego and is enjoying her third year of teaching as a Traughber Panther!