There is no better time to establish a cooperative, well-managed classroom than the first week of school. Everything from how the room is organized to how much time you spend teaching procedures affects the flow of your rehearsals for the entire school year. You must know how you expect your classroom to function at all times and be proactive about getting the behaviors you want. Take the time early on to “teach them how to band” so you can focus more time later on the more important aspects of making music!
Organize – Learning cannot exist in chaos!
- A clean and organized rehearsal space will help students enter with a calm mind, ready to learn. When they see chaos they will imitate that chaos.
- Chairs and stands should always be neat and tidy. Hold students responsible for maintaining this after every class.
- Label everything in your room so students can easily identify where things are and where to return them to. You can print labels and then tape them onto surfaces with 2”-3” clear book tape.
- Have a specific place in the room for lost/misplaced items so students do not have to bother you when things go missing.
- The percussion section should be organized with a specific place for every item and students should be held accountable for keeping it that way.
Before the school year begins make photocopies of all paperwork that you know you will need to pass out to students in the first few weeks. Organize them into folders for the students with their names on them. Only having to hand out one item with all the papers they need saves valuable class time. Organize the students with binders, sheet protectors and dividers to cut down on lost music and save future rehearsal time. Spend an entire class period assisting students in setting up their binders. Young students need the help organizing for the first time and you will ensure that they are put together properly.
Procedures- Know HOW you want your classroom to run.
- Establish clear procedures for how your classroom should run in every minute of rehearsal, beginning when students walk in the door. Telling the students the expectations is not enough, you must practice them with your students.
- Practice how they are expected to enter the room and set up their instrument. Where should their cases and backpacks go during class?
- Practice demonstrating an appropriate personal warm-up if you permit it.
- What is the expectation when the director steps on the podium? If students should immediately become silent, let them experience what that will be like. Practice it multiple times during the first rehearsal, the first week and throughout the school year as necessary.
- If you leave students with no question as to what you expect, they have no reason not to follow through.
Rules – Rules are not procedures!
Establish short, general rules regarding the behavior you expect in the room. Too many specific rules lead to students trying to find ways around them. Teach the rules to the students in an engaging, memorable way rather than just telling them. A great first week ice breaker might be to break students into groups and have them perform a skit for the rest of the class on a specific rule. Make sure students not only understand what the rules are, but why those rules are in place. Revisit and review rules as infractions occur and when returning from each long break.
Do not rush into playing music with students who aren’t ready to do so according to your expectations. This may mean that younger students do not play their instruments for the entire first of school week while they learn the rules and procedures. Be patient and consistent, this is well worth the time spent up front when your rehearsals run like a well-oiled machine later in the school year. Most importantly, remember to stay consistent in your expectations and that it is never too late to tighten the reigns and regain the behaviors you expect.
Jenn Bock is the band director at Poston Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona. Her bands consistently receive Superior ratings at area and state band festivals. Her Concert Band has been a featured performance and she has presented several clinics at the Arizona Music Educators Association In-Service Conference.
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