We all want phenomenal classroom management, but some of us find ourselves struggling with one of two approaches. Either we enable our students by being too lenient and by not following through with consequences, or we crush their spirits by being overbearing and controlling. The former causes students to lose respect and begin to ignore the teacher, and the latter breeds resentment, fear, and rebellion.
Where then is the middle ground? What does it take to have the well managed classes of our dreams?
According to CT3 (The Center for Transformative Teacher Training), it takes a "No-Nonsense Nurturer".
Several months ago all of the teachers at the school that I work at were informed that we would be required to take a training course. After some moans, groans, and perhaps a few excited expressions for getting a day off, we all ended up at the training location. What ensued was a training that would change the way I looked at teaching.
The No-Nonsense Nurturer training program was broken into four main categories:
Take-away #1: Precise Directions
The first stop on our journey to become a No-Nonsense Nurturer was learning to craft precise directions. The first thing I learned was, "the less words the better". I used to think that the more I elaborately explained a task, and the more detailed I was, the better my students would understand me. The truth was, I would end up repeating myself or using a lot of filler words. Although some things require more explanation, with most tasks, the more to-the-point the directions are, the better chance a student has of meeting the task objectives successfully. Also, the directions must be specific and include enough information for the students to be successful instead of being vague sweeping statements.
Here's an example.
Imprecise: Alright guys, get your things out and start working on your journals.
Precise: Class, take out your journals and write a one paragraph reflection on what you learned about meter in today's lesson.
Seems obvious right? Try this one.
Imprecise: Okay, put your instruments away and line up at the door.
Precise: Class, when I say "begin", place your instruments away neatly, in the bin one at a time in your line order. After you place your instrument in the bin, you may walk silently to the door and stand in your line order. ..."begin"
The first set of directions is likely to spur chaos as each student rushes to be first in line because they were not instructed how or in what order to complete the task.
The second set of directions addresses their movement, "walking", their voice level "silently", and how they should participate in the procedure, "neatly, one at a time". This set of directions is nearly guaranteed to get an orderly effective response.
In conclusion, precise directions ensure order and effectiveness of procedures in class and they include information on movement, voice level, and how each student should participate.
Take-away #2: Positive Narration
Ever hear of "positive reenforcement"? Well Positive Narration is like a simpler more effective version of that.
Positive Narration keeps the focus on what is going right not what's going wrong
Positive Narration states what is happening instead of thanking students for doing what they should already be doing (following your directions is not the same thing as doing you a favor)
Positive Narration lets other students know what they should be doing by pointing out what on-task students are doing
The difference between Positive Narration and positive reenforcement is subtle but important.
Positive reenforcement rewards, praises, or thanks students for behavior that should be expected and as soon as the reward is gone so is the positive behavior.
Positive Narration draws attention to what is going right, what is expected, and what was asked of the students. It changes the culture of you classroom from "please do this for me" to "this is what is expected of you and this is how things are".
Here are some examples:
Positive reenforcement: "Billy, thank you for standing so nicely in the line."
Positive Narration: "Billy is standing in line silently with his hands by his side"
PR: "Sarah and Nancy followed my directions so they get a piece of candy"
PN: "Sarah is using walking feet in the hallway. Nancy stopped playing her instrument right when I gave the cut-off"
*Bonus Tip: Make sure to put emphasis on the student's name for a more effective result.
It may seem like a small change in wording but it has made all the difference in my classes. Try it out for your self!
Take-away #3: Incentive System/ Discipline Hierarchy
A job well done is it's own reward, but students also need something to strive for and consequences for wrong actions. A consistent Incentive/discipline system was the next stop on our training journey and it answers the question students are always asking in their heads, "what's in it for me?"
The booklet provided several great questions to consider when creating an incentive system, they are as follows:
What desired behaviors or actions will be incentivized?
What incentives will students be working toward?
How will you get students to "buy-in" to the system?
How will students earn the incentives?
How will you keep track of the students' progress toward the incentives?
*Bonus Tip: using whole class incentives as opposed to individual incentives creates collaboration and a culture of cooperation to meet a shared goal.
There were also suggestions for a discipline hierarchy. The elementary list included:
I realize that some of these things may not be possible at your school, but having a system definitely makes things easier because it sends a message to the students that they will be held accountable for their actions.
My favorite suggestion from the discipline hierarchy is the reflection sheet. I like to give my students the opportunity to reflect on why their negative behavior is wrong and what effect it has on those around them.
Take-away #4: Plan to Build Relationships with Scholars and Their Families
Each student wants to feel known, connected, and valued. Creating a plan to build relationships with scholars and their families helps each student feel like they are important and that they are connected to something bigger than themselves. Building relationships also gives teachers leverage in the music classroom because the teacher will know how to bring the best out of the students and the students will have built a foundation of respect for the teacher.
Here are some strategies to build relationships with students and their families:
Contact parents/guardians of your students early in the year and introduce yourself
When interacting with parents or guardian, start by letting them know that you care about their child
Use the sandwich approach when informing parents about negative behavior:
1.Positive statement about the student
2.Difficult behavior and a proposed solution
3. Optimistic statement about the future of their student in your class
Communicate class expectations with parents/guardians
Invite parents/guardians to see their student perform
Contact parents/guardians early if there is a problem or concern
The biggest take-away from this section was that the families of the students are one of the biggest allies in educating a student.
Take-away #5: 100%
The final take-away that I got from the No-Nonsense Nurturer training program was probably the most difficult to accept and the most powerful.
It is The 100% Rule: The goal of any class is to have 100% of the students actively engaged.
I imagine your first thoughts on this are similar to what some mine were:
"But, it's not possible to have EVERYONE engaged."
"What about student X or student Y"
"You can't make a student do something they don't want to do."
"What if their family doesn't care and the get away with everything at home, then what can I do?"
"No class is perfect and I shouldn't expect 100% engagement"
"My students live in X difficult area and struggle so much at home. How can I expect them to be engaged at school"
The truth is, even if some of these thoughts are true, they are still an excuse to do less than what is possible. I didn't believe it at first but it is possible to have 100% student engagement and when the four strategies of the No-Nonsense Nurturer training are used it becomes even more possible.
Don't give up, don't make excuses, use these strategies make a difference.
I hope these strategies will help you in your music classes on a daily basis.
Leave a comment below and share some of your own strategies for a well managed music classroom!
If you are interested in the No-Nonsense Nurturer Training or anything else CT3 does visit their website here:
If you are looking for exciting, performance ready songs for your elementary music classroom, visit my website here:
Well that's all I've got today. I hope it helps.
Don't forget to share your classroom management tips and Leave a comment below!