Many times as elementary music teachers, we do what we’ve always done and get stuck in a pattern of comfort. When we do try new things, we may find that it is difficult to break ourselves and our students out of our comfortable pattern. Here are 5 quick tips for trying and introducing new activities and procedures in the music classroom.
1. Recognize that things may get worse first
When introducing a new procedure or activity into your elementary music classroom, realize that things may feel like they are actually getting worse, even if the activity or procedure was meant to make things better. An example would be trying a new book to teach xylophones that involves chanting and moving. At first the students may be uncomfortable with the chants and movements if they are not used to doing them and you may actually get less instrumental playing done the first time you try such a lesson because you are helping your students learn how to rotate to the different instruments. This may seem discouraging and it may be tempting to go back to the way things always were, but with practice, the movements in chants will likely keep your students more engaged and cause them to get much more done in the future than they would otherwise.
2. Practice without your class first
Before introducing something new to your class it is very helpful to run the activity or procedure through in your head without your class first in order to anticipate potential problems. Try visualizing a particular class and imagine difficulties specific students might have. Do you have students who confuse left and right frequently? Maybe try a visual cue. Do you have students that have trouble waiting for directions before trying to start? Maybe wait and have helpers pass out things like mallets or papers so you eager students don’t get ahead of themselves. All in all practicing before your class gets there helps things run more smoothly.
3. Prepare a quick yet effective introduction with a why
Sometimes the best way to help students prepare to do a new activity or procedure is to give it a short introduction and let them know why they are doing it. The beauty in this approach is that it eliminates a lot of the questions that your student may have. Also telling your students why you are doing something makes them more willing to do it because the already have a reason.
4. Consult colleagues or resources to learn proper techniques
Consulting colleagues or finding resources for new activities, and especially new instruments is critical in helping your students to be successful. An example of this is a person who is primarily a vocalist asking another music teacher who is a percussionist for help teaching xylophones. The percussion teacher can let the vocally inclined teacher know the specific of mallet technique for young students so they can get a characteristic sound out of their xylophones. Online resources and pedagogy books can also achieve this.
5. Practice make perfect
When technique is correct practice makes perfect. Trying new things in your classroom is a skill that both you and your students are learning, and it takes time to get better a new things. The more you try things new things that you learn at workshops or from other teachers, the more experiences you and your students will be used to and the better you will get at catching on to new activities. Practice introducing your students to new things and hanging in there when it is still uncomfortable, and both you and your students will experience growth.
What was the last new thing that you introduced your students to? What new activity would you like to try with you students? Leave a comment and let me know!