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How to Set Your Students Up for Success Part 2

Aug 24, 2022 | Tips and Tricks for Music Teachers, Tips for First Year Music Teachers

How to Set Your Students Up for Success Part 2 – Classroom Culture

Creating a safe space for your students is probably the most important thing you’ll do in the first weeks of school. When it comes to classroom culture, being a music teacher comes with its own set of challenges. Kids might be super nervous about playing an instrument or singing. They don’t want to be called out as the person who has a bad voice or the one who can’t play an instrument. Sometimes they come in thinking they’re not good at music.

The cool thing about being a music teacher is that once you’ve set the tone for your little ones, they’ll come back every year with positive expectations. They’ll be excited to see you and to be in your class. That’s why creating a warm, loving classroom culture is so important. So how can you make sure that your students feel comfortable being in your music classroom?

Learn their names – The best way to show your students that you care about them is to learn their names. I know this is tricky with 300 to 1500 kids in the school. But it’s totally worth it. Think about how you feel when someone you’ve just met remembers your name. It’s all good, right? For suggestions on learning names, you can visit my recent blog post, How to Learn 300 Names by December.

Be present – We live in the age of technology. It’s easy to pick up your phone or put on a YouTube video and “forget” you’re supposed to be teaching those adorable faces. This is OK if you’re not feeling well or don’t have a voice, but it should never be a normal practice. While your students are young, they know when you are present and attentive and when you’re just “phoning it in”. If you care that they’re learning, most of them will too.

Smile, laugh, and be silly – You may read that you shouldn’t smile the first few weeks of school. That’s fine if you want your kiddos to be scared to come to class, but it doesn’t work to help build a warm environment. It’s OK to smile, and it’s definitely OK to laugh (at yourself, at your student’s jokes, or at anything else you find funny). Find opportunities to be silly and laugh with your students. Need more information on adding the Silly to your classroom? Check out the YouTube videos below:

Behavior Got You Down?

9 Ways to Add Silly to the Music Classroom

Never, ever yell – It’s not easy. Sometimes those children are on your last nerve, but think about it. How do you feel when someone yells at you? How do you feel when you lose your temper and yell at someone else? Neither option feels good, right? Children are especially sensitive to being yelled at. There are plenty of classroom management strategies out there to help keep the peace. (That’s a story for another day, though). If you do feel like you’re losing your temper (totally normal by the way), step away for a moment and collect yourself. Go out in the hallway or just tell your students you need a moment.

Create a colorful, comfortable space – When a child walks into a bright, colorful room, they are automatically put at ease. Set up an area for movement, an area for reading stories, and an area for learning. Be sure your students have a comfortable place to sit. If they’re on the floor, use a carpet or carpet squares so they don’t have to sit on the tile. Put up posters or create some fun, colorful bulletin boards. Be sure that your classroom is inviting.

Make the environment safe and loving – Above all things, kids don’t want to be embarrassed or called out in front of the rest of the class. You may have some students who are petrified to even speak in front of others. Some will not want to sing or play and instrument by themself. Solos should be encouraged but not required. Playing an instrument too. Be understanding and loving with your students. Show them you care by truly listening to what they have to say, even it they’re complaining. Maybe they have a point?

Admit when you make a mistake – Unless you’re a robot teacher, you will make mistakes. Sometimes your students will call you out on it. That’s not only OK (unless they’re rude about it), but it should be encouraged. It’s OK to show your students that you make mistakes too. It’s OK to let them know you’re human and that you can admit when you’re wrong.

Be sure your classroom is inclusive – The music room is the perfect place to make sure ALL students are welcome. There is not a lot of skill or talent involved in playing elementary percussion instruments or singing a simple song. That’s what’s so great about being in music class. Everyone, even your ELL students, can feel welcome and included. Try to learn a little bit about the different countries and cultures represented in your school, so you can include some folk songs, stories, and games they might be familiar with. Below are some resources to help you include every student:

All Are Welcome – this is a storybook all about creating a safe space for learning for EVERY student. Click on the title to get the lesson plan for free!

Visit The Music Museum Online, a YouTube channel created by Daria. This channel features stories, songs, and instruments for all over the world.

Classroom culture is super important. When your students feel comfortable in your music classroom, they will not only love coming to class, but they will also perform and behave better for you.

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