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How to Get Those Tricky Students on Board with EVERYTHING you’re doing

It’s the week before Thanksgiving break, and all through the school, not a teacher around knows what to do. It’s been that kind of month. Have you heard that October and February are the 2 hardest months for a teacher? It’s true . . . data driven and all that.

Are your 5th graders starting to make the dreaded transformation you wait for all year . . . the middle school scaries! Do even your 4th graders seem to be having trouble connecting to your lessons? It’s happening to me too. That’s why a week or 2 ago, after a particularly frustrating class, I decided to just let them have their way. (Don’t worry, chaos did NOT reign).

I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I was ready to run screaming from my classroom. I was teaching movement (ie. fighting with them to learn it) to a group of 4th graders who are already too cool for school, and they were not having it. They were being silly, talking over me while I was giving instructions, and just didn’t want to learn the movement. Later that week, I was at the National AOSA Conference participating in a movement class (if you’ve never been, it’s totally worth the price tag) when it hit me. My students were fighting me, because they didn’t have ownership of what they were learning. The movement had been designed by another group of students, and this group didn’t like it. This story will be continued . . .

You may already know that you should to add the silly and funny to your classroom activities so your students don’t. You may also know that your students are only in music class to have fun. I know . . . music should NOT be all fun and games! But why not? Have you ever considered just going with them and allowing the fun? Where else do they get to go in the school building and just have fun. Yes, you’re right . . . PE. Why do you think so many students’ favorite subject is PE? It’s because they are almost always having fun and playing games. Don’t you want to BE THE FUN in your students’ day?

It’s hard to wrap your head around this idea, because, as musicians, you take your subject seriously. You want to be sure everyone else is taking your subject seriously too. I mean, it’s hard enough to retain a little respect among your colleagues. Am I right? But consider that it’s not all about you. It’s about your students and how much they are learning and remembering. According to Seattle PI,

Playtime helps young children learn to solve problems, get along with others, express their creativity and develop their physical dexterity and language skills. It is through play that young children experience the joy of learning.

Here’s a bit more info on this subject. Cognition Today says,

An improved mood-state creates a new emotion-based component for an experience. This component attaches itself to various aspects of learning – thinking, memory, judgments, etc. Because of the attachment, it reinforces the memory and makes it easier to remember. Getting in a similarly good mood can also help you to remember more information associated with that mood

As you can see, it is a scientific fact that when someone feels good, they learn more. So let’s be sure your students are enjoying the experience they have in your class ALL THE TIME. Kids want to giggle, laugh, and interact, so why not allow it? Why not make it your business to be sure your students are having fun while they learn.

Not only is this a great learning strategy, but it’s also an amazing way to get your kiddos on board with anything you want them to do. When they trust you and your process, when they know you’re going to provide an amazing experience, they will not fight you. Instead, they’ll come in smiling and ready to listen and learn.

That’s all good, but there’s a part 2 to the learning process for your students. Not only do they have to trust you, but they also need to feel like they are a part of the learning process. They need to have ownership and a voice. They need to feel respected.

Here’s where we continue with part 2 of my story from before. I came back from the conference with SO MANY new ideas and some pretty cool new manipulatives. When I saw that too cool for school class of 4th graders the next time, I told them how I realized that they didn’t really like the movement I was trying to teach and that I was going to give them the opportunity to create their own movement. I could see that they were still unsure, because this group didn’t really trust me yet. This week, I watched with literal joy in my heart as these students FINALLY (I kid you not after 11 weeks of school) began to enjoy my class. Music teacher win! Take a look below to see these kiddos enjoying the process of creating.

Check out my too cool for school 4th graders enjoying the creative movement process . . . FINALLY!!

Use what I’ve learned to help you create the type of atmosphere in your classroom that will keep your students not only learning and growing as people, but also enjoying the process. When your students are on board and happy, everyone’s happy. Especially you!

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