One of the major hurdles in any new teacher’s professional development is classroom management. If you are a younger teacher who lacks experience disciplining a child, let alone a room full of them, the responsibility of managing a classroom can be a daunting task. Even though it may be overwhelming at first, through planning and perseverance you can (and will) become a successful classroom manager.
In my opinion, there are two parts to any classroom management plan. These two parts include proactive interventions (preventative classroom management) and reactive interventions (behavioral intervention). In proactive intervention—which will be the focus here in part 1—the teacher attempts to proactively prevent all misbehavior from ever occurring. Of course, preventing all misbehavior is wishful thinking, and thus requires reactive behavioral intervention, which will be discussed in more detail in next month’s post (part 2).
As a starting point for determining your classroom management plan, I encourage you to reflect on the question, “who do you want to be as a teacher?” discussed in last month’s post (ChoralEd: Your Teacher Identity). For me personally, considering my calm and patient demeanor I discovered that a “Love and Logic” classroom management approach was most fitting for my desired teacher identity. (As a proponent of the Love and Logic approach I encourage you to investigate it more, but unfortunately we won’t have the time to discuss it here). However, based on your own teacher identity you may prefer alternative methods. For example, if your personality is more take-charge or headstrong you may incorporate a more authoritative management style. If you consider yourself nurturing and kind, a parental approach might be most appropriate for you. The point here being there are many different approaches to classroom management. In order to be the most authentic and confident in your teaching I encourage you to first determine your teacher identity and align your management style accordingly.
Despite the different management styles, there are still some tips and tricks that can help you proactively prevent and minimize misbehavior.
Set-up the Learning Environment
Ensure that your classroom is set up to minimize distractions. For example, are the risers facing the door? If so, students can become distracted by individuals who enter and exit the room. Also, space out your folio cabinets to avoid pushing and shoving in one confined location as they pick up and return their music. (For more specific suggestions check out ChoralEd, Episode 2).
It’s critical to always remain calm and keep your cool when misbehavior occurs. You can make things worse by losing your temper, yelling, or jumping too quickly to a harsh punishment. When you fail to remain calm you lose the respect of your students and elicit negative responses from them.
Clearly Describe Your Expectations
At the beginning of each semester clearly describe your expectations. These expectations are established through classroom rules and procedures. It may seem silly, but when discussing classroom procedures have the students practice the desired expectation. For example, after discussing correct procedures for entering the classroom, I always have the students re-enter the room demonstrating these expectations. To maintain these expectations, it is critical that you are consistent in enforcing these rules and procedures.
Phrasing of Statements and Questions
If your classroom expectation is for students to raise their hand, then encourage this behavior by starting questions with the phrase, “raise your hand and tell me. . .” By making this statement your expectations are continually reinforced, discouraging students from openly calling out answers.
Often teacher’s respond to misbehavior with rhetorical questions. Although we don’t want an answer, we admonish students asking, “What are you doing?” “Why are you chewing gum?” “Why are you leaving the risers?” “Did I give you permission to do that?” In asking these questions we invite students to respond, which can lead to an unintended discussion or argument. Instead, it’s best to phrase your behavioral correction as a statement. “[Student name] I need you to return to the risers.”
Transitions Between Activities
In rehearsal one of the more common opportunities for students to become off task is during transitions. One option to help alleviate this challenge is to implement mini vocal activities during these transitions. For example, you might say, “As you turn to measure 20 in The Star-Spangled Banner, please echo me.” During this vocal exercise you can isolate difficult intervals in the upcoming selection, realign the voice through sighs or humming, among other potential vocal and mental preparatory exercises.
Learning New Music
In addition to transitions, behavior is most often problematic during the learning of new music. This is because some teachers focus on only one voice part at a time allowing the other sections to sit back and listen. Of course, during this down time students become restless and begin to talk and move about the room, among other behavioral issues. Instead, it is ideal to have students continuously engaged in the learning process. While you are working with one section, have the other voice parts count rhythms, chant solfege/numbers/text, hum, or number measures.
Know Your Music and Look Up
Finally, you can’t prevent behavioral issues if you don’t see them. Do everything you can to look up from the score and get out from behind the piano in order to actively monitor the classroom. As a result, this active monitoring often deters misbehavior, and allows you to quickly intervene before a behavior turns into a more significant issue.
To watch ChoralEd, Episode 3, Part 1 on YouTube click here.