Big, Bad Behavior Problems Solved! Classroom Management Tips from Musikgarten Teachers – Part 2 of 2

Last month we examined the reasons behind behavior problems and then we shared 8 great ways to manage those behavior problems in your studio. This month, we share 7 Clever Classroom Management Tips from Musikgarten teachers who know what it takes to keep a busy studio running smoothly!

  1. Keep Class Sizes Manageable. Especially when you’re starting out or with toddlers. While it can be tempting to keep growing your classes as word-of-mouth increases, it may be better to start small and add more class times. Jennifer Anderson of Music Time Studio explains why she avoids teaching too-big classes: “I know myself well and I don’t handle large classes as well as smaller ones. My classes are limited to 5-6 families. I’d rather teach more classes where I can give individual attention to both parents and the children.”
  1. Start Class With A “Warm Up” Chat. Children often arrive excited and full of things they want to share with you. (“It’s my birthday!” “I got a new puppy!” “We saw a firetruck!”) If they seem especially chatty, Shannon May of Apple Tree Arts starts class by saying, “Let’s have 2 minutes of talk time. Raise a quiet hand and you may share one thing, but once I start patting my legs and singing, it’s music time and talking will have to wait until next time.” Shannon says it’s taken a while, but with consistency the children have learned when it’s time to settle down, and she experiences far fewer interruptions.
  1. Play A Game To Refocus A Rowdy Crowd. Try this new twist on Simon Says! to quickly settle and focus a large or rambunctious group. First, loudly say: “Simon says hands on your head! Simon says hands on your cheeks! Simon says touch your nose!” Do this until all children are quiet and listening. Then say, “Please sit down so I can tell you a very special message.” Then set the ground rules or give instructions by whispering loudly. According to Shannon May, “This trick works almost every time. I have no idea why, but it does, even with large groups!”
  1. Add Movement Fast and Slow. According to Jennifer Anderson of Music Time Studio, you’ll quickly learn which kids and classes have more pent-up energy. Add fast movements like marching or even shaking each limb before or during classes to help release energy so they can focus and learn. Or, try adding slower movements like rocking, swaying, slow stretching, or even “sleeping” to help kids calm down.
  1. Try the Good Listener Game. Got a tough group? Teacher Ann Engberg, of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, shared a game that’s proven highly successful with Music Maker classes. According to Ann, “If the class isn’t listening well or misbehaving, I pull this game out. It works 99% of the time. First, I announce we will play a new game called The Good Listener Game. I explain we have to work together as a group to score points. Together we decide how many points we want to earn. We earn 1 point for each activity we do where everyone is a good listener and tries their best. It provides immediate positive reinforcement because I put a tally mark on the board right away. I count how many points we have (usually the kids keep track!) If we reach our goal, I compliment them and give them each a fun sticker. Sometimes, if it’s a very difficult class, we may work for a few weeks on these skills and the parents give them a reward at home to celebrate being a good listener. Kids love it; even when I don’t need to use it anymore, the kids want to continue to play!”
  1. Make Instruments The Reward. Kendra Beagles of KB’s Musik takes this approach to settling her classes: If children are scattered all over the room or being noisy, I tell them they must find their grownup and sit with them before I pass out instruments. When they’re quiet, they will be first to get an instrument. I wait for this to happen, and because the children want an instrument, the room gets very quiet, very quickly!”
  1. Just Keep Moving, Just Keep Moving! Remember Dory’s mantra in Finding Nemo? Prevent distractions by keeping kids going, going, going. Kendra Beagles advises, “The best way I’ve found to manage a class is to keep the kids moving from one activity to another. I don’t allow much down time for children to get bored or distracted. Musikgarten does most of this for us in the curriculum line-up. Also, changing the physical positions of the children often is important. For instance, we sit down for one activity, then immediately get up arrange into a circle or line for the next. And I keep talking to keep their attention: while we’re busy returning instruments to their containers, I’m giving directions for the next activity and getting them moving in that arrangement.”

Thank you to our wonderful contributing teachers for their time, talent, and wisdom!

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