What are positive primers? A positive primer is anything that primes the brain to accelerate processing and the opposite is a negative primer or slowing the brain down. If I give you something to ready your brain for the response I’m looking for, I’ve primed your brain or accelerated its thought processes toward the memory I would like recalled. If I give you a positive primer and accelerate happiness, I can stimulate higher brain functioning. Today I would like to provide you with 3 positive primers for use in the elementary music classroom.
1. Greet Your Students at the Door
Your students need to see the exchange of power from classroom teacher to music teacher. In my classroom, I ask the teachers for attendance, mainly for student safety, but I like to know who is absent, in the nurse, at the counselor or what have you. It opens other conversations with classroom teachers such as “Johnny is in the counselor right now” becomes “Is Johnny alright, is there anything going on that I need to know about to help support Johnny while he’s in my classroom?”
While the children are entering the door, greet them with words or a safe, gentle touch. You may be the only grown up that gives that baby a hug that day, a handshake, a fist bump, whatever works for you, but greet your students as they walk in. Make it part of your routine, establish it very early on, and make sure the classroom teachers understand that this is part of your routine, and you are not going to make any changes to that, even if they are in a rush.
Transitions happen so often in the music room and what better time to build relationships with our students. You can make them musical, silent, or a time to have a quick chat with your kids. You can absolutely use transitions as a brain break if your students are a little squirrelly. When you choose your brain breaks, make sure you are reading the room. Go Noodle is great, but make sure you are choosing the correct activity to meet your students’ needs. There are brain breaks that are escalating and will build positive energy and emotions into your lesson. If your students aren’t feeling it that day, and they are a bit low energy, you can try clapping games, yoga pretzels, racing games, movement activities, just have a dance party! Maybe your students are hyped up and have been cooped up on a rainy day and you need to bring them down, you can try a de-escalating break like mirror movements, quiet music, breathing exercises, and other calm movements to build in calm emotions, contentment, serenity, safety and focus for your students.
3. Independent/Whole Group Time
During whole group lessons, encourage your students to be mindful of their accomplishments and successful moments. Have your students perform for one another and share about what went well during the performance or what could be changed to improve their performance. Give them a script to try to follow or a sentence stem, such as, I enjoyed _____ during your performance because you did _____ and _____ well. Or I think _____ went well however it could be better if you changed _______. This will encourage positive dialogue, priming the students to make musical decision when creating music, and to accept criticism in a positive light.
When a student performs independently, whether is a small solo singing or they’re brave to share their compositions, praise them! Prime the experience with positive affirmations and a growth mindset and you’ll discover students are suddenly excited to perform and play music!
However you get your students ready to learn, positive primers are a great way to increase student engagement, stimulate brain functioning and get your students loving music class!
Sing, Say, Dance, Play, Care