I would first like to say there is no right or wrong way to incorporate rules and procedures into your classroom. There are two camps, one, teach rules and procedures along the way while making music, two, specifically outline the rules and procedures for your students as a stand-alone lesson. I’ve been at my campus for 12 years and I know my administration, my students, and the ins and outs of our behavior systems really well, so I do a hybrid of teaching rules and procedures while doing a small stand-alone mini lesson depending on the age level of my students. Let me explain further… Kindergarteners and fifth graders are on the same level when it comes to testing boundaries. They test boundaries but for entirely different reasons, but both are searching for some autonomy and choices. For kinder and fifth, I would do more mini, stand-alone lessons on rules and procedures than the other grade levels. So here I offer how I teach rules and procedures in my elementary music classroom.
How I Teach Safety Procedures
We all have certain safety procedures that we must teach the first few weeks of school such as fire drills, duck and covers, lockdowns, etc. I always include these in our first meeting because I only see my students once a week and we run drills the first week of school. For the younger students we walk these drills and talk about what we will do in the event of any of these emergencies. For the older students, we speak briefly about what to do and I answer any questions but most of my students are returning from previous years, so we don’t walk the drills unless I feel we have a high number of new students in a specific class. I do not engage in the “what if” game. In other words, if their question begins with “what if” I do not answer it. I simply explain that we have been trained to keep their safety first and, in an emergency, we act the way we’ve practiced and if anything needs to change, they follow instructions from me the first time without discussion. If I’m worried that kindergarten won’t be able to handle the drills well, I have 2-minute videos of my teaching partner and I performing the drills and show those to them and then show them periodically throughout the first few weeks of school to remind them of safety drills. We eventually run the drills with kindergarten by week 3 or so.
How I Teach Classroom Procedures
I teach each procedure as the need arises. I do have students make music the first class, if possible, and I model each procedure and demonstrate every expectation. One unique thing about my campus is that I model this every time using CHAMPS, especially for the lower grades. CHAMPS in a PBIS strategy used to state expectations for student success. For more information on CHAMPS and PBIS go here.
When you model for students the first few times, be literal and very specific with your expectations. For the younger students (K-2) I demonstrate every specific procedure myself showing the do’s and don’ts of each procedure. For example, if it is getting instruments from the shelf, I walk the path they will walk, talking about how I’m not bothering any of the other instruments in the room, then I pick up the instrument and hold it how I want it held on the way back to their spot, finally, I place the instrument in rest position on the floor all the while making mistakes along the way to see if they’ll catch my mistakes. I try to make it fun and playful as I can, but I do model everything. Once they have their instruments I will them demonstrate how to play them and I’m very detailed with that, as well. With the older students (3-5), I can verbally remind them of expectations, and continue to teach while they get what they need.
There are many schools of thought that say the students will have more buy-in if they create their own rules. While that might be true for classroom families, I have not found that to work in the music room. Could you imagine having 24-ish sets of rules to post, remember, and enforce? So I use the music rules from MusicTeacherResources on TPT which are:
M – Make good choices
U – Use equipment properly
S – Speak when the time is right
I – Involve yourself in all activities
C – Cooperate with others
When I review CHAMPS with my students, I include their expectations on how this relates to the 5 music rules and if they fail to meet an expectation, we refer to the music rules to see which rule we need to work on.
A Few More Tips
Start each class new. Do not remind your students of how last time went, especially if it was a dumpster fire.
Don’t hold grudges. If a student struggled last time, let it go. Try not to take their behavior personally. Behavior is communication and if a lesson didn’t go well, they are trying to tell you something, so listen to the students and change something next time. Try not to say things like “remember when you did x,y, and z last time?” They don’t remember and if they do, it’s a distant memory and they’ve forgotten what their motivation was.
Build relationships with students and their classroom teachers. Show an exchange of power at the door. Make sure the students hear and see you receive and give updates on their location, well-being, behavior, goals, etc. so they can realize that you are a part of their learning community and truly are a teacher that cares.
Good luck in the new year. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. You will have good and bad days. Enjoy the good, learn from the bad, and all the days in between are wonderful chances to make music with kids.
Sing. Say. Dance. Play. Care.