Hi everyone! It's Jamie. Each year, I am reminded about the importance of setting expectations for my students. It is so easy to assume that my kids know how to get supplies, transition to different activities, and interact with each other peacefully. I can tell immediately when I have not done a good enough job setting an activity for success—we’ve all been there! I try my hardest to predict possible opportunities for students to become disengaged, and I’d like to share some ways to set procedures so that this does not happen:
(Thanks to Creative Clips for the graphics.)
1. How to Make a Circle:
· My students sit in rows when they come into music class, but we often have to transition to circles for singing games, folk dances, and other activities. It is my goal that students make their circle quickly and efficiently, without wasting class time. Here are some steps I take:
o At the beginning of the year, have students practice making a circle. Remind students to use walking feet. See how quickly each class can make a circle in an appropriate way.
o Use non-verbal cues to let the students know it is time to make a circle. For example, after singing through a song that has a circle game, put your hands up and make a circle motion. Teach the students that this means, “Stand up and go to your circle.” Then, once the students are at a circle, either show them to stand or sit with hand motions.
o When transitioning back to row spots, keep the students engaged. Give them a job to do:
- Step the beat as they sing the song
- Step the beat and clap the rhythm at the same time
- Inner hear the song as they march the beat. At a given signal, have them sing the song out loud.
· In my class, we connect (hold hands) all of the time. I never use the term “hold hands.” Instead, I say, “connect.” Teach the students how to connect with each other:
o Connect lightly without squeezing
o Connect with the whole hand (no pinky or sleeve connecting)
· When teaching the older students how to connect hands, I start with a game in which their connections are a vital part of the game. One game I like to use is Dance Josey:
· In this game, if students don’t connect, the farmers can get through multiple places in the circle. The game is literally ruined if all students aren’t connecting appropriately.
· In my class, we don’t have time to play a game until everyone gets a turn. I have to teach my students from the earliest age that you might get a turn today, but you might also have to wait until the next time to get a turn.
· One way I choose “it” is through this simple chant:
Acka backa soda cracker, acka backa boo
Acka backa soda cracker, out goes you!
· I also tell the students before we start, “Today, we have time for 5 rounds of this game.”
· Before the last round, I will always tell the students, “This is our final time.”
· While some students have a hard time with turns at the beginning of the year, they will get used to it if you use the same process each time!
4. Choosing a Partner:
· There are many times in my class that students need a partner to work/play with. Before we do any partner work, we always practice the steps of getting a partner:
o Walk up to a friend you’d like to have as a partner. Ask, “Will you be my partner?”
o The answer to this question in my classroom is always, “OK.”
o At a given cue (I will normally play an instrument to get the students’ attention), raise your hand if you don’t have a partner. Find another kid with his/her hand in the air.
o If the class has an odd number of students, you (the teacher) should be partners with the last student if doing a partner game. If working with manipulatives/doing other small group work, have the student join another pair to make a group of three.
5. Transitioning to get Supplies/Instruments:
· Again, I want any transition to be quick and effective. Teach the students how to get instruments out, how to put instruments in rest position, and how to wait for directions. If using papers and pencils, have a routine for passing out supplies.
· As the students are getting any supplies out, keep them engaged by continuing to sing:
o Continue singing the song they are working on
o Echo melodic/rhythmic patterns
o Have the students decode patterns as they get supplies out (tap/hum a pattern and the students respond back with solfége or rhythm language)