Dazzling Discipline

Happy "almost-officially-summer" everyone!!!  We just got back from a family vacation to DISNEYLAND and the beach. It was GREAT fun!
Today I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle's linky party.  She posted last week, but being on vacation I wasn't able to link up until now.  Since I'm late to the party I'm going to try to post some different ideas than the others that I've read. . . . but I'm sure I'll overlap a bit.  So,  here are 5 of my tips for "Dazzling Discipline" in your classroom.
Routines and rituals:  If Disneyland reinforced anything for me it's a child's need for routines and rituals. Don't get me wrong, my kids had a blast but all the razzle, dazzle and excitement of Disneyland was wearing on them.  It was a complete shift from their normal daily routines including meals, sleeping, etc..  This is the same with our children at school.  Kids thrive on knowing what they can expect.  So, classroom routines such as how you enter the room, how you get manipulatives, how you take turns, how you handle the classroom materials & instruments, etc., help establish this in your classroom.  For instance, my students know that when they come to music I will meet them at the door, when we enter the room if I'm singing a song they know that they take over the singing and if I'm singing a song that they don't know then they have one main job, to listen to the song.  They know that as this song is happening we always get into a circle.  Now, when my students sit in a circle we do NOT have a seating chart.  They also know that the routine and ritual is that it's their responsibility to make a good choice as to who they sit next too.  If they don't, on the first warning (a tap on the shoulder) they are given the choice to change seats or change behavior.  If there has to be a second warning I choose their seat.  We do have assigned seats on the risers, and we have rituals for how to get to and from the seats in the circle to the seats on the risers.  This is gone over the first day of music class and reinforced HEAVILY for few music classes.  After a couple of practices of moving from the circle to the seats they "get it". As movement skills are developed students easily go from their assigned seats to different dance formations with minimal instructions.  Again, this is a lot in teaching them how to do it the first couple times.  It's the old theory: "If you teach a man to fish. . . ."  This is just one example of a routine/ritual in my classroom.

Student engagement and Pacing:  I remember my first year of teaching calling my cooperating teacher, desperate for help with my 5th graders.  She said "keep them singing."  Well . .. it's a little more than that and I'll get into that in my #4.  But in the meantime, she was trying to say keep them busy.  Or, keep them making, reading, writing, playing, singing, creating, describing music.  When I have student teachers and we go over their lessons I don't want to just see "what the teacher is doing" in their lesson plans, I want them tell me what the kids are doing too.  For example, if the teacher is singing a new song to the students what are the students suppose to be doing?  Are they listening for rhyming words, listening for details specific to the song, keeping a steady beat, etc.  When I write my own plans every minute of the 45 minutes I see the students is accounted for.

This brings me to pacing.  I have 45 minute classes.  This is a LONG time for a 6 year old.  I vary my lessons with areas of concentration and relaxation.  Now, either of those areas if extended too long will lead to management problems.  I remember working daycare in high school  The general rule of thumb was when giving a time out to a child, you give one minute for each year they are old.  I use the same rule of thumb in lesson planning.  The activities with my first graders last no longer than 6 minutes, that's as long as they'll stay focused on something- especially those areas of concentration.  This doesn't mean that I MAKE my areas of concentration last for 11-12 minutes with my older kids, but I do make sure I don't go over that for my 5th graders.  Now, for those areas of relaxation, I try to gage the students' rate of excitement.  It's good to end an activity right before the height of the excitement.  I want to hear them moan that we're ending an activity.  It's much better than them groaning because we "have to do it again." :)
Transitions:  This is related a lot to pacing and planning.  I love transitions and there are many ways to make seamless transitions between activities: stories, melodic or rhythmic patterns, partner songs (the first song partnering with the next one), ostinatos, song morphs, etc.  The number of different ways to transition is an unending as your song literature choices.  The main thing is to make a smooth connection from one activity to the next so that the students don't even know that a change has occurred.  Easy, right ;)  lol!  These take a lot of practice but are well worth the time spent working on making them smooth and will help your students stay engaged throughout the entire lesson.
Modalities of learning:  Without going all the way onto my soapbox, I feel like kids today are tactile and kinesthetically deprived.  I see this with my own two kids: they want to play on the iPad all the time and would if I would let them (which they don't!).  There has been a huge technology shift in our society and traditional play has changed. Because of this, a lot of kids aren't having their sensory needs meet.  So, we then expect them to "sit and sing" and "keep their hand to themselves"?  No. So many of our kids need to move; they learn through moving.  So many of our kids (I would go so far as to say all of our kids) need to manipulate things with their fingers and learn this way.  Some kids hear and remember.  Some kids look and learn. So in lesson planning I try to make sure I have a variety of activities that meet the needs of music students to meet their aural, visual, kinesthetic and tactile needs.
Is the lesson interesting to YOU?:  This one is a biggie for me.  If I don't like my lesson plan I won't be able to sell it to my students.  Point blank.  Here's an example: Some teachers use the same song material every year to teach the same concepts.  There are some songs that I use every year but I'll be honest, I change it up.  If not, I get bored.  And if I get bored, the students will be bored.  Kids have a 6th sense and can know when you don't buy into something.  Ever try teaching a song that was brand new to you that you weren't exactly sure of?  Didn't go as well as a tried and true song I bet.  One summer in my Kodaly training with Jill Trinka she said she had to let a song "simmer" with her for at least 6 months before she could "own" it.  I think there's a lot of truth to that, especially with folk music.  not only are you learning the notation but you're also learning the stylistic traits of the song.

I hope that some of this helps!  I've got vacation brain so I hope that it makes sense!  Don't forget to go check out all the other fabulous blogs that linked up with Aileen!


  1. This is such an excellent and well written guide! I have been teaching 20 years and consider myself a well-trained teacher, but your "Fab Five" are clear and concise; wish I had seen these when I was student teaching and during my first few years of teaching. Wonderful advice to think of students first in planning. Thank you!
    Aimee @ ofortunaorff.blogspot.com

  2. #4 is a HUGE one these days! And I love Jill's advice in #5 - once I own the song, I can be much more musical and creative. Thanks for sharing - these are great!

  3. #4 is SO important! There is a reason why, while the kids love using the iPads in class, they go gaga for things like Popsicle stick dictation, my felt lap staves, and using pipe cleaners to show melodic contour.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I'm a first year teacher and struggling with my fifth graders (nice to know I'm not the only one!). I'd never heard the rule of thumb for a minute per year of their age, I'm definitely going to take that into consideration! Again, thank you!


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