Differentiation, Elementary Music, Management

Setting up Centers: The First Day

Hey everyone! As the school year just started (or is about to start), every teacher in the world is working on rules, routines, and procedures. For a lot of that, rules, routines, and procedures include centers. But what do you actually do on your first day of centers?
Let’s talk.
I came up with this post because I overheard some second grade teachers discussing centers with the assistant principal at school yesterday. The AP was describing how she used to set up her centers for math.
And you know what? It is the same thing that I do.
Well, it is the same thing that I do after that first terrible centers experience that I had, which I outline in my post about centers with “bad classes”.
The first thing that I will say is that your first round of centers does not have to be magical. It does not have to be the absolute best lesson you have ever done ever. There is time for that later.

Setting up Centers: The first day. How do you get started on the first day of centers or workstations in the music room? Here are some ideas to destress you centers time and help your students understand the routine. Becca's Music Room.


In your first day of centers, go for simple

You may love having four or five or seven centers (although I seriously advise against that!), but don’t. On the first day of centers, start with two.
If you did centers last year, then you can go ahead and do three or four. But if you have new kids, have never done centers, or have students (like mine!) who forget ALL procedures over the summer, then just do two.
One group works independently, and one works with you.
If you are adventurous, maybe go for three groups. Two independent and one with you.
That leads me to my second point…

Have a group work with you

I know they may not have to, but try it anyway. This does not necessarily mean that you are teaching the same lesson to each kid 50 thousand times. It just means you are doing an activity with them. Now, for the first day of centers, it can be something they can do by themselves, and you supervise and are available for questions. But this is the time to work with one of the groups. You can assess or extend depending on the group you’ve got.
There is a reason that the classroom teachers do this—because it works.
It’s extra fun to have your group work with instruments. Because they are with you, you can supervise their playing better. But if that is too much for your first day of centers, don’t bother.

Also read: Tips for Incorporating Social Studies in the Elementary Music Class

Have the independent group do something they already know how to do

This is THE BEST classroom management technique I could give you for centers.
Have you ever had a group that sat down to do centers and just sat there and did nothing?
Or they play with other kids the whole time?
Or they throw things and knock things over and run around the room?
Because no matter how much you talk about what they are doing, how many directions you write on the board, or how many times you explained it, they still don’t get it.
I do not understand why, but it is a thing. Maybe your school doesn’t have this problem, but my school does.
Literally. They would sit at the center and do nothing.
Because no matter how many times I explained it, they did not hear me.
So this is the antidote to that.
Take an activity that the students already know how to do. Use a game you did in class as whole group. I sometimes have them practice something the class before. For example, when I introduced Kaboom!, we played it the day before. I had four sets, and it was in groups, but everyone did the same thing.
Then when we played it in centers, they already had the procedures down.
Then you can take that same thing and make it harder—like they could add melody to the rhythms, they could put rhythms together for a quick composition, they could do different body percussions for the rhythms, etc.
But independent work should be something they can do easily.

Like my students know how to do this rhythm bingo, so it works well as a group activity.

Really emphasize the procedures

In my class, we earn class points. On my first day of centers, I tell them all of their points are connected to centers procedures—keeping voices down, transitioning, being kind to each other, etc.
Seriously, it is more important for the students to understand the routines than for them to learn music today.
I know, you hate me now. Let me be clear, the FIRST day of centers is for procedures. The rest of the days of centers are for music learning.
It’s like the first day of school. But in small groups.

You can read more about my classroom management ideas here.

Focus on being kind

The thing about centers is that you cannot watch all of the kids all of the time. Yes, sit so that you can see them. Occasionally circle while your group is busy. But you cannot necesarily hear everything.
So preface this with a pep talk on being kind.
I tell them that they are a team (that’s why they earn class points as a team). You have to work with people on your team, even if they aren’t your favorite. We go through what to do when people are annoying you, we talk about keeping our personal space, etc.
And then I tell them that if they cannot handle centers, we won’t do them anymore.
And they usually like centers because I usually have lots of games for them to play.

Then what?

Now that procedures are down, you can experiment more! I would suggest having only three centers, but like I said in this article, break the groups down further. So I have six groups, but they only do three things.
Now you have to decide how many centers to have. This will vary greatly based on time and space, but give the kids enough time to enjoy a concept. They need at least 5-10 minutes to actually do something productive.
Use your centers to differentiate (I hope you didn’t gag when you heard that word) to help students understand concepts more fully.

Also read: DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship

If you have any tips of questions, put them in the comments. We would love to hear anything that works in your classrooms! Good luck in these first couple weeks!
Happy teaching!

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Management, PBIS

An Easy (and fun!) School Wide PBIS Incentive

PBIS takes on many different shapes in today’s schools. We use it for individuals, classes, schools, etc. As part of our school’s PBIS plan, we have a school wide PBIS incentive periodically. Last year we did things once a nine weeks, this year the plan is to kick it up to once a month.

For people who have no idea what I am talking about, PBIS stands for Positive Behavior Intervention System. The idea being that students work towards a reward by having good behavior.

A school wide incentive is not necessarily the whole school. Students earn the school wide PBIS incentive through good behavior that is tracked by Dojo points. Any student who earns the set amount of Dojo points gets to go to the school wide PBIS incentive.

Now, these can be really crazy (carnival, fall festival, field trip, etc.) or more subdued (sock hop, popcorn and a movie, etc). Today I am sharing one of my school’s go-to rewards. This is cheap and easy to change so that it can continue to be fresh.

Speaking from experience, I would not suggest making this the only type of reward offered, but it can be used some times. If your school is strapped for cash (like most schools), this can be good. You could use this in between other rewards to keep momentum going.

Also read: Positive Management Strategies for when You Don’t Feel Positive

An Easy (and fun!) School Wide PBIS Incentive. A simple and cheap idea for rewarding students for good behavior. Becca's Music Room


The best way to describe the school wide PBIS incentive would be centers. We usually do school wides during specials times. Instead of going to music or art or whatever the case may be, the students in the grade that earned their incentive will go to the incentive. It is usually housed in the gym.

We plan as many activities as there are classes (although sometimes we double up and have two classes at each station). We usually have one specials teacher at each of the stations, and we switch after a few minutes.

The different stations allow you to change activities each time and keep things fresh. One suggestion is to alternate between high energy activities and low energy activities.

Also read: Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room

An Easy (and fun!) School Wide PBIS Incentive. A simple and cheap idea for rewarding students for good behavior. Becca's Music Room


Here are some ideas for activities for school wide PBIS incentives:

  • Snack station (or water station)
  • Scooter races
  • Jump rope station
  • Relay race
  • Dance station
  • Non-elimination musical chairs: even my fifth graders loved this game!
  • Craft station: Bookmarks are an easy and cheap craft that require little time and supplies.
  • Basketball station
  • Just Dance videos on YouTube
  • Dress up relay: Students put on hats, sunglasses, large shoes, necklaces, etc. and run a relay. When they get back, they take the dress up off and the next person goes. This is easy to change for the seasons (these leis for summer, sweaters for Christmas, etc.)
  • Bean bag toss
  • Photo booth station: Have a camera to take photos. You can send them to teachers afterwards. If they are older, they could just use their phones. You can use props like these cheap ones.
  • Volleyball station
  • Parachute station
  • Tug of war
  • Fake tattoos: These are cheap and the kids love them! These look like fun.


Also read: Keys to Classroom Management in the Music Room


The list can go on and on—that’s the beauty of this type of school wide PBIS incentive. What would you add to this list? And what does your school use to encourage good behavior? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!

An Easy (and fun!) School Wide PBIS Incentive. A simple and cheap idea for rewarding students for good behavior. Becca's Music Room

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Elementary Music, Management

Music Centers Classroom Management for Bad Classes

If you have been teaching music for longer than a day, you will know that not all classes are well behaved. If you have had your kids for a few weeks, you will have already figured out which the “good classes” versus the “bad classes”. It is easy to let the bad classes rule your life—and your lesson plans.

One thing I knew that I wanted to do this year was centers. Centers is the big thing when it comes to education at the moment, and I wanted to incorporate that into my music class.

I know a few teachers who work in schools with many bad classes, and that causes them to shy away from centers activities due to classroom management problems.

I am not going to lie, it took a lot of effort for me to figure out how to do centers with some of my classes this year. It definitely wasn’t perfect by any means, but I did figure out some ways to keep control.

If you shy away from centers due to bad classes, read through this article for some ideas on how to make things better. Because it is possible. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

As a disclaimer, I don’t normally call any classes “bad classes”, but I thought it would be the best way to get my point across!

Also read: Routines You Need in the Music Room

Music Centers Classroom Management for "Bad Classes". Difficult classes and differentiated centers are not usually things that go hand in hand. Find out how to get your difficult elementary music classes to do centers well! Becca's Music Room.


Don’t Make Too Many Activities

This one of the first mistakes that I made. The first (and second and third, I’ll admit!) time that my students did centers, I gave them five or six different activities.

While I have heard that many people do this successfully, it did not work with my classes.

Just being honest.

There was a time restraint, of course. I have 50 minute classes, but they often come late. And you have to take a few minutes for closing and lining up the classes. By this time there’s usually 30 minutes left, including explaining how to do each activity. We never end up with enough time to do everything.

Even without the time restraint, we still end up not having enough time to really dig deal into each of the activities. I fine that 8-10 minutes for each activity is ideal in my class. This, of course, would may be different in your class.

I usually plan three centers—four at the most. This seems to be the best way to allow my students to really benefit from each center.

I found that when I had too many centers, it was too hectic. On top of that, the students didn’t have time to grasp each center as they ought to.

Also read: Keys to Classroom Management in the Music Room


Use Activities the Kids Know

This was apparent to me after our first round of centers.

Not only did I have way too many centers, but the students did not know any of the activities.

The first round went ok, but even just the second center was a mess. I walked around and half of the kids were just sitting there, because they had already forgotten what they were supposed to do.

Nevermind that I wrote the directions on papers for them, they still were not doing anything. Or they were goofing off.

So the next time I did centers, I picked activities that we had done in class. Some of them I changed slightly, added more to it, or used the same activity but new concepts.

This worked so much better.

Since then, I only add one activity that is new, and I station myself at that activity to help. This will keep trouble makers occupied. The more occupied they are, the less time they have for trouble making.

They love playing Bingo, like this one for instruments or this one for rhythm.


Make Groups Small

I cannot stress this enough.

Make. Groups. Small.

Especially if you have bad classes. The smaller the groups, the better.

I know you are thinking—you just told me now too make too many centers!

Yes, I did.

What I like to do is have two sets of the same centers.

So I will have six groups with three rotations. Everyone still gets to do everything, but the groups are smaller. I usually set up three centers on one side, and three on the other side of the room.

Another way to do it is pick an independent or pair activity for half the class, and work with the other half of the class.

Also read: Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat, Take a Seat

Music Centers Classroom Management for "Bad Classes". Difficult classes and differentiated centers are not usually things that go hand in hand. Find out how to get your difficult elementary music classes to do centers well! Becca's Music Room.


Keep Everything Contained

When I say contained, I mean keep the supplies contained. Not the kids.

Well, the kids too.

If students do not know where to go for each center, it will be a mess. They will be too close to other groups, or way up on instruments, or whatever.

Give them a place to sit.

This could be groups of desks, tables, a blanket or tablecloth on the floor, etc.

I like to use hula hoops. I put out a hula hoop for each center. My students sit around the hula hoops, and the supplies stays in the hula hoops. I like to also put everything in a box so it is organized.

Also, because I do two sets of the same centers, I color code them. If I have two sets of Kaboom!, then I put them both in blue hula hoops. this way I can say, “Blue hula hoops, go to red.”

You can get hula hoops here or some cheap colorful containers here.


Work on Transitions

This is the most important part of your first round of centers.

Especially for a bad class.

You need a clear signal for when to stop—this can be a saying, a noise, etc. you need to decide what they are to do when this happens—do you want them to clean up, or just freeze and listen to directions? Do they automatically go to the next station, or wait for your signal? These are all up to you.

I like to play a rhythm on the cowbell (this one has a cow print on it!) and have them echo it—this way they can hear it over their noises—and then I say “1, 2, 3, 4, pick everything up get off the floor and freeze.” (I learned it from my mentor who would say instruments instead of everything, but this is more far reaching. I also added the freeze part because I don’t like the kids just going onto the next part without my signal.) Once everyone is up and QUIET, I will say “5, 6, 7, 8, hurry don’t be late.” This is the signal to go to the next center.

You can do whatever you see fit, but this works well for me.

Whatever you decide, make them do it right. Even if it takes the whole class period. Eventually they will do it right and quickly (yes, even the worst of classes) if you make them do it right from the get go.

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

So there are some ideas for how to do centers with your “bad classes”. I know it may be daunting, but you can do it. They can do it.


Although to be perfectly honest, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan (find some here!) in case it is not successful. You could consider having enough supplies to have every one do the same thing if centers are not in the cards that day.

I know we don’t want to think that way, but sometimes it is best.

The first time you do centers, I suggest picking all activities that they know how to do so that you can concentrate on procedures until they are able to do the routines easily.

How do you handle centers with bad classes? Let us know in the comments!

Music Centers Classroom Management for "Bad Classes". Difficult classes and differentiated centers are not usually things that go hand in hand. Find out how to get your difficult elementary music classes to do centers well! Becca's Music Room.

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Elementary Music, Management

Going Back to Teaching After a Really Rough Day

And I mean like a really rough day. Really, really rough day.

This is my first year teaching. And man, it has been a year. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I intend for this to be uplifting, but I have been yelled at, cussed out, ignored, hit, and downright disrespected. I have some children that for the life of me NEVER sit down. I mean, spend the whole hour walking around my room touching my instruments. (Although I found out yesterday that they do it in everyone’s rooms, not just mine.)

We are not quite finished (still 22 days left), but we are getting down to the wire. Teachers are ready for summer (at least I am!). Students are ready for summer. And with that, comes some crazy.

And depending on your school, it might be a lot of crazy.

It might have already been pretty crazy, but now it is getting even worse.

Some days just drain all the energy out of you.

Then the next day, you are expected to go back to school.

How do you go to school the day after you were cussed out by a 10 year old? How do you approach that? How do you give your kids your best teaching self when you don’t feel like yourself?

I definitely do not claim to have all of the answers (and any input in the comments would be appreciated!), but here are some things that I (personally) have found help me out when it is the day (or the afternoon) after something really ridiculous happens.

Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room

Get Some Rest

This starts the night before (AKA the really really rough day). You need to destress. Whether that means taking a bath, reading a book, or just laying on the couch eating Taco Bell, do it. I know that this may be hard depending on if you have stuff to do or kids at home, but try your best. Put the kids in front of Moana and go use that hour and a half to take care of yourself.

I find that painting is a really great stress reliever. I paint a lot (so much so that I am about to open an Etsy shop), and it really helps keep my mind at ease. It is really great to take some time to just calm down and make something creative. (If you’re new to this, try abstract art. Anything goes!)

You can find more destressing activities in this post.

Take Some Time for You

This is more for the morning. In the morning, don’t just roll out of bed and throw some clothes on. Take a few minutes to enjoy yourself before going to school. That could mean reading your Bible, sitting on Pinterest, doing yoga, etc. It may just mean that you drink your coffee really slowly in the silence.

This will help get your mind right before you go to school. If you can take care of yourself, then you can take care of the children.

You can read more about morning routines in this post.


Pick Something Easy

Now, I know that most schools are sticklers for your lesson plans. But if it better to pick something easier on you than struggle all day. See if there is anything in your lesson plans that can be extended, shortened, or altered.

For example, I had a rough day a few weeks ago. It was a Wednesday. For the next two days, I was basically drained. My older students were learning a song and then getting on the keyboards. I shortened the song part (they still learned it, I just went a little faster) and put the extra time into their keyboard time (I always do half lesson and half playing for fun). I didn’t have to change my lesson plans, I just made it a little bit easier on myself.

If you feel like you just cannot do whatever your lesson plans say, then go ahead and reprint them just in case of an observation. And make sure what you replace it with is still going with the same standards.

For really easy lessons, I like this game or this movie.

You can read about backup plans in the music room here.

Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room


Always remember that if a kid totally freaks outs, it is a rough day for them too. And they are still reeling from it too. What is traumatic for us is traumatic for them.

If a kid is having a rough enough day that they are screaming or they are walking out of the classroom or banging on instruments or whatever, then they are going to be upset as well. And although you may not ever want to see them again, you have to. So, make sure there is a consequence and then let it go.

It’s hard. I know. But you have to let it go.

That doesn’t mean there’s no consequence. That doesn’t mean you don’t learn from it. But it means that you do not continually punish them for something that they have already paid the price for.


So those are my tips for going back to school after a really hard day. Have you ever had these feelings? How do you deal with them? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe!

Happy teaching!

Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room

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Children's Church, Management

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church

I’m not going to lie, dealing with behaviors in church is really tough. It’s not school, and it’s only a few hours (maybe only one!) a week—so there’s no time for bad behaviors, right?


Other people think that church kids should be the best kids.

Also wrong.

Now, I am not saying you will for sure have difficulties. But there may be a few students who need a little extra push to help them behave appropriately.

Remember, children’s church/Sunday school is all about preparing students for their future—you want them to grow firmly in God. You can’t do that if they are yelling and screaming and rolling on the floor.

Now, hopefully, that will never happen to you. But to be honest, I have had a few who did that—do that.

And if you do too, I am here to tell you it may get better. I have two in my mind that learned a lot and got a lot better as time went on. One of them is older, and not in Children’s Church anymore. The other one still is. He still has his days, but as a whole, it has gotten much better.

So here are some tips for dealing with difficult behaviors in church. I have some other behavior management posts that you can read like this one. The others are centered on teaching music, but the concepts are all the same.

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room

Talk to the Parents

This may seem like a “no duh” kids of thing, but it is so important. If parents don’t know what is going on, they cannot help. They have to be on board in order to help difficult behaviors in church get better.

I will admit, I was scared of this for a long time. I did not want to talk to parents. Because seriously, who wants to tell a parent that their kids was being ridiculous?

But once I did, it really helped.

I stand at the door at the end of class—that way I guard both people coming in and going out. It also means that I get a chance to talk to all of the parents. With some of my more spirited children, I give an update every week—good or bad.

One more time: good or bad.

You don’t want it to always be bad. Don’t lie, but if a child was better than last week, tell them that. Especially if you talked to them last week and the news was not good.

Remember, you and the parents are on the same side. You both want little Johnny (I don’t have any Johnny’s at church) to grow up and love Jesus and be an awesome person. I tend to use “Johnny was having a tough time today. He did xyz…. I really hope next week we can do better.”

Avoid saying things like “He ALWAYS gets out of his seat…. She NEVER listens to me.” We are not interested in always or never. We are interested in the behavior today. And remember, it’s the behavior we are addressing, not the child themselves.

Have Clear Expectations and Consequences

This is harder in a Sunday School or Children’s Church environment. You don’t want it to feel like school. you also tend to have more students moving in and out.

But if kids don’t know that something is wrong, they won’t know not to do it.

Now, I am not saying that if you get a new kid you should immediately plunge into a long explanation of what is ok/not ok. But as things come up, mention them.

For example, I take my kids to the bathroom half way through church every week. This gives them a mental break, and also has almost completely eliminated the “I have to go to the bathroom!” conversation. Every time we go, I’ll say, “We’re going to take a bathroom break. This is the only bathroom break you will get, so you need to go now. We are not running down the hallway. Please use whisper voices, so we don’t disturb other people having church. Two people in the bathroom at a time.”

Now, if I have only the kids I have had since they were two, then I’ll shorten it. But the idea being—they now know what to do. There is no excuse to not do what you are supposed to do. If I hadn’t said those things, they would run, they would talk loudly, there would be 12 people in the bathroom, etc. but since they now know what to do, it eliminates the ambiguity.

And although you think something is obviously not allowed, that does not always mean the child does.

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room

Give Them Something to Work for

If you have never heard of PBIS, you need to look it up! It is all about getting students to do what they are supposed to by rewarding them.

This could be with food, with praise, with games, with special privileges, etc.

For a while, we would write all of the students’ names on the board. If someone was doing a good job, we would give them a point. Whoever had the most points would get to be it first in a game or we would pass out snack in that order. Whatever little reward it was, it helped. Class Dojo is an online version of this, which would be great if you tend to have the same groups of kids each week.

You can also do it as whole class. For example, if the whole class can earn three points, then we will play a game or go outside. They want to get the reward, and they will work for it.

On a crazy day, it also helps if you just walk around and hand out a piece of candy or one cheerio or goldfish (I know a lot of teachers that buy these large boxes off Amazon and they last forever). Don’t even stop, just hand one out and keep talking. The other kids will figure out what you want by looking at the child who is doing what they are supposed to.

I did this the other day with jellybeans. I didn’t say a word, I just handed a jellybean to a kid who was sitting nicely and listening.  A few minutes later, I handed out another. You have never seen kids sit that nicely. And seriously, it only cost me 15 jellybeans. (I actually just gave them the ones I didn’t like out of my pack…)

These are also a cheap option.

You can use some of the ideas from this post as well.

Save the Best for Last

This goes along with the last one. One of my favorite ways to control behaviors in church (and at school, for that matter) is to have a built in reward. This could be anything they like—dancing, games, crafts, etc. whatever really fun thing you are going to do (once more, that you are already going to do), do it at the end.

That ways you can remind them the whole time.

You have to listen to the lesson to play our really fun game.

You have to participate if you are going to do our songs.

I am looking for people who are going to be able to dance today.

Oh good, so-and-so looks like he wants to go outside. I can tell because he is sitting still with his eyes on me. He’s not talking or messing with people.

Try it and see the children transform before your eyes.

Note: if you do this and a child really doesn’t earn it, you need to follow through on it. Give them plenty of chances, but in the end if they cannot get themselves together, then they do not need to have the reward. They can sit and watch while you play a game.

You have to follow through. The kids notice whether you do or not. And if a child has bad behaviors in church the whole time and still get the reward, they will continue their behavior. And the others will look at that and think they don’t need to bother behaving well either.

Remember that They are Kids

I do not mean this in an excuse kind of way. It should not be “Oh, well Johnny was dong flips and broke the door, but he’s just a kid.”


I mean, you have to remember what kids are like. They are energetic, they like fun, and they like to talk. Build in some time where that can happen. Build in time for dancing to get energy out. Plan for them to play games. Maybe give them talking time during a craft or have a break in the middle so that they can get do that (because their attention spans are very small).

Never use the excuse that they are just kids, but do remember that when you are planning your lessons.

You can read more about finding building your lessons around different ways to keep kids engaged here.

You can check out this book for more information and ideas:


So those are my best tips for controlling bad behaviors in church! It is no magic wand, but just some things to help you get through your day.

How do you handle bad behaviors in church? Let us know in the comments!

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room


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Elementary Music, Management

Routines You Need in the Music Room

All teachers know that classroom management is essential for learning. This is very true in the music room—without classroom management, how can you play instruments or do dances? An essential part of classroom management are routines. Routines keep things orderly. And if students do them enough, they will be so second nature that you do not even have to help (or at least that is the end goal—we may get there one day!).

Honestly, even though it is March, not all of my classes are to the autopilot stage yet. There are a lot of factors that go into that fact, but honestly, I think a lot of it is that some classes just don’t care. I think this because I have a lot of classes that can do all of the routines we will talk about without any help.

So what kind of routines do you need? This will be different for every class and every school. you have to think about things that students do often in your classroom. These would the very basics:

  • Entering the room
  • Exiting the room
  • Getting supplies
  • Bathroom/water/tissue/etc
  • Movement in the classroom

Now, you may have more routines than this. You may have centers movement, turning in work, dealing with instruments, etc. These would be the very basics of routines in the music room.

Again, these will all be different depending on your classroom. We all have different classrooms with different students and different set ups. We all have different “crazy tolerances”. (AKA how much we are willing to let students wiggle or sit strangely, etc.) All of these things affect how you do your routines.

I am going to let you know my routines, as well as ways that I have seen other teachers do it. If you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments!

And don’t forget to subscribe!

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Routines You Need in the Music Room. You need each of these routines to ensure a smooth music class! Becca's Music Room

Routine #1: Entering the Room

I will admit, this is one that my students and I have not totally figured out yet. Now, my kids have assigned seats (and if yours don’t, fix it quick!), so they come inside and sit on their assigned dots. They know (and I tell them every single day) that if they come in quietly and quickly, they will get a class point (you can read more about that here).

For people who do not have assigned seats, I have seen other teachers that brought the line inside and made a circle, keeping the same order. They held hands just to make sure it looked good and then they sat down.

I have also seen where they sat in assigned seats, but the teacher had music playing that they were listening to immediately. This is something that I have not done, but am going to try. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Routine #2: Exiting the Room

Again, depending on how you have students set up, this will change. My students have assigned “dots” that they sit on. We skip some rows so that they have space, so I have students on green dots, purple dots, red dots, and “brown dots” (carpet squares). To line up, I have the green dots stand and walk towards the door. Then the purple dots stand and walk away from the door so that they can go down the green row. Red and brown follow. This has worked very well for me.

Line order? You may ask. I always tell them we will get in Mrs. Davis’ line order first. Then I count down from ten to give them time to get into their line order.

Note: Some classes have had problems getting into their line order, so I just say that their teacher can do it in the hallway if they want to.

Also read: Keys to Classroom Management in the Music Room

Routines You Need in the Music Room. You need each of these routines to ensure a smooth music class! Becca's Music Room

Routine #3: Getting Supplies

This one is so important! Especially if you have a lot of supplies to get in a day. Try to make it as streamlined as possible.

For example, if we are coloring, then I put the paper, clipboards, and crayons right next to each other. This way it is easier to get all of the things.

I do this by rows as well. I tell them I am looking for a row sitting criss cross applesauce and quiet to pick. Once I pick a row, they stand up, stay in the same order and come up front. Then the walk around to the other side and go down their row. This way, no one walks through the carpet (AKA less likely to step on a hand). They should all still be in the order the sit in when they get back.

If you have tables or have students in groups, you could have students pass out the supplies. You could have them pass the supplies down the line until they get to the end. But there must be a system.

And if you do have that sort of system, I would definitely get these organizers.

Use the same system for picking up the supplies as well.

Routine #4: Bathroom/Water/Tissue/Etc

That is very vague, I know.

This routine is for all of the extra stuff. Are you going to let the students go to the bathroom during class? Do you have a sign out sheet? Do they ask you? Can they just get up and get tissue?

In my class, I like to minimize movement as much as possible. I do not like students walking around if I don’t know where they are going, so I require students to raise their hand to ask for these things. Even tissue. Especially because a lot of them like to go to blow their nose or go to the bathroom when they are bored. And they like to intentionally walk past people to talk to them. Yes, that’s a thing.

I only do bathroom as an emergency, and I tell them if they go they will not get a ticket (PBIS—same as a Dojo Point) because we are not supposed to go during music. This deters most of the kids who are just trying to play.

With blowing noses, I will let them but only one at a time so they don’t talk. Again, they have to raise their hands.

And I don’t do water unless someone seems like they are dying.

Note: if we have a really active day, like dancing or parachute, then I will usually play a video at the end and let them get water one at a time.

A lot of people use hand signs so that the teacher knows without calling on someone what they want. I do not. If you do, let me know how it works.

Another idea that I like but have not tried is having students write their name and destination on a dry erase board stuck to the door like this.

Also read: Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat, Take a Seat


Routine #5: Movement in the Classroom

This is also a vague name for a routine. Essentially, what will students do the rest of the time? Like if you have to move from one activity to the next.

Again, this totally depends on your activities and what is going on.

A big on is centers.

If you are moving from one center to the next, what do you do?

I indicate the end of centers by playing a rhythm and having them clap it to me. (This requires them to put down anything in their hands.) Then I say “1, 2, 3, 4 put everything down, get off the floor AND FREEZE!” Students clean up their stations and stand. I always make them point to the next station to make sure they know where they are going. Then I say, “5, 6, 7, 8, hurry don’t be late.” And they go to the next station.

This took a few times of doing it before students really got this down, but now it is like second nature.

Also, I did not make that up. I got it from my mentor during student teaching and I have no clue where she got it from.

For pretty much any other movement, I call students by row. And I always tell them I am looking for the row that is sitting the nicest.

So those are the main routines for the music room! Of course, there are quite a few other routines that are not as major. Again, everything is going to depend on your students, your lessons, and your room. And of course, your “crazy tolerance”. (I totally made that term up, by the way.)

Subscribe and check out my Pinterest page for more classroom management and music lesson ideas!

What are your favorite routines in the music room? Feel free to share your routines in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Routines You Need in the Music Room. You need each of these routines to ensure a smooth music class! Becca's Music Room

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Elementary Music, Management

Keys to Classroom Management in the Music Room

Classroom management is essential to learning. No learning can happen if a class is loud, crazy, or not in their seats. Trust me. There are quite a few “keys” to classroom management—today I am going to focus on the three top keys to classroom management.

For the record, I am definitely not an expert. I have learned a lot in the short time that I have been teaching, and I am trying to share that with other people. Hopefully this can be helpful!

If you are looking for more specific strategies, you can read this post about specific classroom management systems.

Keys to Classroom Management. Becca's Music Room. Basics to having an orderly classroom when teaching elementary music... or any subject!

Key #1: Clear Expectations

I cannot stress this enough.

One of the most important keys to classroom management is having clear expectations.

Because if students don’t know what is expected, how can they do what you want?

This is hard for music teachers in particular, because we see so many different classes. I have been in that situation where you swear you told a class something, but you didn’t. Somehow, you told the other 29 classes, but not this one.

The other difficulty is that we only see the students for a short amount of time. Sometimes, they just plain do not remember.

Having said that, make sure you go over procedures at the beginning of the year AND as it comes up.

Every time.

Every. Time.

Until it is perfect.

For example, every time every one of my classes gets in line, we talk about how. I always say: We are going to get in line. I am looking for people who are quiet. I am looking for people with their hands in their pockets or folded. We need to do a good job so that we can…. (get a class point, earn a sticker (I use these— super cheap and the kids can pick their color), whatever the management system is, insert here).

And as soon as the first students get in line I start with: I see only person with their hands in their pockets. Thank you so-and-so for being quiet.

It gets tedious, but it is necessary. If I forget, I regret it.

The same thing with getting supplies. We talk about how to pick up the supplies, we talk about what is appropriate to do with them, we talk about what to do with them when we sit down.

The more specific you can be, the better.

Say we are picking up scarves (if you haven’t figured out from this lesson and this lesson, I LOVE scarves!) for an activity. This is word for word what I will say: When I see a row that is quiet and criss-cross applesauce, I will call them to come up front and get a scarf. Remember, we do not walk through the people, we go around. When you get to your seat, put the scarf on the floor and hands on your shoulders. If my hands are on my shoulders, am I touching my scarf? Should I hit people with my scarf? Throw it up in the air? Should I put it in my mouth? No. If you do those things, you will lose your scarf.

It seems like a lot of talking, but it is very helpful.

And trust me, the one time you forget to say that we are not putting our scarves in our mouth, someone will do it.

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

Key #2: Reinforcement

You would think that students could remember things like “Don’t throw your marker in the air” for five minutes.

They can’t.

Or at least, most of mine don’t. Maybe you do not have these problems and the keys only apply to me. But I doubt it.

As soon as we start to do something, I point out the behaviors I like. When we get the supplies, like I was saying, I immediately go into: Oh good. I see one person with their scarf on the floor thank you for putting your hands on your shoulders. Thank you for not touching the scarf until we are ready.

It sometimes feels ridiculous, because it is constant. But it is helpful.

And yes, it even works on fifth graders.

Sometimes I just look around the room and start counting how many people are doing XYZ. Or I will point to everyone sitting the right way and say “Good”. And that is all it takes for a lot of classes.

What about the ones that it doesn’t work with?

Add something tangible. Stickers or music tickets or points or something. Once I added my class points (I talk about it here), students had something concrete to work for. They know that if they do what they are supposed to, the class can get a point. And they need that if their class is going to win the party at the end of the year.

And with some classes, I add something extra. If you get so many points, they can do freeze dance or a song they like or Disney sing along or something of that nature that gives them a more immediate reward.

Also read: Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room

Keys to Classroom Management. Becca's Music Room. Basics to having an orderly classroom when teaching elementary music... or any subject!

Key #3: Consistent Follow Through

This is the biggie. It is the most important of the keys.

If you say you will do something, you HAVE TO DO IT.

Every. Time.

So if I said you would lose your scarf if you are throwing it in the air, I have to follow through.

If you say you will call mom, you have to call mom.

If you say they can earn freeze dance, you have to let them do it.

This is the biggest of the keys, because it shows that you mean what you say.

I do this with instruments all of the time. I use Mrs. King’s phrase (check out the awesome post she did on classroom management here!) of “If you play before I say, I will take your instrument away.” And you know what? Every single time, someone plays their instrument. And then they go sit out. At the beginning of the year, they would look at me like I stole their puppy. I heard a lot of, “Give me one more chance!” But I would reply, “I mean what I say. I said it would happen, now it is happening.”

Side note—I let them earn it back, because students not working is not helpful to anyone. Most of them are very careful.

And sometimes, you just need that one person to lose it for everyone to get the picture.

Now that it is almost March, they believe me when I say it. That doesn’t mean they do it perfectly, but it means they do it less. And they no longer look at me like I am sealing their puppy.

Also read: Lessons form my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music

These are the very basics of classroom management—keys that must be in place for everything else! You can read about Specific Classroom Management Strategies here. And when everything fails, you can read How to Destress After a Crazy Day of Teaching (I’m not going to lie, right now it’s been a long two weeks!).

Let us know your keys to classroom management in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe for more ideas!

Happy Teaching!

Keys to Classroom Management. Becca's Music Room. Basics to having an orderly classroom when teaching elementary music... or any subject!

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Elementary Music, Management

Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Classroom management is so important. Without classroom management, no one learns anything. These are a few phrases for classroom management in the music room.

Everyone develops different phrases to keep their class running. These are the phrases that keep me grounded. They keep my classes running. They keep my students (mostly) in line. I hope that some of these phrases for classroom management help keep your class running smoothly too!

Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room. Check out what phrases I use in my elementary music classroom to keep the class in line-- literally! Beck's Music Room

If you play before I say, I will take your instrument away

I found this one on Mrs. King’s Music Class and it changed my life! I use it with every class kindergarten through 5th grade. And I am serious. The first time I hear a noise, they have to put their instrument away.

It has really helped. At the beginning of the year, it was rough. I would have half of the students sitting out.

Now that it is the end of January, the students are finally getting it! We did instruments this week and only a handful in the whole school had to put their instruments away.

Thank you so much for the idea! Check out the rest of the article here for good information.

Also read: Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room

Put your hands on your shoulders

This goes directly with “If you play before I saw, I will take your instrument away”. I use this mostly with the younger kids. I tell them to get their supplies, sit down, and put their hands on their shoulders.

I find that having a specific thing to do with their hands rather than just “don’t touch it!” You could do hands in lap or folded or whatever, just the more specific the better.

With classes I trust more, I change the phrase to “Don’t touch them. A good thing to do would be to put your hands in your lap or on your shoulders so you do not have an issue.” The older students seem to respond to the options.

Regardless, give them something to do instead of something not to do.

Also read: Music Lesson Ideas: Opera

Think it in your head

This is a life saver! As soon as we started working on rhythms, it was a mess. I would hold a rhythm and immediately they are trying to figure it out. Which is good, because they are thinking about it. But not good because it was loud.

So we started “Think it in your head.” I will have the younger students point to their heads to remind them to think the rhythm in their head. I always say I should not hear noise if you are thinking it in your head.

And again, that is from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Not only is there less noise, but they actually pay attention to the what they rhythm is so they know the rhythm when we all read it together.

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room. Check out what phrases I use in my elementary music classroom to keep the class in line-- literally! Beck's Music Room

I’m looking for….

I’m looking for people sitting criss cross applesauce.

I’m looking for people with their instruments on the floor and hands on their shoulders.

I’m looking for people in a straight quiet line.

Whatever you are looking for. I say one of those phrases, and then I look around pointing at whoever has what I am looking for and say “Good.”

Once the good’s start going around everyone else starts falling into line. Sometimes literally.

Also read: Positive Management Strategies for When You Don’t Feel Positive

Show me don’t tell me

I love to have students show me answers. We learn hand signs for the first few letters of the alphabet. We use fingers to show how many beats a rhythm gets. We use thumbs up/thumbs down for yes or no questions.

These are all really great, but as soon as you ask a question, students’ first reaction is to yell out the answer.

So I started the “show me, don’t tell me”.

I use it with questions, with form, with opinions, even when I help with small groups in the afternoon in third grade (Yes, that is a thing. And no, you probably don’t want the music teacher helping with 3rd grade math and reading.)

This is also one of my go-to phrases for when I want the class to behave. I like to hold games and instruments for the end of the class so that I can hold it over their heads.

That sounds bad. But we all do it.

So I’ll use phrases like “Show me you can play the instruments” or “Show me you can handle a game”.

Also read: The Best Classroom Purchase Ever!

If you can hear my voice, clap once

This is one of my phrases for getting the class to quiet down. “If you can hear my voice, clap once. If you can hear my voice, clap twice.” And so forth.

I also like to do this when I’ve got a class lined up and their teacher is not there yet. I start with “If you can hear my voice, touch your shoulders. If you can hear my voice, touch your head.” And I keep going. Then I stop talking, and just have them mirror me. They particularly like it when I change my actions really quickly. And then I try to trick them. And they think it is wonderful.


Here are some books in case you want to read some more. Click on the pictures to see more:

So those are my favorite phrases for classroom management! What phrases do you use? How do you keep your class in line? Let us know in the comments!

Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room. Check out what phrases I use in my elementary music classroom to keep the class in line-- literally! Beck's Music Room

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Elementary Music, Management

Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room

Classroom management systems in the music room…. It can be a difficult thing. It is difficult because elementary music teachers teach every single kid in the whole school. And some classes are better behaved than others.

And unfortunately, we still have to deal with the really difficult classes.

And we all know, that nothing gets done without good classroom management systems. You can’t teach anyone anything if the behavior is not decent.

As a disclaimer, you should know that I am not a classroom management master or anything. These are techniques that I have seen other teachers do while I have observed. I will let you know later on in the post what I do in my classroom.

3 Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room. Becca's Music Room. Three positive classroom management systems for people who teach elementary music. Theses are proven effective with kindergarten through 5th grade.

Class Points

This is what my (awesome!) mentor teacher used. I’ve actually been in two classrooms that do versions of these classroom management systems. The class at a whole has to earn points throughout the class. They earn points by walking in calmly, having the whole class participate in an activity, paying attention, etc.

Throughout the class, draw points on the board or put up magnets (bonus points if they look like music notes!) for a period of time that goes well.

I have seen one teacher do three points and one do five. I think it is mostly a personal preference.

At the end of the class, record the points somewhere on the walls with a chart so everyone can see.

I have seen one teacher record smiley faces or check marks for good days and x’s for bad days. She recorded for every class, and at the end of the semester the class with the most smiley faces gets a party.

The other teacher I saw did it on a more individual class system—every time a class earned nine smiley faces or checks (hypothetically once a quarter) they got candy or music free time or something to that effect.

I like this one of the classroom management systems because it provides immediate feedback and there is a long term reward, but not every single day.

Also read: Questions to Ask Yourself When the Class is Off the Chain

3 Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room. Becca's Music Room. Three positive classroom management systems for people who teach elementary music. Theses are proven effective with kindergarten through 5th grade.

Red Card, Green Card

This is an awesome system that I observed from a teacher in my district.

Through out the class, she would give out “green cards” (literally like pieces of laminated construction paper) to students who answer questions correctly or who are trying hard. She always emphasized that it wasn’t who sounded the best, but who was trying the hardest.

Students not on task were told to get a “yellow card”.

A student who did something bad (like one student refused to dance with a partner during a dance) received a “red card”.

In this system, the cards can change. If the person with yellow got themselves together, they would be able to return it. If they continue to misbehave, they would get a red card.

At the end of class, the students with green cards would get to play the instrument of the day—and it was a big deal. Only those students would stand up. She would tell them about the instrument and then show how to play it, and they would get to play a rhythm on it and pass it to the next person.

Yellow cards would miss out on an opportunity like playing a game or playing instruments or something to that effect.

Red cards (which are rare) would get a phone call home and lunch detention. They would have to come to her room during their lunch and sit in the corner. And they hate it.

Just so we know, you will need to have the teachers’ and administrations’ support for something like that. Not that I can see anyone being opposed to it, but still.

This is really good because it gives specific feedback to the students and it the rewards are musical.

Two classroom management systems down and one to go!


Also read: Lessons from my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music

Class Dojo

Now, this would be kind of a last result.

If you don’t know, Class Dojo is a website. You type in each of the kids’ names. They get a monster. Throughout the class, you can give and take points for behavior. You can leave it on the board so that all the kids can see how they are doing.

I would give them a point goal and students who get to the goal would get a prize.

One of my teacher friends said that she has done this with specific classes when they needed the extra motivation. She said it helped quickly.

I said this should be a last result because if you have 750 students… this is just a pain. But if you have one or two classes that just really struggle, it can help.


Notice, all of these classroom management systems have a reward, whether it is daily or semester-ly (totally not a word). The kids need something to work for. There are very few kids who will do what they are supposed to just because they want to be good.


Also read: Music Lesson Ideas: Opera Stories

What do I do in my classroom?

In my classroom, I do a version of the points system. The students earn points throughout the class. They always want to earn the “magic five” by the end of class. I write the number of points they get on a chart on the door. At the end of the school year, the winning class will have a party. I did one in December, and then I started the competition over in January until the end of the year.

In the fall, I just did a smiley face or x, but I needed a more specific way to record feedback. I had lots of days where I wasn’t sure what to put because they weren’t great but weren’t bad. This really helps with consistency.

Also, I only do parties twice a year because I don’t want to have them happening all of the time.

Also read: Tips for Keeping on Top of Lesson Planning

Here are a few books in case you want to read more. Click on the picture to view in Amazon.

Do you use one of these classroom management systems? Do you use something else? Let us know in the comments if you have any helpful information!

3 Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room. Becca's Music Room. Three positive classroom management systems for people who teach elementary music. Theses are proven effective with kindergarten through 5th grade.

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Children's Church, Management, Organization

How to Structure Children’s Church in 6 Easy Steps

Kids need structure.

All kids need structure. The less they seem to want it, the more they need it.

Structure is the key to running your Children’s Church (or Sunday School or Awanas or whatever) smoothly.

What I mean by that is that you need a plan. You need to have an idea of what you want to do when, so that you can manage time well and get everything done. You need to make a plan, and then follow it.

Think about how church normally runs. At my church, the order is always songs, offering, announcements, sermon, alter call. If we have baptisms or baby dedications, they are thrown into the “announcements” category. It is not always the same, but there is a plan. There is a structure.

Your Children’s Church needs that too!

I will never forget the first time I wrote on the board what we were doing for the day. I didn’t change the order we did. I didn’t add anything new. But the kids knew what was coming, so they were better prepared.

Now we just used the same structure every week, so I don’t write it down on the board, but they know what’s coming next.

Also: The Beginner’s Guide to Children’s Church

How to Structure Children's Church in 6 Easy Steps. Becca's Music Room. Learn how to effectively use your time to help have less stress on you and more time for fun things in Children's Church, Sunday School, Awanas, etc.

1. Think about what you want to do

Think in categories. Your activities may include (but are not limited to)

  • Lesson
  • Craft
  • Song or worship
  • Games
  • Coloring sheets
  • Bathroom break

In my class we do:

  1. Upbeat song and dance
  2. 2 games
  3. Bathroom break
  4. Worship
  5. Lesson
  6. Game/craft/time filler

2. Now give everything a time value

It may not always be the same, but give it an idea. Here’s mine:

  1. Upbeat song and dance (10 min)
  2. 2 games (25 min)
  3. Bathroom break (15 min)
  4. Worship (20 min)
  5. Lesson (20 min)
  6. Game/craft/time filler (however long until parents show up)

Now, this is not the whole story. Sometimes things take longer or shorter. Sometimes you have to stop and remind the kids about what is appropriate and not. But this is the basic idea of how I structure

I also made the decision to start my class late because a lot of people at my church come consistently late. It bugs me when I have to explain something for the fourth time because are straggling. So I give them a little bit of extra free time at the beginning and save myself the annoyance.

After you decide what you want to do, decide what is feasible. For example, I just put down my desired times, and then I added five minutes to “games”, “bathroom”, and “worship” because I realized that that was more truthful.

3. Change what you don’t like

Now is your time to change things. Prefer if one part was longer? Hate that something doesn’t’ take long enough? Always finishing early or late? Adjust the schedule!

Need some help getting students to behave? Check out my posts on classroom management here and here.

Also: The Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Children’s Church

4. Keep track

Over the next few weeks, keep track of the time. Then write down how long you actually spend in every category. You may need to adjust it. You may also have to adjust it depending on the week. Remember, this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. It’s not the end of the world if something is faster or shorter. Just remember, if you add five minutes to something, you also need to take it away somewhere else.

5. Set up the room to reflect the structure

Do you need separate places for different segments? If you are dancing, you will need a dancing place. For the lesson, do you want chairs? Do you want the kids to sit on the floor? If you do crafts, you will need tables for them.

These are just some things to think about. At the moment, I have chairs in the middle of the room with at least 6-8 feet from the chairs to the walls. This structure works for us, because we have de-emphasized crafts, and there is plenty of room around the chairs to play games. And if the game requires more space, we either push the chairs out of the way or we go outside.

In the past I have had three different “sections”. I had an empty space for dancing and games, two tables with chairs for crafts, and a cozy corner with a lot of pillows for the lesson time.

You may not always do the same thing, and you may not always need the same set up. But room set up is key to your structure.

How to Structure Children's Church in 6 Easy Steps. Becca's Music Room. Learn how to effectively use your time to help have less stress on you and more time for fun things in Children's Church, Sunday School, Awanas, etc.
An example of room set up. There is a story place, dance/movie/game space, and tables for crafts. Excuse the Easter Egg hunt.
How to Structure Children's Church in 6 Easy Steps. Becca's Music Room. Learn how to effectively use your time to help have less stress on you and more time for fun things in Children's Church, Sunday School, Awanas, etc.
Close up on the reading station. We were going for a tent-like feel for our Journey Through Genesis series.

6. Have a backup plan in place

This is to cover anything that goes wrong. If church suddenly runs half an hour longer than usual, what will you do? If your lesson is significantly shorter than anticipated, what do you do? If the person in charge of games doesn’t show up, what do you do? If you are supposed to go outside and it is raining, what do you do?

I suggest keeping a few extra activities handy. Good ideas include:

Having just a few ideas, even if they are not prepared, will help you in a pinch. Part of your structure is your back up plan.

Back up plans make us flexible.

So those are my steps to structuring Children’s Church (or Sunday School, or Awanas, or whatever). Having a structure or schedule in place will help the kids, but will also take a lot of the pressure off of you! If you know that you only need to come up with 20 minutes’ worth of lesson because your craft will take just as long, then you will be less stressed! And don’t forget your back up plan to really help you be less stressed!

Still not sure about your Christmas Program? Check out this post to help you decide what to do!

How do you structure your Children’s Church? Are there any points that I missed? Let me know in the comments! (Bonus: Put a picture of your Children’s Church or Sunday School room in the comments and let us know how it effects your class.)

Happy Teaching!

How to Structure Children's Church in 6 Easy Steps. Becca's Music Room. Learn how to effectively use your time to help have less stress on you and more time for fun things in Children's Church, Sunday School, Awanas, etc.


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