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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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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