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Have you ever heard someone say teachers don’t smile until Christmas? Well, don’t fall for it. But they say that because the beginning of the year is the most important part– it sets the tone for the rest of the year. I would venture to say the first few weeks of elementary music are the most important. So how do you make sure you do the right thing as a new teacher? Here are some helpful tips for the beginning of the year in elementary music.
All of these will help to establish relationships with your kiddos and show them what is and is not acceptable in your elementary music room– AKA the two most important things that you can do on the first day or first week of music class.
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Learn names quickly at the Beginning of the year
As elementary music teachers, we teach…. Everybody. In the whole school. I’ve had years where that meant 700 students.
That being said, the BEST thing that you can do to build relationships with your students AND up your classroom management game is to call them by their names. It’s said that a person’s name is the most beautiful word in the world to them. It makes them feel special and known.
So how do you learn names quickly?
First, you cheat. Make a seating chart and keep it front and center. Anytime you call on someone, check the seating chart and use their name.
After a while, you’ll get the hang of them and they will become easier.
I also like to use my duty post for this. I help with buses, so I try to say hello or goodbye to every student using their name. At first, I could only get a few. But after a while, you will learn more and more until you’ve got everybody.
Have fun with the kids
As far as building relationships go, you really want to establish that they want to be in music class. So at the beginning of the year in elementary music, focus on the fun.
Do some dances. Play some games. Have a sing along. Do fun things.
Having fun together is the best way to build a relationship. Think about it– when you start dating someone new, you have fun. You go to restaurants, check out different places in town, maybe even play board games. You have fun. That’s what builds the relationship.
Same with the kiddos. Having fun together will build that relationship.
It also establishes that music is fun and we want to come to music– and do well in music class.
If kids want to be there, they will work harder and mess around less.
If you are at a new school, I suggest making fun the priority for the first couple or lessons– or even months. It’s that important.
Be explicit with expectations
At the beginning of the year in elementary music class, it is so important to share the expectations of the class.
As music teachers, we are dealing with the classroom management of the other teachers. The kids will come to you expecting the same thing that they do in their classroom. But that probably won’t cut it– especially because there’s such a huge difference in the classroom management of different teachers.
So you need to be very explicit in what’s ok or not ok in your room.
For example, some teachers will let the kids get up to blow their noses, get germ-x, grab pencils, etc. without permission. I do not. It stresses me out to have kids roaming around the room if I don’t know what they are doing. In my class, they need to raise their hands to leave their seats.
This is something we have to talk about, because if they are used to getting up and walking around the room and they do that and get in trouble, it’s not because they are being bad; it’s simply that they were following different expectations.
Similar things happen with turning in work, talking, answering questions, chewing gum, and more.
You need to share with the kids what is deemed ok or not ok in your room– and when they mess up, remember that it may not be that they are trying to be bad. It may just be a miscommunication.
We talk a lot about this in the Free New Music Teacher course.
Also watch: How to teach the rules
The last tip I have for you today is to practice any routines that your students will need to do. This includes raising their hands (yes, raising hands should be practiced!), listening, lining up, responding to your attention getter, rotating through centers, sharing instruments, picking up or putting away instruments, and more.
Now, you don’t need to spend a WHOLE class period just doing that, but instead, plan your first few lessons to be a sample of what you’ll do this year. Make sure you include things like passing out activities, using matching games, doing centers, rotating through instruments, and more. Before you do each activity, practice the routine. Then do the activity with an emphasis on HOW to do it. This practice-then-implement will help it to stick in their brains.
It’s that old adage– How do you get a well managed classroom? Practice, practice, practice.
That’s how that goes, right?
There are four tips for the beginning of the year in elementary music. If you need more info, then you can read this blog post all about what the first day of school looks like.
Need more help? Come hang out with me on Instagram @beccasmusicroom We talk lesson ideas, tips, advice, and more! Shoot me a DM with any questions, thoughts, or ideas. I can’t wait to meet you!