Friday, April 24, 2015

Incentivizing Positive Behavior in the Music Classroom

As an elementary general music teacher, I can see over 500 students in one week. To motivate them to do their best, listen, and behave in music class I use a variation of a token system. In my approach each student works together toward a class goal and each class competes only against itself. Positive peer pressure as well as teacher encouragement are essential to my classroom management.

As the musical symbol for soft is p, each class begins with three magnetic p’s on the board. The class is awarded p’s based on their behavior, participation, and good work. P’s can also be deducted, although I try to use this as an opportunity for the kids to quickly improve. (For example, I often pretend to take away a p in slow motion. The kids find this humorous, make a big deal about quieting down quickly, and are immediately redirected.) At the end of class, we count the p’s to a steady beat and keep track of them on a stamp chart. When a class fills their chart, they earn five minutes of Musical Bumps (a version of Musical Chairs, but with no chairs…the children sit on their “musical bump” or bottom when the music stops; the last ones down are out; rules also include feet must always be moving, but in place, and no crouching) or Four Corners, to which I added a fun, little chord interlude on the piano instead of the traditional counting. The kids love both games and work hard for this five minutes of reward time.

A few years back I wanted to foster more of a musical community within each class and add an additional incentive for positive behavior. I spontaneously brought up the idea to one my classes that they were actually a band and needed a band name. The kids loved it! From that point on, each class was no longer referred to by its homeroom name (for example, 1W, 2C) but rather by the band name that they chose for themselves. About one month into the school year, I take some time from my classes to brainstorm band names with the students. We write them on the board and vote using heads down, hands up. The kids come up with some pretty creative names! I do wait to do this activity with the younger kids until a little further into the school year. I definitely want to give them a frame of reference of what music class is – that we sing and play instruments a lot! In any case, I am so glad that I thought to have each class give themselves a band name. It really has made learning music even more fun. The kids really begin to take playing an Orff orchestration more seriously when they feel part of a band. Of course, a band needs an audience. I often invite the homeroom teacher back a little early so that she or he can hear what their class can sing and play. The kids also love it when the principal just happens to stop by. And yes, my classes have also bowed and said into their mallet microphone, “Thanks for coming out tonight!” to many pretend audiences after singing and playing the Orff instruments to Old Dan Tucker. :-)

I hope that you will find these ideas to be useful and applicable in your own music classrooms, and wish you all the best as we “round the corner” towards summer!


Donna Dirksing Doran is an elementary music specialist in Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds a B.A. in Music Education from Transylvania University and a M.M. in Music Education with a specialization in Orff-Schulwerk from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Holding all three levels of Orff certification, Donna has previously written ancillary materials for the McGowan-Hill Music textbook series and is a frequent presenter of workshops and clinics at the local, state, and national levels. Donna is also the Education Director and host for the Linton Chamber Music Series Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions, which present chamber music concerts geared at children age birth to six years old and their families. Donna is also on the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Advisory Committee for Education.

No comments:

Post a Comment