Yesterday I taught a group of young boys and they were as energetic as one might expect. They enjoyed joking around and being silly. The question that occurred to me was: at what point does having a good time turn into being disruptive? The short answer is always: when the students are not learning any more. The long answer entails a great deal more thought.

We want our students to enjoy our classes. We want them to have memories that will last them into adulthood. We also want them to learn the material. I think it is the work we do in the beginning that is key. When I first began to teach, I was told by seasoned teachers not to smile until Christmas; be as hard as you can in the first semester so that later you can relax a bit. Although I never followed this advice exactly, I still think it has merit to a certain degree. If systems are in place, then kids know how far they can push the boundaries. When kids know their boundaries, they feel safe and everyone can relax and have a good time!

There is a great book out there called “Tools For Teaching” By Fred Jones. In it, he speaks about setting up routines in a way that also tackles behavior. For example, the way in which kids enter your classroom makes all the difference in the world. He speaks about lining them up outside the door and waiting for everyone to be quiet. This gives the signal that they are about to enter a place to learn. It acts as a centering mechanism. Yelling for children to be quiet is not necessary. The teacher explains that we are practicing. (This is a great concept to learn, for we are musicians and practicing comes with the territory!) So when a student is still talking or calls out during this time, there is no need to get angry, we simply need more practice. Fortunately, the other kids will step in. They have no desire to wait in line until that student is quiet, so peer pressure kicks in nicely! Eventually, the child will be quiet and everyone can move on.

I have used this technique and it works very well. The lesson that follows runs much better, as well as future line ups and classes. Kids understand that you mean what you say: we aren’t moving until everyone is quiet. I once stood outside my classroom with a third grade class for the full 45 minutes. Although there was no music learning that day, we were able to learn a lot more in future classes because that problem was solved.

The only side note I would add is that you need to know your kids! There are some with special needs that simply do not have the capacity to follow certain directions. In those cases, a separate behavior plan set up in advance is needed.

The goal is always for our students to get as much out of our classes as possible. When behavior is handled, the rest is easy!

You can order your copy of “Tools For Teaching” By Fred Jones HERE: