Lynn Kleiner's Tips on Classroom Management, Elementary Music

  • Classroom Management in the Elementary Music Room is an area that challenges even the most experienced teachers but certainly new teachers. Having hired and trained teachers at Music Rhapsody for well over 30 years, this is the area the new teachers struggle with the most.

    Of course, the tools, tips and tricks are different depending on age group, size of the class and the setting.

    I’ll focus on grades K-2 since I have recently observed the expected “issues” facing our new teachers.

    The goal is to be the highlight of the week for your students, with the bar raised high for maximum music making and learning. We want to keep it positive and tell the students what we want them to do, instead of “Don’t do this, don’t do that. For example, sometimes the silliness in a response, for example in our solo singing activities, would result in a serious, almost disappointed face from the teachers saying quietly “Do your best!” instead of “Time out, you need to stop laughing. 

    Transitions are often the most challenging. Instead of saying “You all need to stop talking!” try quick commands demanding action from everyone. This will hopefully channel them back to order. I have discussed using transition songs (such as the Hello Songs in Music Box) in previous blogs.

    Say but don’t do

                Clap your hand 6 times.

                You have 8 beats to stand in a long line (or a circle).

                Put your hands on your shoulders.

                Put one hand on your knee and one behind your back.

                Take the one on your knee and put it on your nose.

                Now sit quietly on the floor.

                Repeat after me (then start the song, indicating when its time for them to echo sing.)

    Do but don’t say   (“Do as I do”) and they have to copy.

                Instead of saying it, now you only show it.  Clap the rhythm and indicate to them to clap the same rhythm.

                Put your hands on your shoulders.  Move your hands one at a time to a different place for them to track you and duplicate (but say nothing!) .

    Play but don’t say

                Use a cowbell to initiate echos, use finger cymbals to que laying the mallets down on the instrument, use the tick tock block to signal walking to a new instrument. We teachers talk too much!  Give directions with different instrument signals. If you want more ideas how to use these, check out the article in MUSIC BOX.

    Do The Unexpected

                As you pass out the rhythm sticks, “how many letters can you make with your two sticks?  Show me, don’t tell me.”

                Stand in different places in the classroom so your “teaching spot” is not predictable.

                Use a variety of visuals (felts, white board, power point or smart board)

    Say “Excuse me!” Do you hear a noise? Then go to the cabinet to get the puppet featured in the next part of the lesson.

    Announcing the challenge - Say things like:

    I would never try this with the little kids, but I’d like to see if you can tackle this challenging part.

    This next part is probably going to be the hardest for you so listen up!

    Some may not be able to do this but let’s see how it goes.

    The students just tend to pay closer attention when you announce this is hard!

    HAVE A GREAT LESSON PLAN and be well prepared for that lesson!  Of course, this is the most important! For the right lesson plans for your students, just ask Lynn in Music Box!  If not a member, contact and we'll suggest plans, training, resources, etc. We are here for you! We want you on the path to success. You loving your job! Students loving your lessons!