One challenge common among music teachers is the challenge of setting up classroom routines and procedures when you don’t see students very often. Additionally, any given music class can have a variety of different teaching scenarios, like movement activities, instruments, games and even pencil and paper tasks that provide the need procedural reminders. With that in mind, I’ve gotten in the habit of fitting my procedure of the moment to what my students present when I greet them at the door. Here are some of the ways I get the things my students need for a given lesson into their hands as quickly as possible with minimal fuss.
“Singing Game” – Sometimes the long way is shortest. Depending on the stability of the class and how they walk in the door, I’ve been known to pass out papers materials one at a time, calling each student up to the front to get their materials. It may seem like that would take forever, but with little kids, it is often faster for me to do it, even one at a time than it would be to ask the students to help. They like having my attention for a moment and I may even make a singing game out of it….. “Sarah, Sarah, come up and get your paper!” …. to some made up melody.
“Assembly Line” – Every moment counts. I don’t know about you, but I could sure use more time with my older students. We have so much learning to do and so little time! When I have papers (or materials) to pass out AND when I feel pressed for time which is almost always, I put everything they need on my back shelf and have them walk by and pick up 2 copies….. 1 for themselves and one for a student at the end of the line.
“Student Helpers” – The students can do it. At the beginning of the year I assign jobs to everyone. We have pencil people, and lapboard people and paper people and drum people and xylophone people….it goes on and on. When all is right with the world and everyone arrives on time, THIS is my go to method for passing out everything. When I greet my class at the door, students with the jobs required for the day enter first and start passing things out according to our seating chart. It’s a beautiful thing… One tip – assign two people to every job so that if someone is absent, there is still a student trained for the job. I’ve also noticed that some helpers are more aware than others, some simply get tired and stop or they don’t notice when someone doesn’t have what they need. It’s a great opportunity to take on some responsibility….. But beware of the silent passive student won’t say anything when they don’t get a pencil….I’ve had more than one student sit out of class for longer than I would have liked because no one got them a pencil….
“Every one for themselves” Teaching students to take care of themselves. ! As much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE my helpers and use them often, sometimes we could spend all day passing things out and we just don’t have time! Sometimes I invite the students to come in and sit with me. Then I explain what everyone needs and point out the location of each needed material. Then I remind the students how we will move around the room and that we will wait our turn. I say, “When you stand to get your materials, do so without making a fuss. Anyone who causes a problem for someone else will have to wait until everyone else has ALL of their materials before getting up. ” When using this strategy it is important to make sure that the required materials are spread out throughout the room so that you won’t have any “pencil mobs”. If there is a particularly long list, it might be useful to write the needed items on the board. For example, when introducing recorder to 4th grade I like my students to get a chair, a (mini)music stand, sometimes a crate, a book, their personal recorder, a pencil, a fingering chart and sometimes a paper or their personal device. I have kindergarten immediately before, so l can’t really set up anything before hand
“Partner Passing” Take care of your friend. We do LOTS of group and partner work in my class. My students are divided into 4 color groups, so it is very easy for me to say, “All of the Yellow fellows go get 2 lapboards, one for you and one for the Red fred behind you. Also, when my students are partnered up with a partner of their choice, I might say, “Decide who in your group will be an orange and who will be an apple.” Then I might say, “oranges go get pencils, apples go get lapboards.” Depending on how the class is going, I can either invite everyone to move at once, or I can make adjustments and go slower as needed.
Remember! – If you find yourself knee deep in a material passing procedure and it’s not working, just stop! Invite helpers to go back to their seat, ask everyone to come back to where you gather and restate the directions, rescue the pencil box and pass them out yourself or assign a buddy to a student who needs assistance. Don’t loose your mind, just loose the stress by making adjustments, stop, reset, modify and then proceed.