Five tips for managing a classroom of young violinists
October 14, 2009 at 9:30 PM
The instruments are ready for the students, the parents are excited. You, the teacher, have all kinds of ideas about how to teach the perfect bow-hold, how to get the instrument sitting properly on the shoulder, how to sprinkle the perfect amount of theory and history into the curriculum....
And then comes the reality of the classroom: it's full of kids. No, you weren't hired to babysit them, but you were hired to teach children. Children tend to...act childish. They are juvenile. Immature. This is their nature. They're not going to sit there like graduate students. You need classroom management skills.
So what are you going to do about it?
I'd love to tell you that I have all the answers, but of course, I don't. In fact, many of you probably have more answers and more experience than I do in the classroom setting. Nonetheless, I'd like to share a few ideas that I've gathered over the years, teaching in many different situations including private, Suzuki group and public schools. And of course, I welcome yours! Here goes:
From Elinor Estepa
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 9:59 PM
Gee wiz, Mrs. Niles--that sure a lot of challenge, but look at those smiles on their faces? that's sure a lot of fun too..
Bless your heart my dear Ms. Laurie!
From Tess Z
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 10:16 PM
I haven't read your blog yet Laurie but that photo is priceless! Look at all the enthusiasm and love the pirate theme!
From Royce Faina
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 11:56 PM
I like the little blond girl looking at the little boy to her left, he has a hand on his hip! ADORABLE!!!!!!!
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 11:53 PM
<----sits up straight and stops fidgeting for Mrs Niles...!
I LOVE the pirates in the class photo, that's just so cute, they all look so enthusiastic.
Interesting to read this blog post, but I have to ask the teachers on here: How on earth do you learn and remember all the children's names? I've never been good at putting names to faces, yet all the class teachers I had at elementary and high school were brilliant at it (and still remember us decades later...!) There must be a secret to it - share please!
From E. Smith
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 2:03 AM
Lucky kids to have such a great teacher! Thanks for sharing this!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 2:02 AM
I especially like your suggestion #4. It's good to be flexible, recognize and accept that something isn't working as planned, change gears, and do something different that's still educational. I teach students only in private lessons, one on one, but your suggestion applies to me, too. I especially like he idea of reading them a story about the boy Mozart. Showing them part of a music video could be good, too. I've done that with adult students when we need something different.
Like everyone else, I love your photo. The kids look so happy about playing their violins.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 2:23 AM
The picture was taken at the end of the year, several years ago, at McKinley School in Pasadena. What a great bunch of kids! We had a lot of fun, but of course there were moments along the way. Classroom teaching is a real adventure, and it really takes a lot of experimentation (and mistakes, and things getting out of control at times!) to find your own way of doing things. But it can be very rewarding.
We have to share ideas and encourage each other; don't give up before trying!
From Bonny Buckley
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 10:53 AM
I love this post. Great ideas, all of them. I'm for a certain amount of organized chaos. You have to read the kids and teach what they are ready for that day, that hour, because it is different every time. It's good to have some plans for what you hope to teach but you are right on with having a lot of options up your sleeve because you have to change gears pretty often. I had a wise principal once enlighten me that kids are usually able to pay attention for the number of minutes that they are in years old. For example, 7 years=7 minutes max. So if I'm teaching 11 year olds for 45 minutes I need at least 4 activities...reality actually lets me fit in 6-10. I end up being an entertainer as much as an educator. Having a sense of humor, going with the flow and the ability to laugh at yourself while being seriously dedicated to this craft will work wonders in this! I am also for guided listening. I notice my students asking intelligent questions about music now if I'm listening to something...not even any assignment! A huge part of what we are doing is not only teaching playing, but teaching LISTENING, a skill that is sorely lacking in much of modern society. My huge boost of ego for the day was a kid after class this morning said, "When I'm done I feel like I'm flying!" : - )))
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 11:16 AM
Thanks! I love those pirate outfits. I don't teach music, but I have taught Sunday School and Girl Scouts.
From Royce Faina
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 2:56 PM
Am I the only guy that's commented so far?
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 7:03 PM
Royce no complex to have... lol I love the Oistrakh discussion group but since the few years I go there, I've never seen another female poster... Maybe they are all on Jushua Bell's website unstead : ) It doesn't mean anything at all be sure!
Laurie, Many Bravos!!! I agree they look so happy! I would have liked to know violin that young...
From Royce Faina
Posted on October 16, 2009 at 10:16 AM
From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 1:11 AM
Bonny, I think you are so right about listening. That's how you know where they are, if your aim (as in Suzuki) is to meet the children where they are in their learning. Also, it's not always easy to do, with a million other tasks tugging you in various directions!
From Margaux Matz
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 5:48 AM
I enjoyed reading your suggestions. They're great!
For #2, I find that just doing something really silly, such as putting my bow on top of my head, grabs that kids' attention. They remember that they need to follow the teacher, plus the silliness of it makes them giggle.
For #4, it's great that you mention having more activities planned, which is better than not having enough. I think, though, that the aspect of pacing can be forgotten sometimes. It's important, I think, to devote the right amount of time to each activity. It may be the same amount for each or a "more for some, less for others" approach. Its especially important if you have a group concert coming up because you want to make sure that you rehearse everything and make the most of your time when doing it.
I suppose pacing can be a natural ability in some and a skill to be developed in others? I'm still fairly new to teaching, so it's definitely on my "to improve" list.
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Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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