Rules for Violin Class: Creating Discipline

June 2, 2014, 5:22 PM ·

Starting a school strings program can be very exciting, but it's also a lot of work. I've compiled a lot of the ideas I used for a first-grade public school program on this page, and I invite anyone to use any ideas that help.


But once you've found the funding, set the curriculum, procured the instruments, found a room for your classes and signed up the students, one large consideration remains: how will you keep discipline in the class? Especially if you've signed up to teach at-risk children, you will need a major strategy to keep order. Nothing else can happen without it.

One helpful strategy is to set some rules at the beginning, perhaps using the entire first class to talk about rules and create a kind of contract with the class. A teacher can be a little Socratic here, asking the kids to help come up with the rules for the class, then having them sign a contract where you've written them down. (That contract can remain on the wall to remind everyone!) I find that the rules generally fall into four categories, and allowing the kids to explore those categories usually yields all the rules you'd need. Here are the four basic rules for class that I would typically give kids:

1. Respect your instrument

2. Respect your teacher

3. Respect the other students in the class

4. Respect yourself

That sounds simple, but let's explore each category (and this is something you can simply have the kids do -- they know very well what the rules should be, that's why they test them all the time!)

1. Respect your instrument

Take it out and put it away very gently and properly
Rosin the bow every day
Hold the violin properly to prevent damage
No sword fights with the bow
If something is broken or wrong with your instrument, ask for help and get it fixed right away

2. Respect your teacher

Follow the teacher's instructions
Don't interrupt the teacher
Don't talk or play while the teacher is talking
Ask questions about class but not about other things you know are unrelated

3. Respect the other students in the class

Be careful of their instruments
Do not interrupt another student who is talking
Don't talk or play while another student is talking
Be supportive of their efforts to play

4. Respect yourself

Practice so that you play well
Behave in a way that makes you proud of yourself
Come to class prepared, with your violin, your music, etc.

I'm sure you can add to this! If you set detailed rules on the first day of class, you can refer back to them at a later date. "Are you talking while Susie is talking? Remember, we respect other students." I'd also refer teachers to books by the parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton: In Step with Your Class and Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting.

Please add your own strategies and ideas in the comments!


June 3, 2014 at 11:36 PM · Why would you rosin the bow everyday? I thought we are not supposed to rosin it every time we play, but I don't know.

June 4, 2014 at 03:33 AM · Thanks, worked a treat. Apparently this idea has been known for some some more ideas?

June 5, 2014 at 07:53 PM · thank you for this much needed article. I led a 12 student group violin class for the past 6 months and faced discipline problems. lack of respect for the instrument; broken bow, frequently falling bridges, 2 fingerboards dislodged, broken rosins, lost books etc. I shall be using your list of rules and i am sure next year I will have a smoothly running group lesson.

Anahid Jamgotchian

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