Music Teacher Tip #36:
Seating assignments or not?
For middle and high school, yes. More on that later. This post is for elementary general music teachers.
No one has the time to make seating charts for 600+ students. Plus, even if you did, you would just end up needing to change it every week which would create never-ending work. Here's what you can do instead!
Have students line up in the hall at your door. They should never enter without your permission. If you're anything like me then it's because each class setup may be different. One week they need to move to and sit behind Orff instruments, another week they're in a circle, the next week, they're sitting in rows. Because variety is the spice of life, this is a good thing. But to avoid a chaotic start to your class, teach students how to enter.
1. Meet them in the hall and show them you're happy to see them. If they are being rowdy, show them/give them your quiet signal. (See Music Teacher Tip #18 for more detail on this.)
2. You have 2 choices for how to do the next step: the first is to describe to them how they should enter and then ask students to raise their hands if they can tell you the correct way to enter the music room (checking for understanding). (If they're coming in the same way as usual, you can skip the explanation and ask if anyone remembers how to come in.)
3. This part is important: Call on a student who is quietly raising their hand to tell you the answer.
4. If the student answers correctly, brag on them and ask if they can show you how they do that. (The correct answer for example would be "Walking in silently and keeping hands to myself as I find a seat.")
5. Allow the student to model this and then tell them what a great job they did.
6. Ask the class if anyone else can raise their hand to tell you the correct way. Call on someone else who is silently raising their hand. Repeat steps 4-5.
7. Once the rest of the class is quiet and following the procedure to raise their hands and be called on, you can just start calling on students to enter. Be sure they're students who are standing silently. Students must show readiness in order to enter.
8. This may seem silly, but it's important... Only whisper or speak very quietly during this time. If you model a quiet voice, they will stay quiet.
9. If any student runs or makes noise on the way into the room, calmly call their name and ask them to come back to you. As privately as possible, ask them if they remember how to enter. Once they demonstrate they understand, allow them to try again. Don't get angry. Anger is unproductive and is a bad teaching tool. Show them that you believe they can do it!
10. Once the entire class is seated, calmly enter and tell them what a great job they did. If you use incentives, also award them a point (or whatever it is that you do).
You may be thinking that all of this seems like a lot of trouble. You may also be wondering if I did this every week when I was in the classroom....
For classes with challenging behavior, I did it EVERY WEEK ALL YEAR. Remember that the reason they're challenging is because they are likely getting away with poor behavior all day long in every other class they attend. That means you are having to retrain them every time you see them. It's OK. It's better than starting the class on the wrong foot.
There were some classes that caught on to this procedure rather quickly. For those classes, I would simply ask them to raise their hands if they thought they already knew how to come in. If the whole class seemed focused and quiet, I would say, "So, you really could do it with no reminders at all????" They loved being impressive and would come in perfectly almost every time. Be sure to show them how impressed you are after everyone gets to their spaces/seats with no noise at all.
This procedure will save your life on the days you have instruments laid out everywhere. There's no way you could reasonably expect a class at any age to come in calmly and not touch anything unless you prepared them first.
In general, if you want students to transition in any way, teach them what you expect and then follow through with feedback. Reinforce what is correct and reteach what is not. It takes time, but it's a worthwhile investment. You'll be calmer and happier AND so will they!
Happy teaching! ❤️🎶