Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Finding the Best Strategies for Herding Cats

Classroom management can be one of the most challenging parts of teaching.  I have found it's all about the expectations I set and how consistent I am with those expectations.  For me, classroom management isn't just a lesson you teach once in a while.  It's a set of strategies you 'pepper in' while teaching every lesson during the day.  I am often asked to share some of the strategies I have developed over the years.  I am a huge fan of Rick Smith, author of Conscious Classroom Management, and Harry Wong, author of The First Days of School.  Many of my ideas were inspired by these two great educators.   My next few blogs will cover some of the strategies I use in my class that help me so I don't feel like I'm herding cats all day.

Music Transitions

I enjoy using music as a signal for procedures.  These kids have heard my voice all day, and I am sure it ends up sounding a lot like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoon.  Rather than telling my students what to do repeatedly, I use music to signal transitions.  This takes some time at the beginning of the year to teach, but once the procedure is practiced and mastered, the results are amazing.  Transitions are smooth, quick, and calm.

Here are a few of the procedures I use music for:
  • Morning starters 
  • Quick writes in journals
  • To begin or end a group or partner activity
  • Class clean up
  • Rotating tables or centers
  • Lining up for lunch
  • Leaving for a break such as recess
  • End of the day reflections

The music I choose has to have clean lyrics, obviously, so I use a lot of oldies.  Classical is also a must, along with any other instrumental music that fits the intensity of the activity.  I'm a big fan of classical guitar.  A clean up song is going to have a strong beat, while a journal writing song is going to be more soft and reflective.  Any song involving movement needs a beat, but also a message that's positive and in control.

The playlist on my iPod is long, but here are a few of my favorites:
  • The Hustle (my favorite clean up song)
  • Listen to the Music
  • Help!
  • Like to Get to Know You Well
  • We are Family
  • Respect
  • Takin' Care of Business
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • ABC
  • Celebration
  • That's The Way I like It

The list goes on, but those are just a few of my favorites.  For me, transitions go well with music.  Next blog... visual signals for transitions.

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