Classroom management – it’s a phrase we are all very familiar with and yet I feel like I still don’t quite have a grasp on it. I am finally starting to think my lessons are solid, but I have trouble delivering them due to behavior issues. If you’re like me, you look to the teachers with the most well behaved classes in the school to see how they do it. Many times though, it feels like I’m comparing apples and oranges – we’re both teachers, but our classrooms are run completely differently. I’ve read a few classroom management books, but I always run into that same problem – I see 400 students, including every single behavior issue in the school, only once or twice a week. How do I manage a classroom like this?!
Enter Michael Linsin, the author of Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers.
Linsin was an elementary classroom teacher for many years, but when he switched to teaching PE, he realized he needed to revamp how he managed his classroom. In this book, he goes through the basics of what he believes specialists need to do for classroom management, in six parts.
Part I – Leverage and Influence
This part of the book essentially covers all the things you have complete control over – especially the lessons and yourself.
Linsin states that one of the biggest advantages of being a specialist teacher is that the subject is something the kids can genuinely get excited about. We, as lovers of music, have a responsibility to share our subject area with enthusiasm – “Keeping that passion in the forefront, and not being afraid to express it, is a powerful first step in creating a class your students will look forward to and buzz about in the days leading up to seeing you.” Not only do we need to express our passion, but we have to create lessons that have something worth getting excited about. Linsin also suggests previewing the “best” part of the lesson before the class even enters the room, so they are reminded of what they get to learn and do when they behave.
Obviously, the most important component of the classroom management equation is YOU, the teacher. Linsin encourages specialists to “care without caring” – desire the best for your students, but do not take misbehavior personally. If a student talks back, don’t let her goad you into an argument. Don’t get angry, or sad, or sarcastic – just keep your cool. The most important thing is to constantly be calm, no matter what happens.
Part II – Routines and Procedures
“For everything repeatable, there should be a standard and highly specific way of doing it.”
Routines are paramount in Linsin’s classroom management philosophy. They keep students busy and help your classroom run smoothly. Linsin suggests to first explain the procedure simply and in detail, sometimes adding an extra step or two to keep things from becoming mundane. Model the routine exactly as you expect, show what you do not want to see, and finally have individual students, then the whole class, perform the routine. Always hold your classes to the highest standard – if they miss a step, make sure to do it over until they get it right.
The most important routine to develop is how to enter the classroom. Once this procedure is established, it sets the tone for the rest of the lesson. If your students enter the music room exactly how you instructed, you have pressed a reset button – this is not their regular classroom, this is the music room and things are done differently here.
Part III – Listening and Following Directions
Linsin’s process for giving directions can be broken into three steps:
Be sure you have the students’ complete attention.
In a calm voice, “paint a complete picture for your students” of what you want them to accomplish.
Pause frequently and check for any confusion that still may remain.
Once these three things are done, just stand back and let everything unfold. Try to observe, intervening only if there is utter failure. In that case, follow the three steps above and have them start again. Allow students to work their way through the directions on their own and they will be invested in the music process. This makes your students more confident, self-sufficient, and excited to come to your class where they are given this opportunity to succeed.
Part IV – Rules and Consequences
If there is one thing Michael Linsin says in his books and weekly emails it is that you need a set of classroom rules, consequences for breaking said rules, and you have to follow through. This part of the book details his three rules and three consequences, how to teach rules, and how to deliver consequences. The big point he makes is that if your classroom management plan is logical and has been explained thoroughly, then all you have to do is follow it to the letter – with every single student. “You can relax in knowing that a calm, even clinical, approach will always work better in the long run.”
Part V – Bad Days and Tough Classes
I think of this section as the Troubleshooting part of the book. And, just like with a computer, many times all you have to do is restart the activity and it’ll work much better the next time around. Stay calm, slow down, and restart when needed – solid advice.
Part VI – Final Words
This part is mostly a call to action and reminders of the important points from earlier sections. It’s not very long, nor should it be, just enough to conclude the book.
My personal opinion about Classroom Management for the Art, Music, and PE Teacher is that is a quick read to focus your energies before the school year begins. This is probably not a book that will completely change everything about how you run your classroom – it will just remind you of how you should act and give a few hints for getting there.
As for my complaints, they are minimal:
Linsin speaks in generalities and rarely uses concrete examples. When he does use examples, it becomes apparent that he never taught music.
There is a lot of repetition. Linsin drives his main points home by repeating them throughout the book many times, which can get a little boring at times. I’m glad he’s highlighting his most important points, but I got them the first four or five times.
There are times when statements are too idealized. I felt like Linsin was saying if you do things like he says, your class will be perfect and no one will ever misbehave. I sometimes wanted to yell at him and say “Kids will still have bad days!”
Overall, I would definitely recommend grabbing a copy of the book and quickly reading it before the school year starts back up. It will get you thinking about your classroom management plan again and maybe even help you modify a couple of things to be more effective. You can even read some of the chapters online on Amazon’s website: http://amzn.com/0615993265
If you aren’t up for reading his book, or want a supplement to it, Linsin sends out weekly classroom management emails. They are all available on his website: http://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/
Have you read any books or found any classroom management techniques that work well in your music classroom? Please leave your comments below!