Making It Work: Instrument Storage and Organization 2
The Active Music and Movement Classroom: So Much Fun “in Store!”
Drue M. Bullington
Part 2 of a glimpse into one teacher’s answer to the challenges of having students manage the use and storage of a variety of instruments in an active elemental music and movement classroom. (Read Part 1 here)
All of the “kleines schlagwerk,” or little percussion instruments in my classroom, are stored in labeled plastic bins. These are mostly stored in the top shelf along the back wall of my classroom. They are about 3.5 feet off of the ground– tall enough that the little hands aren’t tempted, but short enough that most first graders through 6th graders can easily access the bins to find and put away instruments as needed. The instruments are sorted by “Ring,” “Scrape,” “Click,” “Shake,” “Special” and “Skin.” Our hand drum collection is rather large, so I store them in cabinets on the sides of the room.
In younger grades, I get the whole basket down and either pass out the instruments or have students choose one at a time. In older grades, they are more accustomed to a gentle, orderly approach and are trusted to choose instruments on their own. The rule is that once an instrument is chosen, there are “No tradesies!” This prevents the constant visiting of the instrument “store” for returns and exchanges. Putting them away is an independent task for older students entirely but for younger students they return them to the bins, and I put it away on the shelf.
The student recorders are stored in a cabinet along the sidewall of my classroom, which I also built. There are cubbies for each class in the school grades 3-6. Each cubby holds a plastic bin with the class’s recorders.
The recorders in the bins are owned by the individual student, or are on loan from the school. (Everyone has their own recorder assigned to them to use and I keep a bucket of spare recorders available if students forget theirs for whatever reason. I gave up on trying to enforce the responsibility past 3rd grade.) Generally, the students would rather play their own recorder than use the loaners, so it works out pretty well. I have a 6th grade helper who takes the used recorders to the cafeteria for cleaning and sanitizing regularly. I figure if it’s getting the trays and flatware clean enough to eat from, it’s good enough for getting our recorders clean.
In each class there is a “Recorder Manager.” The students earn this meaningless title by having their “home spot” nearest the recorder shelves. (I usually try to plan ahead and assign the more responsible types to those seats.) These students listen for me to say something about needing recorders and then they swing into action by taking the recorder bin from the shelf and placing it in the middle of the floor. They take three recorders from the top and pass them out to the students in the class. While they are passing these out, the students in the home spots next to the manager’s spot go to the bin, and pass out three, and then the next person three, etc. I used to just have the kids use “common sense” and anyone in the room could get a recorder and hand it to its owner. There were two pitfalls here: 1. Common sense was fleeting because they would all go at one time. Twenty kids would crowd around the same bin on the floor and four or five of them would bonk their heads together and then walk around dazed with their hands rubbing big goose eggs. 2. They would all look for their own instead of just taking a random one and giving it to its owner. As a result, we now pass them out three at a time going around the circle.
The World Music Drumming is a fantastic resource, and we are lucky enough to have acquired a lot of drums over the past few years to bring these possibilities to life. I store these drums on the side of the room under the recorders. I use the same colored floor tape around the bottoms of the drums to help the students see a color-coded difference in the drums, and to help them put them away in the correct area marked by a floor tape square. These colors are also helpful in projected visuals of large drums = blue, medium drums = red, and small drums = yellow.
When drumming, seating is an issue sometimes. I found these great stools for $4.99 each! They stack and take up little space in the room and are perfect for a student to sit upon behind a drum.
I have 30 ukuleles in my classroom. They all hang on rubber-coated garden tool hooks on the same long, open wall in the back of the room above the Orff and un-tuned percussion instrument shelves. These are placed about 4 feet from the ground so taller kids can easily get them and put them away. I never numbered these because it hasn’t ever mattered who gets what instrument because they are all the same.
The students simply walk back and get a ukulele, and then we play them for class. When we’re done, they put it on an empty hook.
A quick note on tuning: I don’t do it! I teach a group of sixth grade students, usually members of the orchestra program, and they tune the ukuleles daily in exchange for one Jolly Rancher! I consider it money well spent!
When we need supplies:
Sometimes you need to get kids a lot of supplies quickly for an activity; a pencil, a paper, an eraser, a clipboard; dry erase markers, marker boards, and eraser, etc. When this need arises, I make a line of the supplies, and have the students follow the leader, buffet style, to pick things up. They circle around the room to their home spot with all of their “swag” and then we can get started. We put things away in reverse. It’s the fastest way I’ve found to efficiently manage getting and putting away these kinds of things.
Organizing the instruments and supplies and helping your students independently manage their use in your classroom is an effective way of maximizing the instructional time you have with your students.
This is a window into storage and management of instruments and supplies in our classroom. I know that it won’t be a perfect model somewhere else, but I hope it helped spark some of your creativity! I would invite you to share your ideas and pictures in posted comments below to keep the conversation going about what works in your world.