Tag Archives: Music Education

Positive Reinforcement

Today I had my first “breakdown” at my new school.  Good news though, it was only a small one. Let’s just say that testing days are not ideal for students with Aspergers and severe ADHD. The poor kids have to sit still and concentrate for hours on end, so when they get to the big open music room and are given permission to move around and make noise, they go a little crazy. So, why did I get all agitated and start raising my voice to these children? Easy. I have so many exciting things to teach these little guys, that sometimes I forget that they are people, too. Sounds kinda silly, but sometimes we as teachers get so wrapped up in WHAT we are teaching that we forget WHO we are teaching.

After this particularly challenging class, I asked another teacher, who knows these kids well, for some advice. Positive reinforcement and empathy were her answers. In fact, she told me that one of her goals this year is to use only positive reinforcement. When one (or a few) students are distracting the class, just praise one who is doing the right thing. It keeps us sane, because we realize that even though it seems like the entire class has gone mad, there are students who are a calm in the storm. Also, many kids act out in class to get attention, and giving them what they want is just adding fuel to the fire. Instead, ignore the behavior you don’t approve of, and give attention to the students who are following directions. My colleague has taken this one step further and created cards to give out for positive reinforcement. For example, she has a few “good listener” cards that are handed to students she feels are listening well. Her approach sounds challenging, but it just might be worth a try. Won’t you join me in the “Positive Reinforcement Challenge”? Please share if this works for you, and what challenges you are facing, and let’s see if we can make this work.

We all know that our students are people too, and deserve to be treated with respect and empathy, even when they do things we don’t approve of.  With a classroom full of 20 (or 30!) children, we don’t always have the time to get to know our students as well as we’d like, but we should still always show them that we care.

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Orff Workshop

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been teaching general music for 5 years, and never made it to an Orff workshop until last weekend. What took me so long? It was great.  4 hours of singing, dancing and playing all the fun instruments. I even got a few good ideas to use in class.

The first activity we did was to learn a song by rote, then break off and sing it in canon, as we held hands in a circle and stepped in and out of the circle. We were then broken into smaller groups, and, using the step in-step out move as an inspiration, created a dance to go with the song. Each group performed their dance for the “class”, then we did them together as we sung in canon. Granted, this went very smoothly with a brand new song because we were all music teachers – if you were to do this in a classroom, it has to be a song they know well. They should be able to sing it together, and in canon, before they add the movements. However, if you were to take out the canon part all together, it is an activity that could be done in one  or two classes.

The song that was used for this activity was one that was written by the presenter. In fact, most of the music in the workshop was written by her. I do find this to be a little odd, maybe it’s my Kodály training, but I would rather use quality music to teach with, and not necessarily a newly composed song. Not that her songs weren’t lovely, but I feel that one of my responsibilities as a music teacher is to expose children to quality music that they don’t know, so that the music will live on for more generations.  If we music teachers don’t teach these traditional songs to people, than they will be lost forever. What do you think? What types of music do you teach in your classroom?