Classroom management can be challenging at times but add in 30 instruments, noise and tons of movement and you could have a three-ring circus. Some of the extra challenges that planning time teachers have to face are the constant transition of classes, teaching hundreds of students and managing a multitude of materials. With a little forethought, planning and well-trained students, managing a planning time subject can be a dream instead of a nightmare!

First of all, make your expectations of behaviour very clear and transparent. I also make my expectations short, catchy and to the point. Right now we are doing a bucket drumming unit, so I take 10 seconds in the hallway before the students enter to say “If you play before I say….” and the students respond with “Then I’ll take your sticks away”. The students know what is expected of their behaviour before they even walk in the room. Furthermore, follow through on what you have said. If anyone even plays a little bit I walk over to them and just hold out my hand. I do not stop giving instructions and I don’t give the student a hard time. If he or she looks confused I point to the sign posted in the class. I hold onto the sticks for the first five minutes of class. Once I have taken one pair of sticks on the first day, the students usually remember the rule. It is impossible to talk over instruments, especially drums, so I stick to this rule in every class. I briefly review the expectations of behaviour almost every class.

Secondly, the arts are amazing as there are many opportunities for sharing performances. Groups or pairs are often presenting their creations so audience behaviour is something that needs to be explicitly taught and reviewed. I refer to some of the symbols above to help students do their best work. Strategic grouping and seating can also go a long way in preventing problems. I put a big focus on group work at the beginning of the year so that activities in my class can run more smoothly.

Another tip is to make your materials accessible to students. In the hallway, I quickly tell the students what instruments to take out or what materials will be needed that day. I will either assign a few students to be in charge of taking out the materials or everyone will get their own as they enter. Materials should be in a clearly labeled location and at a height that students can access. Since I only have the students for 40 minutes twice a week I need to maximize the time in which students are engaged in fun music activities. This also speeds up transition time which is where some of our students get themselves into trouble.

I’ve realized after a few years of teaching that good classroom management is 95 percent about planning. If you are well-planned you will often have fewer management problems to deal with. I was walking down the hall the other day past our drama/dance room and the teacher had put the outline of a giant mitten on the floor. Even I was intrigued. What were they using this mitten for? I know if I am that interested, every kid who walks in this classroom will be doing the same. I also know that the students in French class are doing crazy fashion shows and in music they are talking about music that is important to them. Planning engaging activities will keep students on track.

Finally, You can implement a reward system in a planning time subject. Our French teacher has a straight forward and simple system that is very effective in encouraging the students to do their best. She divides the students in groups and they work towards rewards.

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