For music educators at all levels, mastering the art of gaining and keeping students’ attention is essential to ensuring productive time in the classroom. Learn nine tips to help music teachers maintain student attention in music class.
Set the Stage
Image via Flickr by timlauer
Whether music educators welcome students into their own dedicated learning spaces or operate mobile classrooms, they can set the stage for a successful class. In most cases, this can be as simple as establishing a positive, upbeat attitude and a welcoming atmosphere. Many elementary and secondary music teachers find that explaining the basic concepts that the class will cover and how it may differ from previous classes provides a proactive approach to gaining attention and helping students understand what to expect.
Use Visual and Tangible Objects
Though music teachers will find that certain types of objects or technology are easier to use in some classrooms than in others, many experienced educators find that incorporating a mix of objects helps to hold students’ attention. For instance, musical instruments invite elementary students to test and demonstrate their knowledge, and educators may choose appropriate instruments for the students’ grade level.
Visual elements, such as photographs of musicians, historical images of instruments, or even music from a popular song, can help beginning students become interested and engaged. Incorporating music programs, apps, and other technology allows more advanced students to explore their interdisciplinary skills.
Keep Up the Momentum
As most music educators quickly learn, the ideal learning pace can differ drastically from classroom to classroom. It may depend on age, grade level, engagement level, or the complexity of the material at hand. No matter the unique situation, however, music teachers must establish an appropriate pace for each classroom.
Naturally, students often lose interest and become disengaged when the flow of new material becomes too slow or the variety of activities wanes. To keep students’ attention, Music Teacher Resources recommends moving to a new activity or lesson component every 10 to 12 minutes.
Set Short-Term Goals
For hesitant, inexperienced students and enthusiastic, skilled students alike, planning for long-term goals in the music classroom can be a daunting proposition. Instead, many music educators recommend setting short-term goals that students can expect to master over the course of a single lesson. This could involve young musicians learning to play a single note on a new instrument or an advanced choral group perfecting a new song for an upcoming performance.
To get the most value out of setting and meeting these short-term goals, music teachers can share them at the start of the lesson and update students each time they have accomplished an objective. Constantly encouraging students to work toward achievable goals can hold the attention of even the most distracted students.
Music teachers should take care not to set too many goals or make too many announcements during a classroom session, especially for early elementary students. The National Association for Music Education recommends a three-announcement limit to maintain students’ attention.
Maintain High Expectations
For many music educators, setting goals goes hand in hand with maintaining high expectations for students. Teachers should consider being as forthright as possible about expectations for classrooms and individual students, as doing so can help students remain engaged during music class.
As TeacherVision explains, setting expectations enables students to take individual responsibility and maintain accountability throughout the learning process. Framing tests and quizzes as challenges and games can keep students’ moods positive as they strive to meet expectations, no matter their grade level.
Encourage Students to Be Active
When they are alert, students of all ages tend to be more receptive to new information and can more easily process complicated lessons. For many students, however, sitting for an entire class can severely limit their capacity to remain alert and focused.
Many music teachers keep their students’ attention by encouraging them to be active, notes Music Teacher Resources. For instance, moving to another part of the classroom can serve as a short break between lessons. Dancing, playing an instrument, or engaging in a group activity can help elementary students process the information they are learning.
Allow Students to Demonstrate Their Skills
Not all students will relish the opportunity to perform in class, but most will embrace the prospect in the right circumstances. Music educators can consider a number of options for allowing students to show off what they have learned. These could include assigning students to demonstrate a new skill to a classmate, encouraging students to perform in small groups for the class, and staging student performances for other classrooms or for families.
Not only does demonstrating skills enable students to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, it also helps students pay attention and remember what they have learned. High school music teachers may even consider recording performances for students to watch and learn from later.
Share Personal Stories
While many music educators focus on teaching students to emulate classic pieces of music, others understand the benefits that students can experience when they have the chance to create more contemporary music. Writing for Chalkbeat, Grace Tatter explains how some of the most engaging teachers set their own personal stories to music, which they teach to their students.
Whether students relate to the lyrics, the rhythm, or the dancing, they’re more likely to pay attention and maintain focus. Through this more personal experience with music, middle and high school students can also learn important principles, experience culture, and build character.
Leave Room for Failure
Perhaps one of the most helpful pieces of advice for music teachers is that not every lesson or experiment will be a success. Some lessons may frustrate students, and they may meet others with disinterest.
Even the best educators cannot predict with certainty which lessons will succeed and which ones will cause students to disengage. However, effective music teachers can pay close attention to their students and know when the time has come to end an unproductive activity and encourage the class to move on to something else that will better help students meet their objectives. Maintaining an upbeat attitude and finding humor in the face of failure can help music teachers keep the classroom running smoothly and may also have the added benefit of modeling resilience.
No matter the students’ grade or interest level, music teachers may find it necessary to use these tips to keep students engaged in the classroom. If you are interested in growing your knowledge as a music educator or advancing your leadership skills, consider pursuing a Master of Music in music education degree. The Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University offers a unique online program that could broaden both music knowledge and career options for music educators.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timlauer/3173436068/sizes/m/