If you are lucky enough to teach middle school music, you will never be bored guiding and working with this age group. These unique adolescents will embrace your program and ideas with enthusiasm. Their honesty, incredible energy, and brilliant ideas make all of their unusual idiosyncrasies worth it. I am fortunate to teach general music and movement to 5th – 8th grades.
As you prepare for the start of a new year, here are a few tips that I have found to be helpful in my classroom:
- Be prepared!
- Set your expectations high.
- Provide a safe environment and establish solid classroom rules & procedures.
- Holding the students accountable fosters rich and quality work.
- Provide collaborative group work and encourage student input.
- Be up front with your assessment. If possible, begin your project with a demo group. Use a rubric to explain your grading.
- Keep all students engaged.
- Have fun!
Calling on Students to Answer – Before you ask a question, instruct students to keep their hands down. Provide a few seconds to allow everyone to process the information. Select several students to answer the question. Do not call on the person who is anxiously waving their hand, standing, or blurting out. Make sure all students have opportunities to answer. Because this age group is notorious for one word responses, ranging from “yes” to “no,” consider asking them to use complete sentences for their answer.
Terrific Twos – When posing a question to the class, ask students to work in pairs to discuss the topic at hand. Hold one of the two students accountable to give the response back to the class. On the next question, the partner shares with the class. With this process, all students will be fully engaged.
Time to Talk – As students are actively engaged in an activity, the noise level can become unbearable. Stop the class, and ask students to refrain from playing the instruments. Instruct them to take time to talk through their process and ideas. This means all instruments are to be silent. It is amazing how a two-minute group discussion will quickly solidify their ideas and result in a better understanding of the project at hand
When teaching middle school students, if you genuinely like the students, have the passion to teach this age, create a safe environment, and have done your homework, the stage is wide open. Students will enjoy endless creative and active music making opportunities that are centered on your curriculum. Good luck with this upcoming school year.