Whole Class and Individual Rewards No Treats or Prizes Required!
This month we continue to focus on ideas for classroom management. Today we will feature some ideas for whole class and individual reward systems for positive behavior.
When it comes to classroom management, we should try to shift our focus to recognizing the positive behaviors in the music room. That being said, I firmly believe students shouldn’t be rewarded with a treat or prize, but with something musically authentic that correlates to the curriculum. I keep sugary treats away from my kids and give them healthy options instead. Dollar store treats and prizes are usually poorly made and end up in the garbage. Treats and prizes also cost you money personally or from your classroom budget, and take time to purchase.
In the music room I reward both individual students and the whole class for good behaviour, but with a focus on “What Makes a Good Musician”, therefore creating a more authentic learning experience. Instead of just rewarding behavior, shift the focus to reflect the skills needed to be a “Good Musician” including:
- Watching – A real musician has to watch the conductor or director to follow along with the group and know what is coming next.
- Good Listening – Musicians have to listen carefully for feedback from the conductor and to each other when they are performing.
- Motivation – Always a willingness to try something new.
- Perseverance – Takes constructive feedback and works hard to improve.
- Smooth Transitions – This demonstrates patience and self-discipline, important skills for being a real musician.
- Singing with a Beautiful Singing Voice – Using their head voice, singing all the words clearly, using good posture.
- Plays Instruments with Proper Technique – Students remember the skills you teach them from one class to the next.
Now to the rewards – again I want them to be authentic and music related. Below are some fun suggestions to try in your music room for rewarding the whole class and individual students.
Whole Class Rewards:
It has taken a few years to figure out something I like that does not create extra work. Recently, I started doing a new points system. I display my points on a large keyboard, with the Musicplay Music Rules Posters around to remind students of my expectations, and then write the name of each class on magnets.
The class magnet moves across the keyboard 1-3 keys (or points) per class, depending on student behavior:
- 3 Points = Great class and very few reminders needed
- 2 Points = Good class and some reminders needed
- 1 Point = We had some trouble today and needed many reminders
- 0 Points = We had a hard time today and had to go back to our classroom to discuss our behavior.
Occasionally, I give bonus points for “Magical Musical Moments” that happen in class. This might be great singing, watching the conductor, playing a new Orff arrangement successfully, etc. I make a BIG DEAL out of these moments and get very excited for my students when they get one. At the end of class, we line up at the door and I remind them how many points they received and move their magnet accordingly.
So back to the reward - Below are two ideas:
- Once the class makes it all the way across the keyboard, they get to watch a short, music related YouTube video at the start of next class. I pick the video so I know it is appropriate and correlates with the curriculum, and BONUS - I get a few minutes to breathe in between classes (which rarely happens as a specialist teacher). This costs no money, takes minimal class time, and gives you a break - a win-win for everyone!
- Another reward option for getting across the board is giving your students a chance to pick and play a favorite game or activity. Students work with you to brainstorm a list of games and activities, and then vote for their favorites to try again. This takes a little more class time, but also provides you with great feedback about what students enjoy in your class.
Examples of a Reward Video:
Wintergatan Marble Machine - good for instrument identification, FUN!
Jimmy Fallon, The Roots & Star Wars: The Force Awakens - great lesson on vocal timbre and a cappella singing
Music Rules Posters
Recognizing musicianship skills in individual students is a great way to motivate students. Below are three fun and simple ways to reward individual students:
1. Music Leader Ticket:
This works best if you structure your class to play a game or instruments towards the second half of your class period. During the first 10-15 minutes of class, as you notice students demonstrate musicianship skills give them a ticket. The tickets are labeled 1-9, so the student with ticket 1 gets to select their instrument first or participate in the game first. Then the second, third, fourth, etc., students get to go next. This strategy is great because it is so adaptable for various teaching situations – you can stop at 2 students one day and 5 the next, and if it doesn’t work for your lesson that day you don’t have to do it all. It also keeps your students on their toes – they start to wonder right at the start of class if you are giving passes that day. Below is a printable of cards to use with your students. It is recommended you print and laminate these cards as they will be used A LOT!
MUSIC LEADER TICKET
2. Double High Fives:
I know what your thinking – but it’s all about how you show your excitement about a student doing something great. If a student is demonstrating musicianship skills and doing a great job get SUPER excited for them and tell them to give you a double high five. Tell them how awesome they are and what a great musician they are becoming. Focus on language using a growth mindset and reinforcing the skills musicians need.
3. Positive Notes in Agendas:
Specialist teachers often don’t have as much communication with parents and this is a great way to share something positive with them about their child. Our school has 10 minutes at the end of the day when students finish up their agendas and pack their bags. If I saw a student do something that impressed me that day I will go to their classroom and write a quick note in their agenda. The students are often very excited and proud to share this with their parents. Some teachers also make up little notes for their students to take home in their agendas. Below is a link to a template note you can use for students to take positive behavior notes home:
POSITIVE BEHAVIOR NOTE