by Harry and Rosemary Wong
A Class Size of 500
An effective band teacher with a class size of 150 to 500 can quiet a group of students with noisemakers in their hands in seconds, and without speaking or showing stress. It's all procedures.
Ineffective teachers will yell and scream, pound on tables, and flick lights, yet the students continue without paying attention and the noise level remains. Effective teachers, on the other hand, can bring a group of students to attention in seconds without opening their mouths or showing any annoyance. They can do this without destroying the student's dignity by yelling or screaming at them, and, most importantly, without disgracing the profession by pleading or begging the students to be quiet.
Quieting a Class Quickly
The procedure for bringing a class to attention may be different from teacher to teacher, but the students understand the concept of a procedure. It can be Cindy Wong's "Give Me Five" as explained in The First Days of School or seen in The Effective Teacher. It can be as easy as a high school coach saying, "Gentlemen, please" to a large team of players, a first grade teacher who places an index finger over her lips, or an administrator who holds up a large orange card at an assembly of hundreds of students.
With an understanding of procedures, band directors can bring a group of several hundred students to attention in seconds. We met Rebecca Hughes of Kansas several years ago. She taught music in a rural district to 150 students in grades one through five. As a new teacher, she was sent to a district in-service meeting on Effective Teaching conducted by yours truly! Rebecca thought, "How is this workshop going to help me in the Band Room?" She felt that the information would be more applicable to the "regular" classroom.
Now Rebecca says, "Boy, was I ever wrong! The workshop, books, and ideas can and do work for those of us who do not teach in the 'traditional' or 'normal' classroom setting." She continues, "I believe Benjamin Bloom states that 'anything can be taught to anyone at any level,' and that the procedures you explain in your book can be adapted to almost any type of class."
Procedures in a Band Room
Now, "convert" Rebecca wishes to share how procedures work for her in the elementary, junior high, and high school band program. These are her procedures:
- Students are always greeted by the teacher at the door. This is a great time to ask the kids how their sporting games were or how they did on the math test the day before, building a good relationship between teacher and student. This teacher makes an effort to attend students' after school activities. This helps to cultivate a good relationship and build mutual respect that carries over into classroom conduct.
- New seating arrangements are posted outside the classroom door. Band seating is assigned according to what is best for the sound of the ensemble. But when changes become necessary, a chart showing the new arrangement is always posted outside the room so the students can find their new seats immediately. Where there is flexibility in the way seating can be arranged, students may choose where their assigned seats are, with the understanding that they will be relocated if there are problems.
- Class time is never used to call roll. At the grade school level students perform a warm-up activity while the teacher takes the roll. At the junior high and high school level there is a student Secretary whose duty it is to take roll.
- Each student is assigned a number that corresponds to his or her number in the grade book. When papers are collected they are handed in numerically, cutting down on the amount of time it takes the teacher to post the grades in the book. Students write their numbers on the cover of their music folders so as not to forget them. This prevents the loss of valuable class time researching students' forgotten numbers.
- Expectations are made clear from the beginning. They are as listed:
Respect people and equipment
Be on time and prepared
Do not speak or play out of turn
Leave things better than you found them
No gum, food, or drink
- The order of pieces to be rehearsed each day is posted on the board where students can see it upon arrival in class. This way students know what to practice while warming up and waiting for class to begin. This also helps on the rare occasions when the teacher is late to arrive…students are always engaged in productive activities from the moment they arrive in the classroom.
- Two file folders are taped to the wall, labeled "To Be Copied" and "Copied." When students need a copy of something, they place the original in the appropriate folder. The teacher or a designated student aide will make the copies during a planning period and place them in the appropriate folder where they can be picked up by those who requested them. This procedure prevents interruptions during class and materials are not misplaced.
- An easy-wipe magnetic board is posted so students can list items they need. If a percussionist needs an extra set of drumsticks, he writes on the board the date and what he needs. At the end of the day the teacher checks the list to see what is needed from current inventory and what must be ordered from the local music store. Once the item is available, the teacher posts a note on the board alerting the student that the item is ready for pick up. Separate boards are maintained for the elementary, junior high, and senior high students for easy reference.
- A memo pad is kept by the teacher's side during each class for making notes about things she needs to do after class that might otherwise be forgotten.
- Instead of using class time to sell necessary items such as reeds, pencils, valve oil, etc., each student is require to purchase a $5.00 "Band Card" during enrollment. A student treasurer maintains a checkbook style record of what students buy, along with the balances in their accounts. This way students understand that the procedure for buying supplies does not include asking the teacher for supplies during class and records are easily accessible. And, the teacher is not kept busy with record keeping.
- Students know that when the teacher steps to the podium or music stand, they must become quiet and give their undivided attention. They also understand that when the teacher steps down from the podium or music stand, it is their time to talk to their neighbors, play their instruments individually, or just relax until the teacher steps back up. "Down time" is provided between each piece rehearsed so they can get up the next piece of music and relax a bit, and the teacher doesn't have to yell or fight to get the students' attention. These procedures also work well for guest clinicians who come in to work with the bands.
- Good manners are an expectation. Students are expected to use "Please" and "Thanks" whenever they ask for or receive something. They raise their hands when they have questions or would like to contribute to discussion, and wait to be called upon. The teacher is a good model, never interrupting students when they are speaking and paying close attention to what they have to say.
She Moved to the Big City
To all of you new teachers who are learning how to manage a classroom, take note of this good news. A few years later, Rebecca moved to a large city high school in Wichita and her procedures have been reduced to one page. Yes, it comes with experience, but the experience must be based on a solid foundation of knowing how to structure and manage a classroom. With a class size of 122 this year, it's obvious she can do it.
She says, "People often ask how I can handle so many students. I tell them that my students know my procedures and expectations, thus, my job is do-able." She continues, "I have great section leaders and drum majors in Marching Band that help out and my upperclassmen do a great job of helping the freshmen learn the procedures of our class."
High School Band Daily Procedures
Between 7:20am and 7:50am please follow these procedures:
- When entering the Band Room, check for new handouts on the music stand by the door and take one if there are any.
- Remove your nametag from the attendance board, place it in the "I'm Here" folder (Please NEVER remove a name tag that is not yours!) and then check the Current Events bulletin board for updated information.
- Take care of things such as getting music you need, buying supplies such as reeds and oil, turning in money/fees, or anything else you need for class today.
- Check the chalkboard for the order of pieces that we will be rehearsing and put your music in that order.
- The 7:45am bell is the only reminder you will have to let you know that you are to have your instrument, music, and all supplies out and ready for the beginning of class at 7:50am. Use your time wisely.
Between 7:50am and 9:25am please follow these procedures:
- At 7:50am be in your seat ready to begin with your music in the order that is listed on the board. Listen to office announcements. THERE IS NO TALKING DURING ANNOUNCEMENTS!!
- When the Director, Drum Major or Band Council Officer steps onto the podium, stop playing or talking and direct your full attention to the person on the podium.
- If at any time during class you have a question, raise your hand and wait to be called on. Please listen carefully to any questions being asked for at some time you may have the same question. Please remember to use "please" and "thank you" whenever appropriate. Thank you!
- If you need to leave class at anytime sign out and in (follow pass usage procedures listed in the CHS Bands Handbook).
- When rehearsal time is finished (as decided by the Director), you will be dismissed to put your materials away. Put music in the folder files and instruments in assigned places in the storage room.
And how good is Rebecca Hughes? She takes her band to Europe, Washington, DC, and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
What's Next for Rebecca?
Now, this is what the Rebecca Hughes of the world can look forward to in a few more years. Joseph Alsobrook has been teaching 6 or 7 more years than Rebecca Hughes. He currently teaches band for the Union Public School District in Tulsa where he works with more than five hundred students per day.
The Union Band has earned top honors at the Fiesta Bowl National Pageant of Bands, the Citrus Bowl Music Festival, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and multiple regional and national events sponsored by Bands of America.
Mr. Alsobrook is a five-time recipient of the Outstanding Music Director's Award presented by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. He is also a member of Who's Who Among America's Teachers and has recently completed all requirements for certification in music education by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
When asked how he can manage so many students, he says that he uses the principles of
We will share his techniques in a future column. But, if you can't wait, Joseph Alsobrook has written a book: Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra and Choral Programs. In his book, he talks about these topics:
The Gift of Love
The Gift of Attention
The Gift of Accomplishment
The Gift of Boundaries
The Gift of Fun
The book can be purchased on Amazon.com for only $12.57 and is highly recommended.
The Gift You Deserve
For most of you on the "traditional" school schedule, you are just finishing your first quarter, have hosted the "Back-to-School" night, and have completed parent-teacher conferences. The calendar year's end is fast approaching, so permit us to "strike up the band" to ring in some holiday cheer. We hope the world shares with you the gift of love and respect you so deserve because you give so much of them everyday to your students.
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