Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

field notes exceprts thinking more about classroom management

transitfan's picture


Today only 1 student shows up. He was absent last week and is eager for a private lesson to help him catch up. We review and learn to identify scales. Due to lack of time, the other students in the class will not learn this; it's not essential to identify harmonic and melodic minor scales but it's nice. One student who was absent has missed three weeks in a row, she told me in an email she has been off-campus on weekends due to a combination of family emergencies and other commitments. She says she is practicing on her own so next week we'll see. I emailed the choral director to let him know, but he didn't seem upset. I think it was a mistake to schedule Sunday afternoon class, although it sounded like a good idea at the time.

(Fourth Grade)

...I lead a somewhat complex activity in which the students broke into groups of four and “composed” a rhythm of 8 measures in 4/4 time then performed it. Some groups really took it a great level by adding movements to their performances. Overall, there was a huge range in how long it took groups to write. I tried to hurry some groups along, which didn't really work. I didn't have a back-up for when students finished writing. There were a few times I struggled to get their attention. Ms. Presley urged me to be more “alpha” and to be sure to get them quiet rather than trying to talk over them. This also came up during the “performances”; some were not very good listeners.

The class finishes with the “squirrel chase” game while I photocopy their group compositions. They will all take home a copy to perform to someone at home. (Or at least, that's what they are supposed to do. Frankly, if a college professor gave that assignment there's no way we would all do it unless it was a class in which everyone was really passionate about the subject, but maybe elementary school students are more obedient in their homework.

(Third Grade)


In my activity, Rob chooses to work alone. He does an excellent job. Overall, this class does well. The problem of some groups finishing early is partly helped but not fully when I clearly instruct groups who finish to practice their “performances.” The only difference between grade 4 and grades 2 and 3 is that the latter groups do 6/8 melodies rather than 4/4, which is consistent with what they are learning in class. Impressed with Rob's improvement, I pick him to put away the pencils but someone else thinks I was pointing at her and tries to help. An argument ensues and I apologize for lack of clarity (I probably shouldn't apologize to students; I can't help it) but reiterate that I intended for Rob to do it.

The class ends with Ms. Presley singing a rhyming musical book. Gordon isn't paying attention; he asks if he can run up and down the stairs to get the rest of his energy out. Ms. Presley tells him that he needs to use self-control. When she has the class sing the ends of phrases, he sings silly words. She asks him to sit by me but that doesn't help: he crawls behind my chair. I'm embarrassed when their classroom teacher returns; Gordon makes it look like this class was out of control. Ms. Presley tells her on the whole that the class had been better today.