Much of successful class music lesson planning does not involve teaching music at all. Here is an example of what I mean:
A lot of the time I have to collect a class from one point – their class room, or the playground – and get them, in a orderly fashion, to another point – the music room or the school hall.
This is an art form in itself.
Here’s how NOT to do it, especially NOT in the first lesson of the School Year:
I taught the class in this case Year 1, 30 children aged 6 and 7 years old, a song about trains going down a track, complete with chorus “Choo Chooooo! Choo Chooooo!”.
We added the actions – walking round the hall following the painted badminton court lines, singing the song and going “Choo Chooooo! Choo Chooooo!”. At this point I should have anticipated the increased excitement levels; walking became trundling, trundling became jogging, and very soon the trains were derailed and crashing all over the place.
I managed to restore order “Everybody SIT DOWN exactly where you are NOW!” and we observed how many trains were no longer on the tracks. We tried again, and this time it worked much better. We also only sang two of the many verses, so the children couldn’t build up as much steam.
Once we were back in our usual circle, we did some other, quieter songs and activities, until it was time to return the children to their classroom.
Having issued detailed, comprehensive, and clear instructions* about following each other in a line, I started the train song and off we went. Slowly at first, but with building enthusiasm the children chuffed and choo chooooo-ed back to class, arriving in a disorderly gallop and state of wild excitement. Clearly, they had enjoyed their music lesson and learned the song well – equally clearly I was lucky to have got them back without any derailments and dramas along the way, and clearly they were in no mental state to start a maths lesson.
Their class teacher was Not Impressed.
This happened a long time ago, in the beginning of my teaching career. I have NEVER repeated it!
*This was another mistake. Children of this age, at this stage in the school term, are unlikely to be able to remember more than one instruction at a time, and then only for a about a minute at most!
Now-a-days, I organise the children into a tidy, and silent line, explain that we will walk quietly to the hall or music room, and encourage them along the route with little comments like of “Lovely walking, Damien”. If they are younger children, I used an encouraging tone of voice. For the older children, I might say exactly the same thing, and they know that I am ever-so-slightly teasing, but I-also-mean-what-I-say.
We don’t march like soldiers, or chuff like trains. And actually, the children don’t seem to need the extra excitement of surging along the corridors in order to have an extra-enjoyable music lesson.