Part 1 was focused on the letter system shown above, which I implemented in the middle of the year last year. The criteria for losing or earning letters, however, is based in my class rules, which I have had since my first year of teaching and remain the same:
They are posted at the front of the room, right above my board. I love these rules because they are simple, easy to remember, and pretty much all-encompassing. Let's briefly go through each of them, shall we? :)
This one is not uncommon in classrooms- respect your teacher, your classmate, and any other person we come across. When we go through the rules at the beginning of the year, we discuss some specific examples of this for the music classroom, including listening carefully when others are speaking or performing, listening to the teacher, raising your hand in a class discussion, involving all members in small group activities etc. I also talk, especially with the older students, about respecting other people even when they aren't physically there- speaking kindly of other people in the building and at home, and being respectful of the composers whose music we hear. Pointing out that a real person created the music that they are listening to makes a difference in helping them understand why they need to listen carefully and try to understand music created by them, even if they are dead :)
This is another fairly common rule- respect the objects we use in our classroom. When we discuss this rule, the first thing to come up is always, of course, the instruments. We talk about making sure to know how to play it correctly before playing, asking permission before using it, walking around instruments on the floor etc. But we also talk about respecting the chairs (we have nice Wenger student musician chairs, which the students like to rock back in or stand on), the whiteboard (I made my own interactive whiteboard, which is what you see on the wall), and the writing supplies (like please don't steal my pencils...). Oh and please try not to use more tissues than you need (Can I get an amen, teachers?!? You know you've got one in every class...).
This is the head-scratcher for students who are hearing my rules for the first time, but it quickly becomes their favorite when they see how it plays out. When we talk about this one for the first time, I generally get crickets. And maybe some wise guy who says it means don't slap yourself in the face. Then I explain it to them this way: "OK, so is it nice/respectful if I say to Billy here, 'Billy, you stink! Did you take a shower this morning?' *insert laughter* So what about if I say, '*sigh* I stink! I can't do this!'? I hear that all the time in music class. Do you think it's OK to be mean to yourself, just because something is hard for you? Of course not! We are going to do lots of hard things in music class this year. And just like some people are good at math, some are good at kickball, and some are good at drawing, everyone is good at different things in music class too- some are good at singing, some are good at dancing, and some are good at listening and noticing things in the music. If we are doing something that is harder for you, don't be mean to yourself. Just ask for help and try again! That's why we're here- to learn how to do things you don't yet!". I think it's really important to start off the year talking about working hard and self esteem. And I also think it's really important to cover a wide range of music-making so that all of your students do in fact experience things that are easy and things that are difficult. I think music has a lot to offer in that regard. And students are shocked the first time the class is penalized because one or more of them is not respecting themselves- I think they assume it's just "feel-good fuzzies" stuff and I don't really mean it's a rule of equal importance to the others. It really helps foster a safe and nurturing learning environment when everyone starts taking this rule seriously.
So there you have it: my three class rules. The letter system that I described in part 1 of this series is based on these rules. So they lose letters if they are not following one of the rules (usually after a warning), and I almost always point out which one they are not following. By the same token, when they are all doing all three exceptionally well, they earn a letter.
What are your class rules? What do you think of the 3 "respect" rules I use? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.