Controlled Expression In The Music Room: How to Rangle An Unruly Classroom While Still Promoting Creativity

Two persons sitting on the bench and looking in to phones

As a music teacher, you will undoubtedly have students who view a more creative and arts-type classroom as a location to misbehave. Students look at a music classroom as an unstructured and relaxed setting, making it easy for them to become unruly and unattentive. It can become incredibly difficult as a teacher to keep your cool and refrain from lashing out or raising your voice when the classroom gets out of hand in this way.

So music teachers - how do you reel in your students when they’re behaving poorly while still allowing them to be creative in a setting with music? There are some tried and true ways of handling your music classroom.


1. Take Control / Establish Boundaries


Do not let control escape you; as the teacher, you are the boss of your classroom, and one of the most important things you can do is make sure that every student knows this. It doesn’t mean screaming and yelling to get your point across. Sometimes being completely calm and quiet has an even greater effect. Present yourself as an authority figure, making it clear you run a “no-nonsense” setting from the get-go.

Since music is a creative class, you have to be sure to establish boundaries before engaging in activities with the students. This helps to further reiterate your need for respect, asserting yourself as the head of the class, and creates limits for students so they know not to push behavioral boundaries when expressing themselves. The best boundaries offer structure and restrict certain freedoms so that students stay within that structure while remaining respectful.

Consider an activity where you discuss the roles of the classroom. Voice how you are in charge and explain why: you are there to take care of them and make the decisions that are best for the class as a whole. If they let you lead, the music room will be a comfortable, enjoyable space for creative expression.

2. Recognize Good Behavior


Everyone loves to be noticed and recognized. When you take time to recognize a student who is behaving well and following directions, the reinforcement is encouraging and shows other students what you are looking for. It also highlights the correct behavior in comparison to those who are misbehaving in your class.

Most behavior is strengthened or weakened by what happens after that behavior occurs. Recognizing the good is more likely to receive a positive reaction from your students, rather than calling out bad behavior in a negative way.


3. Focus on the Music and Utilize Resources

Learning music and listening to music is something that almost everyone enjoys. Rarely will you find someone who doesn’t enjoy some type of music. As a music teacher, you are promoting the amazing benefits that music can offer to each person in your classroom. Encourage your students to find the music that makes them happy by creating a lesson plan that focuses on a student’s favorite piece of music. This will promote creativity and connection on a personal level.

Many New York City experienced music schools utilize Solfeg.io, which is an online app that houses a library of songs for music teachers to use in their classroom. It plays a song while showing the sheet music for all of the chords and instruments. It’s immensely beneficial when trying to personalize a music lesson experience for each individual child.

A passionate teacher will have a lasting impact on their students. Putting the focus on the music, allowing students to see the importance and value of what they are learning, will create a positive and productive setting, resulting in fewer behavioral issues. Utilize resources like Solfeg.io to help you engage with your students, meeting them on a personal level. If a student enjoys the music they’re focusing on in class, they’ll respond positively and behave calmly.

4. Routine is Key

Organizing a great routine for students to follow goes a long way in keeping them from misbehaving. Well-managed classrooms will have fewer problems. Maintain your expectations, stick to a schedule, and create lessons around music that involve structured fun, like games or challenges, that will continually interest your students.

Take time to organize activities where your musically-inclined students can “show off” their talents. Perhaps have your lessons lead up to a day where parents come to watch the class perform, or where they perform for the younger students within the school.

Impending performances can provide instances for students to be creative while working toward a structured goal, which should prevent behavior from getting out of hand. It also works as great leverage for any students who do misbehave, as a performance can be used as a reward for positive behavior and hard work.

5. Creative Guidance


An article entitled How to Not Suck as a Music Teacher highlights how to determine which students care about the work and are passionate about the subject so that they can receive the guidance that they need. Students who are just as passionate as you are about music will likely go on to study it later in life as well, and possibly engage in extra-curricular activities, like signing up for music lessons or auditioning for local musicals.

This is not to say, however, that you should play any favorites. There will likely be students who aren’t interested in the subject, just as there will be some that are very interested. You’ll need to prioritize both of these types in your classroom. Recognize the students that care about the subject, but also create a warm, welcoming environment for students who don’t enjoy music class. It’s important that you provide opportunities for every student within the classroom to keep uniformity.

It is not easy for any teacher to establish themselves in a classroom, especially in a music room where there is a higher likelihood that students will misbehave or act out. It is a balancing act, and as a last resort, if you truly have students who are misbehaving, you can speak to a school authority figure or the parent or guardian about your concerns.

Take time to not overreact to escalating situations. It’s important to remember to take control and assert yourself as the head of your own classroom so that students follow your lead. You can then lead them calmly to respectful creative expression.

Written by Donna Maurer