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By Steve Engel

I remember once watching my daughter playing school, pretending to be the teacher. She sat in a chair holding a book up to her class of stuffed animals. She showed her class the book, and said “Front cover, back cover, spine, title page, dedication…”

It was obvious that she had learned the parts of a book through a routine of her teacher. It struck me how important these kind of routines are for music classes and private lessons.

Anyone familiar with the book The First Days of School knows that this is the holy grail of teaching prodecures and routines at the beginning of the school year. This is certainly one of few books that apply to music classes as well as the traditional classroom.

Here are some classroom management issues to consider:

  1. Where do students put instrument cases?
  2. Music stands and chairs: Does the teacher set them up? Do the students get them from a rack? Does everyone get their own music stand? What equipment gets put away and who does it?
  3. Books and sheet music: Do students take everything with them, or is there a folder storage system? Larger ensembles may need a librarian, or at least section leaders who can help distribute sheet music. What about when they forget their folders or misplace sheet music?
  4. Are students allowed to play their instruments before the ensemble warm-up?
  5. How do students know the rehearsal/warm-up has officially begun?

Here are some routines I’ve been implementing with my groups:

For beginners:

  1. Identifying the parts of their instrument, admittedly ad nauseum
  2. Assembling their instruments and explaining/verbalizing the process for doing so
  3. Verbalizing the fingerings for their first notes (Beginning Band: Concert Bb – F; Beginning Strings: D Major scale)
  4. Identifying notes on the staff, using flash cards

For intermediate students:

  1. Band: Simple warm-up exercises such as those on Essential Elements Book 1, page 18
  2. Strings: The D Major scale with simple rhythmic variations and bowing patterns
  3. Rhythm exercises, clapping and counting aloud

For private students:

  1. Scale/arpeggio exercises appropriate to the student’s ability
  2. Warm-up notes for beginners
  3. For younger students: A review of previously practiced music
  4. Introduction of new music/exercises
  5. For older students: Repertoire development
  6. A clear expectation of what is to be practiced for the next lesson

Looking for teaching resources, take a look at the wide variety of titles available at Music Books Plus, here.

About the Author:

Steve Engel has been an Instrumental Music Teacher with the Bakersfield City School District since August of 2001. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas with a concentration in Jazz Studies/Composition. He later earned his Master’s degree and teaching credential from California State University, East Bay (formerly CSU Hayward).

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