Engaging Music Students In Class With Less Stress

pedagogy corner Sep 22, 2021

Feeling overwhelmed in the classroom? Give yourself a break with these time-tested teaching strategies to engage your music class and keep students motivated.

You're a busy teacher. So, let's get right to it with some ideas you can use in your classroom this week to encourage participation, motivate and engage your students!

Bring expert support into your class, virtually

The Teacher Toolkit offers helpful and practical support for you and your learners that can turn a ho-hum lesson into big fun. Interactive scores are ideal for accompanying your students; they can follow along at a pace you choose. Speed control lets you adjust the tempo to suit your students’ level and you can mute or un-mute the backing track as well. Who doesn’t love a backing band right in the classroom to help bring the music to life? 

James even gives your students a short video tutorial for every Ukulele in the Classroom lesson. In these "bite-sized" videos James speaks directly to your class. You can take a few minutes off and let him work with your students! Learn more about the Teacher Toolkit here.

Who doesn’t love a backing band right in the classroom to help bring the music to life?  

Making use of “dead time”

What to do with the time between when students arrive in class but before you formally begin the ukulele lesson? Or when you’re helping some students but others are waiting for their turn? 

Set up your room with passive challenges that they can discover on their own to keep them motivated and engaged. Something as simple as posting chord diagrams around the room featuring some new chords that you’ve not yet taught. We’ve got some printable chord diagrams, flashcards, and more free teaching tools right here that you can get started with right away. 

Related Reading: Popcorn Introductions In The Classroom 

Something fun is waiting

An activity sitting on their chairs waiting for them as they arrive is another opportunity for them to jump into something individually and increase engagement. Quizzes are great for this! And you guessed it we've got some free quizzes ready for you to download right away.

Ukulele Funbook is another fun resource that can keep them busy while they wait. You can even hand out one page/activity at a time from the Fun Book. (Note: geared to junior and early intermediate grades)

Decorate that space

Create a classroom students love to come into with some fun decorations. How about a few cheeky ukulele posters or some adorable cut-outs to create your own ukulele festoon? But where to find good, free, printer-friendly decorations? You guessed it: we’ve got you covered!

Less talk, more play.

Last but most certainly not least, a simple idea: "less talk, more play." True, this is easier said than done! But when you reduce the time you spend speaking it dramatically increases music student engagement and participation. Said another way, it's less boring! Get those musicians making music as much as you can throughout the lesson and everybody wins. As legendary music pedagogue George Bornoff said, "in a class of 60 minutes, students should be playing a minimum of 59 mintues." Was Bornoff exaggerating? Or not?

Engaging your class doesn’t mean you have to keep running at 110% every minute. Make use of resources to give your class a boost without all the extra effort. You'll be more calm and your students will be more engaged!

Cynthia Kinnunen is a music educator based in Guelph, Ontario, and is part of Team Uketropolis. www.cynthiakmusic.com

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