Creating a Comfortable Atmosphere for Your Beginners

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Setting a positive atmosphere in your class is just as important as having functioning instruments for your new band members. Here are some helpful tips and reminders to create a classroom environment where all students can thrive!

Making a Connection

  • Be approachable! New students want to know if you are nice and if you like them. Being approachable will help you build trust with your students.
  • Showing you care can be as simple as quickly learning names!
  • Remember, your kids won’t care what you know until they know you care about them. Learn about their interests outside of class (sports, pets, Pokemon, etc.). Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself as well.

Creating a Comfortable Classroom Environment

  • Kids crave structure! Kids feel less anxious when they know what to expect.
  • Playing tests should be very short for beginners, especially for the first part of the year. Test can be as simple as a single new note or just a couple of measures from a method book.
  • Help students feel less self conscious as they play in front of others. Playing background music during individual playing tests can help students feel less exposed. Playing along with a student the first few times can help ease students into independence.
  • Always communicate with a struggling student. Continue to remind students that we all progress at different rates and in different amounts.
  • Bring an element of play into your class! Using a “light saber” as a pointer or Lego Blocks to build rhythms can help break boundaries between teacher and students.
  • Remember, if you want your kids excited about being in your class, you have to be excited about having them in your class!

Building Confidence

  • Set very attainable goals that push your students in addition to many items that are easy “confidence builders”.
  • Provide a variety of assessments where all types of learners have a chance to succeed (written, playing, etc.).
  • Written assignments can build confidence in young students that initially struggle with playing, allowing them to feel success.
  • Incorporating intervals as part of your warm up (M2, M3, P4, etc.) builds confidence with partials for brass and cleans technique for woodwinds.
  • Remember to celebrate success! Positive words, stickers, notes home, and bragging to teachers about their accomplishments can help solidify success with students.
  • Make your students feel proud! End each class by reflecting on the progress they made to that point.

Pacing

  • Don’t feel pressure to strictly follow a method book.
  • It’s not a race! Your pace is set by the kids in front of you, not in the band next door.
  • Keep class moving! Having a variety of activities in your daily lessons will help keep students engaged.
  • Make lessons organic by connecting new material with prior knowledge.
  • Keep a planning book. Make notes about what worked and what didn’t. Use this to reflect and improve each year.

Creating a comfortable atmosphere in your class will help your students quickly relax and enjoy the process of making music!

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Chris Ferguson draws on his experiences as an educator and performer to write music that is both fun and accessible to young musicians. His compositions and arrangements are enjoyed by ensembles throughout the country. Mr. Ferguson is the band director at the Braxton Craven School in Trinity, NC and has taught instrumental music education for over 20 years. He has been named both “Teacher of the Year” and “Distinguished Educator of the Year” by his colleagues in addition to achieving his National Board Certification. He often appears as a guest clinician and has conducted bands at the UNC Greensboro Summer Music Camp for many years. Mr. Ferguson is a graduate of Appalachian State University (B.M.) and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (M.M.) where he studied with Jim Miller of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.