Music Classroom Management


Classroom management is an age old problem and topic of conversation with teachers, so it’s always inspiring to get the perspective of what others do to tackle these issues.

Back in April, 2010, I was fortunate to be involved in a twitter chat where we talked about behaviour management in the music classroom. These are just a few of the highlights, comments, articles, links, tips and tricks shared in the chat.

I personally think music teachers have some of the toughest challenges facing them. With 30+ kids all armed with instruments in their hands , chaos can break out easily.

I hope you find these suggestions a really useful starting point for feedback and practical ideas. If you have some ideas to add to this discussion, please feel free to add your trick or tip using the comment box below.

I think it’s fair to suggest that most contributors to the conversation generally agreed that the best solution for classroom management in music lessons was to keep students busy all the time with no opportunity to “muck around”as you can see from the following comments:

“If the students are truly engaged in what is happening , Classroom Management often will take care of itself”- @pisanojm

“Don’t give kiddos time to become disengaged. Keep EVERYONE on task! Careful NOT to spend too much time with one section”. –@musicedconsult

“Active music making is the best classroom management if anything the problem then is over-enthusiasm” –@shaugland

I thought this quote summed it up quite nicely:

However, we all know that this is all so much easier said than done! It’s simply not always a perfect world. Here are some useful practical tips and thoughts that may be useful in your teaching situation:

“I use 123 Magic for classroom management, it is essentially a three strikes and you’re out policy but w/ added factors of no emotion”- @girlfromPBO

“if it feels as if you are trying to swim upstream for too long, switch to another plan of attack…”- –@musictheatrenut

“I used to use warm-ups as conducting games – changing tempos and fermatas on scales to get them used to watching”.-@MiamiFlute

“After cut-offs, allow a “beat” 2 pass while looking at ensemble. Slowly lower arms THEN provide instruction. They WILL follow “lead””-@musicedconsult

“I have successfully used a + system that helps classes earn music notes for their class, to earn a class music fun day” –@musically8

I am personally a strong advocate for promoting positives rather than negatives with students of any age in any teaching or parenting situation. Here’s some advice comments from the chat promoting positives rather than negatives in the classroom:

” Classroom Management needs much more to be about rewarding/earning for good than punish for bad”-@andrewritenour

“I try to catch students doing the right thing, rather than yell at kids who do the wrong thing ” –@Zweibz7

Here’s a comment that often gets forgotten when we get busy!
“AND call Mom/Dad when things go very right!” –@chris_ritter

“Catching them doing something right is always a winner. “One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard is a classic great book!- @funmusicco

Here are some great website, books and articles to check out that were discussed in the chat and are all related classroom management:

“Great book about routines. Teach Like a Champion” –@MiamiFlute

Classroom Management via the Internet & Intranet” by teacher Barbara Freedman is an inspiring article of her teaching life and how she uses technology in the classroom. She teaches mus ed tech to teenagers and explains in this post how she can eliminate the H (homework) word!

“Why the Why Matters” is an interesting “food for thought” article by teacher and blogger,  Joe Bower which talks about extrinsic and intrinsic rewards and how we value them!

Has anyone read “Crowd Control?” Susan Haughland

“Great book on Behavior Modification: “Don’t Shoot the Dog“” by Karen Pryor –Nicholas Hardy

“I remember this sign:

They may not remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel

@digimusresearch , RT by @andrewritenour

Click to check out the music teachers ebook - 40 lifesavers


  • By Leigh Tarwater Reply

    I would like to recommend a book I read when I started teaching elementary general music that might have saved my life! In college and in most places I look for classroom management techniques, all I find are completely well in meaning, but I have to adjust most of the techniques to fit the subject I teach. This book is called “These Tricks Are For Kids” and is written by Deborah Gray, an elementary music teacher in Blue Springs, Missouri. She covers many topics including things to consider when planning a program, how to handle communications with parents, how to interact with the other professionals in your school and even fresh ways to think about recess and cafeteria duty! She is FULL of great MUSIC classroom management ideas that are easy and ready to use right away. I’ve tried many of her tricks and students LOVE them. I highly recommend this book for any elementary music teacher whether they’re new or a seasoned veteran. I’ve never yet met a master teacher who wasn’t interested in trying new things to take their classroom environment the highest possible limits!

    • By janice Reply

      Leigh thanks for the great insight into this book. A must for music teachers by the looks!

  • By Li-San Reply

    This was useful information. I’m thinking of teaching group piano classes in the future, so all this advice helps.

    • By janice Reply

      I’m glad it’s a helpful start Li-San.

  • By janice Reply

    I just found this video resource on Edutopia. It’s a series of classroom management videos highlighting some different approaches. It’s sure to give some extra “food for thought” if you’re looking for a new approach:

  • By Nancy Reply

    As I am currently in school studying to become a music teacher, classroom management is one of the key things I am looking into as I prepare to student teach. Many of these suggestions and observations will give me new things to try, and a lot of them definitely resonate with me as a performer who is still in ensembles and who was in a large public school music program not too long ago.

  • By janice Reply

    Thanks so much Mrs Hunters Music Class. I really appreciate these kind words in your blog.

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