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Tales from new teachers - Reflective lessons

The problem

A few weeks into this school year - my first as a qualified teacher - I had managed to establish a good structure of learning and behaviour in my classes with older students, but I was struggling with the younger year groups.

I wanted to construct a reflective music class but this aim was being undermined by the students not understanding the rules of the classroom and misbehaving.

Quite often, as the kids became ever more rebellious, I wanted to morph into Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Kindergarten Cop. But, equally, I didn't want to move away from my aim of more thoughtful lessons and towards a stricter, more dictatorial regime.

The options

First, I thought back to my teacher training, when I worked for one unit with a kindergarten age group.

I tried to remember how the teacher had handled things and realised that everything had been built around well-taught routines. These were so established that the teacher did not need words for instructions, but instead used music, sounds and gestures.

I checked my notes and found that the teacher had spent the first two weeks of the year establishing these routines.

I saw the students much less than that teacher, so I sought out a more experienced colleague for advice. They suggested that the routines were still possible but that I needed to take a different approach. So I placed a similar emphasis on routine but adapted it to focus as much on lesson pace and content as behaviour instructions.

The result

I introduced music as an accompaniment to routines - for example, using a percussive instrument or song for silence countdowns, or for greeting at the start of class and lining up at the end. I rehearsed these routines with the students in two lessons.

In the third lesson, I noticed a surprisingly big change. The students were much more engaged in the learning, better behaved and reflective about the lesson at hand, as I had hoped. It showed that, for lower years, you have to plan much more what and how you are going to do something. It takes time, but is well worth it in terms of the result.

JC Pramudia Natal is in his first year of teaching. He is a primary and junior secondary music teacher at ACG International School Jakarta in Indonesia.

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