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Rewarding Great Class Behavior in Music


Today one of my kindergarten classes earned their very first free day in music. I'm sure it sounds crazy, but our free days are actually very fun and very musical. They require zero planning, as the students get to pick the activities for that day (more on that in a minute).

At my school, each class can earn a star in each specials class that they will take back to their room and display outside their door for the whole school to see. It is a display of how they are doing in music, PE, computers, and library.

(Outside a 1st grade classroom)

Each specials teacher has their own stars and their own system for how the five stars are earned in their room.

In music, one star is earned for following each of my M-U-S-I-C rules. 
At the end of class when we line up, I will go through each rule and the students will assess their class with a thumbs up or down for if they think their class as a whole followed each rule.

When they earn five stars, I put a sticker on the chart for their class. Each row is one class. 
When the class has earned 10 stickers, they will get to have a free day the next time I see them.

On a free day, I will tell students in the hallway that they have earned 10 stickers and today is their free day, but they must be showing PRIDE the whole class. If they come in noisy the free day will just be saved for next time. If they get wild in the middle, the free day is over. Students go in and sit at their assigned spot at the board and I will call on quiet hands to tell me one song, book, game, etc. that they would like to do and I make a list on the board of 6-8 ideas. The song, game, dance, book, etc. MUST be one we have done in music class (this year or a previous year). I don't include many "fluff" activities in my lessons, so the thing they choose are always going to be of high musical quality. The fact that the students are choosing them is fun for several reasons.

1) They get to relive and revisit all of their favorites 
2) Since they really love the repertoire, they will behave really well so that the games may continue
3) It lets me find out what "stuck" and what are their absolute favorites. I am often surprised by what they remember - a song or book we've only done once or even when they choose something that I am certain they must be sick of.
4) They get to practice the musical concepts that I selected this song for in the first place. 

Here is what my kindergartners voted on today:
 
Once we have enough ideas, the students close their eyes to vote. If they peek their vote does not count. I let them vote twice and I put the number of votes beside each song.


We go in the order of what has the most votes until we run out of time. Today they got to do the "scarf dance" which is a fast/slow activity that I used when we were prepping fast/slow. Now that I have already presented fast/slow, it was fun that they picked this song because now I got to use that terminology when it would shift tempos, reinforcing fast/slow tempo.

Grizzly Bear- I use this song for loud/soft prep and practice. We start the song at a regular singing dynamic, get dramatically softer on "please be very quiet" and cresc. all the way to the end with the last word "MAD". Loud singing, but never shouted. If I model it appropriately, they usually follow suit and will not shout the ending.

Game: there are several games for this song floating out there. Here is the one I do.
Students are seated in a circle. They are the "cave". One student, the "bear" is sleeping the the cave. One person, the "hunter", is walking around the cave during the song. At the end of the song, the hunter tiptoes into the cave (we sing tiptoe tiptoe tiptoe on sol-mi sol-mi sol-mi). The hunter taps the bear and exits the cave and may run around the circle once. The bear must exit the cave at through the same hole and may chase the hunter. Both chose new students to take their place and the game starts again.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

The Peanut Butter and Jelly book was from one of my very first lessons with them and I was surprised they remembered it. I used it when prepping four voices because we sing "Peanut, peanut butter" and whisper "and jelly" and speak each verse. Lots of fun actions that can be added as well!

So here is what my kindergartners thought they were doing:
1) Selecting their favorite songs
2) Having a fun free day

Here's what they were really doing:
1) Gaining more experience with those songs through repetition
2) Having a voice in selecting repertoire for one lesson
3) Practicing their four voices through the book Peanut Butter and Jelly
4) Practicing fast and slow through controlled movement with scarves to Ersko Kolo
5) Continuing to prepare loud/soft through play (the highest form of learning in my opinion!) with Grizzly Bear
6) Communicating to me their favorites from music class
7) Having a joyful experience in music

Not too bad for a "free day", huh?

One more thought - "What happens if I get one lesson behind with this class?" Let's be honest. If they earned a free day, they must be doing something right and are probably getting through a lot more in each lesson than the other classes in their grade level. I don't think they will fall too far behind. ;)

What do you do to reward great music class behavior? Sound off below in the comments!

7 comments:

  1. I have been doing exactly this for my entire teaching career and I LOVE it! The other teachers sometimes raise their eyebrows at me for letting them have so many "parties" (they usually end up with 4-6 free days per year), but they don't realize that they are actually great learning opportunities! In terms of keeping up with other classes- I generally have a review/practice day with the other classes if one class in a grade level is way off from the other classes, so in reality they are doing similar things either way. This year I have done some of the free days as center days, where I have a variety of favorites and review/practice activities (all on the less-intense side) for them to choose from, and that has been a hit as well.

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    1. It is really motivating for students and I love that they get to play the songs and games they love and still get extra musical practice on those concepts. Win - win in my books!

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  2. I have the same type of system in my room too. My "Notable Musicians" get to have Musical Choice Day which is set up the same way you do your free day. I love seeing what they pick because the songs/games/dances/activities are great review work.

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    1. Maybe "Musical Choice" day would sound better to the classroom teacher! Thanks for your idea! :)

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  3. What music do you use for scarf dancing that has a change in tempo?

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    1. Ersko Kolo - it is on Rhythmically Moving #4

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  4. Love your method! Thank you for sharing!

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