Dazzling Discipline

Dazzling Discipline

Aileen Miracle from Mrs. Miracle’s Music Room is hosting a linky party about discipline strategies in the music room!  I’m linking up and adding some approaches that I’ve used successfully in my classroom.

dazzling discipline 1

High Expectations

          I believe a teacher needs to have high expectations in their classroom.  Although I’m far from perfecting my management plan, I consider myself a good classroom manager.  Yes, I make mistakes and frequently wish I’d done something different in a situation but, every year, I strive to improve and grow.

          If we have low expectations for our students, they will meet them but is that really the goal?

          I have worked in all kinds of situations at the elementary level.  From poverty to wealth, from neglectful to helicopter parents, across language barriers and learning capabilities, I have been there.  The thing that must remain is our expectations for our students.  It’s like in “Field of Dreams.” “If you build it, they will come.”  If you expect it, they will rise.

          The college professor for my one (yes, 1) course on elementary music told us to only have 3-5 rules in our classroom.  I did that my first year.  The next year I went all philosophical and went with The One Rule (which was respect).  Then I did the Respect X 3 (Respect the property of everyone, Respect others, Respect yourself).  I finally settled on the 12 Rules of Music which is pretty much the opposite of what any educational guru will tell you but whatevs.  It has worked for me because I get to spell out EXACTLY what I want from my students instead of giving them a vague understanding of the classroom expectations.

Click Photo for More!

          As you can see, I have some random rules and we sing them to the 12 Days of Christmas the first week of school.  I keep this bulletin board up all year so students can be reminded.

          Again, no one recommends this but, I’m such a spaz, it works for me.  I NEED a rule that says random sounds are off or else I will be completely distracted. 😉

          As I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I should have put this at the end because it sums up the others.  It sounds so vague to have high expectations for your students.  Duh, Cara.  Of course I have high expectations.  What exactly do you mean?

          I guess, I’m trying to say that, we are creating the next generation.  Yes, their parents are raising them but every adult a child comes in contact with forms a piece of that child.  They are our legacy and we don’t know which child it may be that carries a piece of us with them forever.  We are tasked with teaching our curriculum but also creating the whole person.  Teachers, parents, specialists, etc are all shareholders in the life of each individual child.  We all have immense workloads and schedules.  We all have good days and bad days but we’re teachers.  We chose to make the world a better place through educating the future.

          Wow, that may have gotten out of hand.  Oh well, maybe I should add: passion to my lists of musts for good discipline.  If you’re selling it, they’ll buy in.

dazzling discipline 2

Practice Procedures

I want my students to enter the room quietly and begin their opening marching activity.  After the marching activity, I want them to quietly find their assigned seats on the risers.  I can give that instruction and lay it out there but that doesn’t mean it is going to happen.

Procedures must be taught just like your content.  If my essential question is “Students can enter the room quietly,” I need to explore how I am going to get that result.  Have students define what quietly is and isn’t.  How do they enter the room (in a line, in a herd)?  If in a line, what does that line look like (single file, shaped like a snake)?  Is there another time they may use that same procedure (relating it to their world)?  What do they do before they enter the room quietly?  What do they do after?  On a side note: I sometimes demonstrate inappropriate behavior to crack the kids up.  I over-exaggerate the mistakes but they get the idea.

After you have mapped out the exact procedure you want your students to do, have them PRACTICE it just like you would with a content strand.  Yes, practice having them leave and enter your classroom.  It may seem silly but, if you see your students once a week, they are not going to remember that you told them to enter the classroom quietly.  It needs to become automatic.  They enter the classroom quietly because that is what is expected and routine.

Now, the thing about procedures is that teaching them is the easy part.  Yeah, it takes up class time at the beginning of the school year, but, trust me, it’s well worth it.  The hardest thing about procedures (especially when we don’t see our students every day) is being diligent about students doing things the way they were taught/expected to do.  I want my students to enter the classroom quietly but they are loud and rambunctious outside my door.  Well then, I wait.  It doesn’t long for them to get the hint.  If the students enter the classroom talking, send them back out to try again.  They obviously need the practice and that is what I tell them.  If they are not doing the expectation, they must need practice.

But Cara!  If I wait on them to get quiet, I’ll lose instructional time.  Yes, that is a consequence of their behavior.  Remember, this is your classroom.  You are the one in control.  Do not let the children’s behavior be in control of your classroom because, if you give in on things like entering the room quietly, you will lose the bigger battles ahead.  They will push the boundaries.  It is up to you to create the environment where that will not be tolerated.  Losing instructional time at the beginning is way better than constantly repeating yourself and reminding students of the preferred behavior.  I say preferred because, if you’re not enforcing it, it’s not going to be the routine.

Back to the loss of instructional time, lessons usually have multiple parts.  If students come in late due to behavior, I alter the lesson accordingly.  If there was a dance or game, that’s what gets cut.  We talk about it at the end of class. “Why did we not get to do the entire lesson and the game that went with our learning?” “Because we didn’t enter the room quietly.”  “What can we do next time so that we can avoid this happening again?”  “Enter the room quietly”  Of course, I don’t let it end there.  We re-discuss all of the aspects of that procedure just like at the beginning.  At the beginning of the next class, I’ll remind them of the expectation.

For specific procedures I use in my classroom, go to my post on Terrific Transitions.


dazzling discipline 3

Structure & Organization

What do your children see when they enter your classroom?  Do they get right to work on a planned activity or are they sitting idly while the lesson materials are being prepared?  Can your students easily find materials they need or are they constantly asking where the pencils are located?  Do your students have assigned seats or requirements for a seat of their choosing?  All of these seemingly simple things can make a huge difference in your classroom environment.

Chaos is not conducive to learning but, unfortunately, as music teachers, our creative side sometimes interferes with our ability to stay organized and structured.  Some people prefer to have music be a more unstructured class but I disagree.  Children can still explore if there are structural limits.  I have a very structured classroom (for a music teacher at least) but it’s because, contrary to my creative music side, I’m a very straightforward, analytical person in my job.

I have always used a seating chart.  I like the control of knowing where each child is going to sit/stand/sing.  I like the ability to separate possible problems before they occur.  As my situation has changed, the seating chart has changed.  I’ve had risers, chairs, carpets, stars on the ceiling; you make it work.

This year, I used iDoceo for both my seating chart and a grade book.  My district uses a specific program/host for gradebook but I don’t enter EVERYTHING in there for many reasons.  The format doesn’t make sense for music and most of the data is just for me anyway.  I grade on participation only not skill assessment so why have that in the official gradebook.

Anyway, what I like about iDoceo is the ability to move children as needed (I had previously used an excel spread sheet and it was quite a pain to reformat it at times) and associate a picture with them.  Unfortunately, due to confidentiality, I can not show specific images of what I did this year so these images came from the iDoceo website.


Now, this is obviously basic rows but I was able to put students as my risers were formatted.  If I needed to move a student, I could just move their avatar without having to delete and retype like in previous documents I had used.  Plus, their information traveled with them as they moved from seat to seat in the room.


I also like that you can add pictures, video, notes, and attachments to iDoceo to document everything that goes with each individual child.  You can also take attendance which I don’t have to do but I choose to do for documentation purposes.  Texas recently passed HB8 which limits the amount of time students can be pulled from the arts for remediation.  It can not exceed 10% without parent approval and I strive to be a diligent record keeper.


I don’t even use all the features of the app but it is well worth the $6.99 price point in my opinion.  It also has a diary/planner option as well as a schedule. I prefer Google for my calendar but that’s so I can sync and access it anywhere since I have multiple devices.



dazzling discipline 4

 Observing and Publicizing the Positive

I do a lot of watching and instead of saying “Coco is doing a great job,” I might say “Coco is picking up all of the trash that was left on the floor.”  It is very fact based rather than opinion.  “Great” is arbitrary.  It is meaningless without student buy-in.  Statements also take the motivation away from trying to please the teacher specifically.  It puts the action back on the student.  Instead of them remembering they did a good job in my opinion, they remember that they helped others by picking up the trash.

Our students are taught to give “I” messages in conflict resolution.  We, as teachers, model those “I” messages as well so another phrase I might say is, “I appreciate how Bobby is raising his hand to get my attention” or “I see that Joey is sitting criss cross on the carpet”  Again, it is factual.  It is precise.  It also reminds the other students of the behavior that is desired.

Class Dojo is a tool I use to give precise feedback.  Teachers can sign up for a free account, input their students, and customize desired behaviors.  Students receive points for various activities and you can weight different behaviors with different values.  Below are the behaviors I used for 2nd-6th Grade.  I projected the class screen for students to see and could give points with the companion app on my iPad.  That way, I am not tethered to the front of the classroom.  (More on teaching un-tethered to come!)  Obviously, I can’t have the screen up during the entire lesson but I could still give points via my iPad and the students would know when (because it “ding-ed”).  They just wouldn’t know who but that made it more fun after the lesson.  class dojo


class dojo


When students reached 25 points, they earned a prize or a privilege.  The privilege works best with the older students (4th+) and I used things such as sit with a friend, free iPad time during our intro activity, etc.  I did the prize with the little ones but am looking into other things as well instead something tangible.  I keep my prizes in the Smarty Pants.

See them by the door!

See them by the door!


Another tool I use is something I created about five years ago.  It is called the Keys to Musical Success and it is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store if you are interested.  At the end of class, students assess themselves on five behaviors (that encompass many others but these are spelled out).  You can see the behaviors below.  I do emphasize the entering and leaving on this assessment because I want to start and end on a positive note.  We go through each behavior together and decide if that “key” was earned for the day.  I do add my own input and remind students of anything that happened in class but I try to leave it up to them as much as possible so they will take ownership of their behavior.  The classroom teachers are usually really good and will ask the students how many keys they earned for the day.

I laminate these so I can color in the keys with a dry erase marker and reuse them.  Once students have filled in the keys, they earn a celebration.  I use the word “celebration” because we are celebrating the group’s efforts.  A celebration might be singing game they love to play or a just dance video after the lesson.  If it’s nice outside, I’ll let them play a music game behind my building.  For more information about the Keys to Musical Success specifically, click on the image below to read more about it.

Click image to go to Blog Post

Click image to go to Blog Post

The Keys to Musical Success facilitate whole group behavior observation like Class Dojo facilitates the individual.  Both of these tools also provide data.  A teacher asks how a student behaves in your class; you have the data there to tell you.  An administrator asks how a teacher’s class compares to another behavior-wise, you have that data about their behavior on a daily basis (how often they fill it up, the average number of keys they earn as a class)  It also shows students how they compare with other classes because they see the different charts in my classroom.

dazzling discipline

Enforcing the Consequences

I know.  This isn’t fun.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and there will always be students that will push our buttons and cause problems.  Even the best classroom manager isn’t immune to those experiences.

The main thing is: If you have a consequence, enforce it.  One of my classes of first graders this year was extremely difficult.  Class Dojo didn’t work for them so I didn’t bother.  Instead, I used an old faithful: writing names on the board.  If a student got their name on the board, they knew they had a warning.  If they earned a check, they sat in time-out for 7 minutes (I base time-out on the student’s age).  If they earned a second check, I wrote in their behavior folder.  Some teachers brought the folder bag to specials.  Some students had to return later in the day for me to write in it.  Tears have no effect on me.  They had their warning and their in-class consequence.  That apparently did not work.  Their behavior folder is supposed to be signed on a daily basis and effects their citizenship grade in their homeroom.

I mentioned that tears have no effect on me.  I don’t have a heart of stone but I want my students to know that tears can not erase the negative behaviors that occurred.  Real life has consequences.  Like I mentioned before, we are creating the next generation and it is in our best interest to teach cause and effect rather than wishy-washy discipline.

If I write in their behavior folder more than two or three times in a grading period, something else must be done.  Obviously, there is a bigger problem.  As fellow shareholders, that is the point you need to call the parent.  I know, it’s not fun but it is our responsibility to remedy the problem so that the student can be as successful as possible.  Now, if you go in guns a-blazing “your child did this or that,” you will hit a brick wall of a parent protecting their cub.  However, you come in from the standpoint of “I am concerned about how this behavior that I am seeing is effecting his/her learning” and “I want your son/daughter to be as successful as possible,” you will see a partner in the situation.

Finally, if you threaten it, do it.  Don’t threaten something you can’t deliver on or else they will learn that what you say regarding behavior is meaningless.  Remain calm, factual, and in control.  It is your classroom.


Well, I hope that makes sense.  I stray sometimes when I get particularly fiery about a subject but I tried to stay on point with this one.  If you have any questions or comments or just want a listening ear regarding a situation on your campus, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.  You can email me at miscellaneouscara (at) gmail (dot) come or comment on this post below.   I hope you have a wonderful summer and good luck!

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Dazzling Discipline

  1. Pingback: These are a Few of my Favorite Things! |

  2. Pingback: Teaching Untethered: Wireless Technology in the Classroom Presentation |

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