Deirdre Moore | September 2017

How to Artfully Manage your Classroom

Classroom management has been the boogie-man for many a teacher.  It’s one of the most important elements of a successful classroom and yet teacher training programs are infamous for not adequately training students to be ready to manage a classroom upon graduation.  For those new teachers it is often trial and error.  Some teachers figure it out and stick with the profession, others do not.  Or, they don’t figure it out but they stay in the profession and two important things happen: valuable time is lost and student learning is sacrificed.  The arts and arts integration are by no means a panacea but they can help create a stronger classroom environment and curb some of those bug-a-boo classroom management issues.

Artful Classroom Management?

Transitions: This is always an area where valuable teaching time can be lost and misbehaviors can creep in but this where all teachers can learn a lesson from preschool and kindergarten.  They have a song or a chant for everything!  The songs or chants remind the students of the expected behavior and can also be a natural time setting tool.  By the end of the song, the students know where they need to be and what needs to have been done.  If the students sing through the transition they are telling themselves what they need to do.  This may be harder with older students but not if you enlist their help in creating the song or chant. 

  • Have them brainstorm with you the expectations and then help you write the song to a familiar tune (or create a chant that doesn’t require a tune, just a steady beat).
    • Use recorded music as a non-verbal cue for students to transition so long as the expectations are created and understood ahead of time.

    Differentiation: One thing that can cause management issues is that some students are bored during an activity they find too easy while other students are frustrated with something that feels too challenging.  The beauty of the arts and arts integration is that they allow for open-ended classroom activities that engage all levels of students.  While the entry point might be the same, students can take it as far as they are capable of going.

    Engagement: Related to differentiation is engagement.  Lack of engagement can stem from many things including boredom or frustration.  However, making art requires doing.  There is nothing passive about it.  Students almost have no choice but to be engaged.  There will be students who resist making art but if the students are allowed to access the arts safely, they generally jump in and join with others engaged in the learning activity.  Engagement means less disruptive behavior.

    Success:  Some students don’t succeed in a traditional classroom.  Their talents lie elsewhere.  Some students don’t learn well through traditional methods.  Some students need to get up and move or create meaning by creating art.  If you provide many opportunities for different ways to learn and express understanding, more students will be engaged and successful and that always makes for a smoother classroom environment.  Kids also get to see one another in a new light which can improve classroom dynamics.  When they see a student who normally does not succeed in school create an amazing clay sculpture, a new respect and new expectations develop both from the child and from her/his peers.

    As you enter into your new school year think about areas that have been challenging for you in classroom management and consider how the arts might be leveraged to help you and your students have a happier and more successful school year!

    Additional Resources for Classroom Management: 

    The ABCs of Classroom Management by Dyan Branstetter

    Classroom Management: How to Value Our Students by Lauren Hodson

    The Key to Classroom Management by Typhani Harris

    About the Author

    Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.