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Questions to Ponder as You Setup Your Music Classroom

It is that time of year again.  Time when teachers try to savor the last few days of summer by dreaming about how they will set up the most beautiful, functional and perfect classroom that Pinterest has ever seen.  As I begin my 20th year of teaching I have realized that I have tried a lot of new ideas during the back to school blitz.  Some have been fabulous.  Others have been not so great.  Some ideas I have tweaked and now use all the time.  Other ideas didn't make it through the first week of school!  (Class pet.  LOL!  What was I thinking?)

 So rather than give you a list of the good, the bad and the ugliest classroom set-up ideas, I thought I would walk you through thinking up your own plans.  Be warned.  All of these questions may have you thinking that you’ve stumbled across the Riddler’s blog!

Setting Up the Music Room
How will students move through your room?  Sit in your classroom and imagine how students will enter, get supplies and find a seat.  What things will slow them down or distract them?  Move those!

When it is time to dance is there space?  Will you have to move furniture each time?  If so, what are some ways you can teach students to do this for you?  Consider using a chart to let students know what format the room needs to be in.  My students love to rearrange the classroom!

How the room is usually set up.

For choir days or if we are working on material for a program.

Empty floor with all of the chairs stacked in the back.

Great setup for circle games, drum circles and lots of activities.

How will students get needed supplies?  Will there be an office station where students can get paper and pencil?

Where will you house hand sanitizer and Kleenex?  (May I suggest near a trash can?)

Do you keep clipboards for your students to use for writing activities?  What will you store them in so that they fit when students just toss them in?  I’ve learned that to keep the classroom traffic flowing you should place clipboards a good 8-10 feet from the pencils.  Trust me.
Will students have open access to instruments?  How will you store and label instruments so this process goes quickly?   Some instruments may need to be hidden.  How will you do that?

Stupid pencils.  Every year I try something a little different and every year I am convinced that nothing works!  Lol.  I keep a pencil can because students never remember to bring a pencil each time.  This works well when getting supplies.  The problem?  Disappearing pencils.  I go through hundreds of pencils a year!  How will you handle the pencil problem?
When I taught computers I added a label with masking tape to remind students to leave the pencil they borrowed from me in the lab. 
Space for Students
Where will students be for most of the learning?  Floor, carpet, carpet squares, chairs, risers?  How will you optimize this space to keep students on task? Will you use a seating chart? 

Space for You
Where will you be for most of your teaching time?  Will you be at the piano?  Your desk?  Standing at a podium?  What will you sit on for those rare moments when you can sit down and teach for a minute or two?  I use a stool at the piano so I can see everything in the classroom even while sitting.  Instead of sitting on the floor I have a preschool sized chair that I sit on when I lead the little ones.  That being said I really do end up sitting on the floor a lot!

What supplies do you HAVE to have near you when you teach?  How will you store those?  I call mine a “launch pad”.  I have my remotes, iPad, attendance/seating chart book, lesson plan sheet and whatever manipulatives I may need for the day. 

The Rest Area
Will you have an area for separating students that need a moment to get calm or collect themselves?  What will that look like?  How will it work?  Can you stick to it?

Lining Up
Will students line up in your room? In the hall? 

Will they line up by rows? By numbers? By shirt color?  Will you honor classroom line leaders and cabooses? (You don’t have to, you know.)

What will be the student cue for lining up?  Is there a lining up song?

Will you recognize student awesomeness when they line up?  Sometimes I give out little certificates or treats before they leave.

What kinds of things do you want up all year long?  What will you change to keep your room interesting?  Do you need to post daily announcements?  What spaces in your room are a little ugly and need covering up? What unusual things can you decorate?  (ceilings, trash cans, doors, windows, the backs of chairs, etc…)
Some boards I like to leave up all year:
Musicians are Writers -This board actually stays on my wall right above the writing station that stores pencils, paper, folders, crayons, etc...  Great cross curricular reminders here.
Careers in Music  -One of my goals as a teacher (even an elementary teacher!) is to prep kids to be great adults!  How?  Well...showing them that a love for music can translate into several job opportunities that are NOT just performance.  This great board works K-12.  
Quotes About Music -Here's one of the posters below.  LOVE them!  (and they print pretty good in black and white on my old school copier!).


"aDOORable Composers" - Okay..so I never feel like I have enough time to focus on composers in class.  I use Composers of the Month and I plan things, but it seems that music history always gets the short end of the stick.  So each month last year I posted a composer sheet from Meet the Composers on the door of my classroom where students line up.  I printed out a simple sign that said "aDOORable Composers" to hang above it.  Students that were waiting in line had something colorful and educational to look at!  WIN!

Paper Work
What is your plan for handling the ton of paperwork that will cross your desk?  Folders? Drawers? Binders?  I use a combination of things to tame my paper monsters.  Right now I’m really into 3-ring binders.  I’m using this one to keep things organized.
One way I organize papers for the week is with days of the week folders,
Whew! What a list!  Hopefully you have a great plan to create a beautiful and functional space for your teaching adventures this year.  I look forward to seeing your photos!

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  1. I laughed out loud when you mentioned how far pencils have to be from clipboards. It's so true! I wish I could have read this post my first year of teaching. It would have saved me some time with moving furniture around:)

  2. Awesome post! Now I only need a room ... Using a church room with a fireplace an armchairs - it's cozy, but has no storage and you can't leave anything up ;)

  3. Last year I taught music the last quarter in our church's children's room so there was nothing up for music. This year I will be teaching it all year in a room specifically for music. This information is great for music and also for my technology classes also.

  4. This is a great post. While I have a great room and 2 LARGE closets, I have very little shelving in the room itself. It is impractical to put everything, like the instruments I will be using all week, back in the closet every day. They usually end up pushed against a wall or under keyboard tables so the custodians can vacuum. I don't have a great system for managing supplies and pencils (and mine walk away, too!) in the room. I'm going to take on this challenge first and use your day of the week folder idea. Thanks!

  5. I LOVE this post! I have already shared this with several new music teachers and it will continue to be a part of my new music teacher Bible, I guarantee! Thanks for linking up :) #fermatafridays