Star student & other class rewards
"Oh you teach classroom music? Ohmigosh, that must be so much fun! That's not working, that sounds easy!"
Excuse me while I look around for something to throw.
But, all things considered, we are pretty lucky in our choice of subject matter - most primary-aged kids do love coming to music! And, whilst it is far from easy, it could certainly be much worse - we could be teaching maths.
That being said, in every school, possibly even in every class, there will be students for whom music is just not their thing. That's totally fine, but it can become an issue if it is so much not their thing that they start to disengage and act out due to boredom or a lack of understanding.
I try to combat this proactively by doing the following:
1. Making music fun!
I put a lot of thought into how to best make the material engaging for my students - the way in is so often through games and imaginative storytelling.
2. Setting clear expectations
The first lesson of the year, we never really get into much in-depth theoretical learning or worksheets. What we do a lot instead is talk about the class rules and expectations. We make a class agreement about how to behave in the music room. Check out my post on setting up those New Year expectations here
3. Using behavioural incentives & rewards
To help out those students who sometimes struggle doing good for goodness' sake, I also use a couple of reward systems in music lessons to help keep kids on track.
Class Star Chart
Here you can see part of my Star Chart (blank at the start of the year - now some of those classes have earned quite a few stars!) on which we track our behavioural progress.
Each class expresses their musical class agreement differently, but they all boil down to two main points: Listening and Showing Respect.
At the end of each lesson I ask if they have all listened and shown respect to the best of their ability. If they have - by following all instructions promptly, being kind to each other, treating instruments with respect, not calling out etc. - then we get to place a star on the chart.
When the class hits 20 stars, their next music lesson will be a free time session where the students get to vote on musical games and activities that they've enjoyed in the past.
This is a really great session for me as a teacher as I get to see what activities have really resonated with them, what's been enjoyable and also gives fresh insight into the class dynamic during the voting process at the start of the lesson!
I also find that the promise of this reward is usually enough to keep most students on track, even though they might not reach the reward for more than half the year!
This is an idea that I have unabashedly ripped off from the lovely Aileen Miracle over at Mrs. Miracle' s Music Room.
At the end of the lesson, if there is a particular student or two who have stood out by doing great work, then they are chosen as "Star Student" and get to roll a dice.
You could of course use an ordinary die or an electronic version, but I have a large foam version that also doubles as seating in my classroom that I roll out (pun intended) for Star Students.
The student then rolls the dice and whichever number they land on, that is the prize they will receive from a list of 6.
You can customise your prize list to include anything you like, but here are some popular suggestions I've used in the past:
Lucky dip from a prize box (my prize box contains bouncy balls, yo-yos, bubble mix, gel pens etc.)
An extra star on the class star chart
Tying in with any whole-school rewards - my current school uses a "Gotcha" raffle ticket system where good behaviour will get your name on a raffle ticket which gets drawn at the weekly assembly by the principal - pretty exciting!
A special musical activity like playing a gong
Special seating - I have a toadstool which I reserve for star students to sit on in their next lesson
You can find a customisable template for the Star Student rewards on my Teachers Pay Teachers store