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What's Your Name?
Often times, the hardest part about being a Music teacher is learning to remember all of your new students’ names. Once that's accomplished, you need to match their personalities and abilities as well. The key to remembering names of students faster and getting to know them better is to find many different methods for seating arrangements and to use various memorizing tactics and getting to know you activities.
On the first day of Music class, I always have my primary students sit in a circle on the floor. The key, however, is to get them organized and sit in the same space every time so that I can get to know their names better by associating it with their location. Prior to the beginning of school, I go to a school supply store and buy big black adhesive letters that will stick to the floor. I then assign each student a letter and that is their permanent spot when they come in to sit down. However, I do not always go in order alphabetically if I know certain students are going to act up. It does help with roll call if you do choose to do it that way though.
In the past, I also have used blue tape and assigned students a number to sit on, but I find the tape comes off frequently and you find yourself wasting prep time re-taping the floor. I then use carpet squares for them to take from the pile and sit on and you can find these at a carpet store and usually for free. When there are empty spaces, I can easily see who is absent. This method saves so much time for I do not have to go through each attendance list.
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I then introduce my students to the “Hello Song", which is something I made up that is easy for them to remember. It is an echo song where the students repeat back each phrase.
The Hello Song
Hello. (Hello) Sol Mi
How are you? (How are you?) Sol Sol Mi
How are you today? (How are you today?) Sol Sol Mi La Sol Mi
I’m fine. (I’m fine) Fa Re
I’m really fine. (I’m really fine) Fa Fa Fa Re (you can exaggerate here)
I hope we stay this way. (I hope we stay this way) Re Sol Fa Mi Re Do
After the song I then say “Hello (student’s name) and they respond “Hello Mrs. M. (which is my name). I go around the circle until everyone is called and responds. This is not only a way of taking roll, but it is to keep my students on their toes waiting for me to sing to them next. This name game also teaches the concept of echo singing and call and response.
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The Name Game
In the past I have also used the “Name Game" song to introduce the students to each other as well. We will go around the room singing the song until everyone is introduced. By using these silly games, the students will tend to remember names and faces better than just stating them and it will help me as well. I firmly believe (and maybe I am biased) that singing is one of the best memorization tactics there is.
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This activity is good for students who are little older. The challenging part of teaching music to intermediate (grades 4-6) and middle (grades 7-8) school students is keeping their interest in class and being able to get them to actively participate and appreciate its worth. Often times, many of these students will find music class "silly" and "babyish" (in their words) and to prevent this way of thinking, we as teachers must take into account the fact that they want to be treated as young adults.
A good way to get my intermediate and middle school general Music students to “open up" is by taking a Music survey on their interests where I present them with a worksheet of a list of questions about various aspects in/of Music and their exposure to it prior to this class. Here is the list of questions they have to write a brief response for:
- Do you play any musical instruments or sing? If yes, which ones and for how long?
- Do you take music lessons right now? If not, have you in the past and what type?
- Do you perform in a musical ensemble right now?
- Would you rather perform on your instrument or sing for the class solo or with a classmate?
- List 3-5 live music concerts you have been to in the past year.
- Name your favorite musical style (s) to listen to.
- Name your 3 favorite musicians or musical groups.
- List suggestions, if any, of songs you would like us to sing in music class at school (reasonable suggestions only; exclude profane lyrics)
- If you had to select a music profession, what would it be and why?
- If you had to select a country to study music from for one year, which would you choose and why?
There have been occasions in my teaching where some of the students will immediately frown upon having to write so I usually let them work on their questions quietly together in small groups.
When the students are finished with their answers, I will ask for volunteers to share their responses and I will ask them to write some on the board. They really enjoy this and like learning what their peers listen to and what their fellow interests are. I then will take home their responses and take some of the more popular answers and put them on poster board to hang up for the school year.
During free music time, which may happen at the end of some lessons, I will often let my middle school students listen to some of their favorite selections or suggestions. I always try to take their interests to heart and modify some of my lessons to incorporate their suggestions and cultural backgrounds for I know this will encourage them to want to continuously learn and grow through music.
- Author's own Music classroom experience.