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Simple, Effective Organization That Works!

Janice Bengtson • Rehearsal • October 6, 2016

Are you tired of handing students the same piece of music over and over again? What I tried with limited and poor results: I spent three years teaching band in a Title I school outside Atlanta, Georgia. My student’s, were excited about band, loved to play, but every day I was reinventing the wheel by redistributing music that was lost or supposedly “stolen.” It was time consuming and frustrating. I recognized my students dealt with a great deal of disorganization and general chaos in their home life that naturally carried over into the school. While I was empathetic, I still needed to solve two problems to maximize my teaching time and teach students how to organize and take control for themselves. Problem one: organizing materials for class and home use, and problem two getting lost materials back to the student who owned them.

My first attempt at problem one: each student came up with their own three-ring black binder and a supply of sheet protectors to keep music, and method book. For my high achieving students, that seemed to work (although there were consistent issues with getting students to remove music from the sheet protector to mark on it and reinsert). Problem number two then emerged: When students misplaced their band notebook, I was hunting through the entire notebook trying to figure out who it belonged to, a time consuming task. With very limited success: I still had many students requesting another copy of the music every day – so the solution was not successful for all students.

Fast forward, now I team teach in Springdale, Arkansas at a Title I school with similar issues of disorganization, poverty, etc. We anticipated it would be difficult to get students to get a notebook on their own, so our plan was to assemble in bulk all the materials our students need to be organized so our classes have maximum time on instruction. Our band notebook includes:

Problem one solved: every student buys the notebook as a complete package ready to go. This will only work if the teacher makes it important that everyone’s notebook must be kept in the same order, and importance given to the organization aspect.

Getting students to be consistently organized: I normally do a notebook order graded quiz. I put the notebook order up on screen giving students the opportunity to rearrange their notebook for an easy “A.” On quiz day I simply stand behind the class with their notebooks on the music stand and we turn pages together checking, students have to grade themselves and quickly see the serious of keeping your notebook in order.

Giving students practice for efficiency: every day we warm up in tab two, in the order things are placed in the notebook. Rhythm of week. warm- ups, then scales. It doesn’t take long for students to realize it’s really easy to just flip pages in order. They quickly begin recognize how easy it is to say such and such is the 3rd paper in concert music tab, no one is hunting for the page, no lost music, etc.

Results: Once students are set up and realize I am serious about the organization piece, I have not had to replace a single piece of music this year or hand out – not even one! My students will now hold and wait when a new piece of music and ask “which tab does this go in and in what specific order?” They want to get it right and enjoy not having to hunt for their own materials.

I would have never believed being so specific on a simple thing like a notebook would have such a big impact on my teaching, but it has. There’s just something about being very specific about order and class uniformity that connects with the students – try it, it works!


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