How to Manage Monsters in Your Classroom

How to Manage Monsters in Your Classroom

Classroom management in the music classroom can be a challenge during the Holidays.  When I say “monsters”, I don’t mean real monsters, I mean how to manage the students when there’s a full moon, or it’s Halloween, actually, anytime! For me, it’s easy to get caught up in lesson planning, program planning, practicing, arranging the room and scheduling practices and events. Classroom management is the LAST thing I want to think about-but the advice I hear the most from my regular ed friends is that classrooms run smoother and teacher stress is less when classroom management is addressed. (And I did NOT intend for that to rhyme!)

I hear a lot of talk going on lately about how kids are changing-there’s “change their growth mindset”, “power teaching”, “whole brain teaching”, “mindful teaching”, and a slew of other plans and ideas. So I thought I’d share 4 things that I use in my classroom alongside these other ideologies to help manage the monsters in your classroom.Here’s some questions for you and me: What’s your perspective on classroom management? Do you have a plan? How do you manage monsters in your classroom? Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to manage the monsters in your classroom this coming week.


I have a very clear and accountable plan for the students to follow and it is student directed. I have my rules posted on the board and I FREQUENTLY remind students of consequences to poor choices. I use those words.  What happens when we make a poor choice? How can we make good choices? A visual and clear list of rules is very important. How many warnings will you give your students before applying a consequence? Do you give out the consequence immediately? Do you talk to the student first-or afterwards? These are important questions to ask yourself before you implement any kind of plan.

Most of all-I believe that whatever plan you implement, you need to really believe in it and the plan has to be true to who you are as a person. What resonates with you? I for one, know that some children will respond to a consequence with EXACTLY the thing you have told them not to do. So-it’s important to be very clear if you’re giving 1-2-3 warnings and how the consequence will be applied. I know I can’t control the mood of the students when they come into my room. But in order to manage monsters, having a plan gives me a higher chance for success. Here’s a fun-but simple song you can use to remind students of their manners.” Keep Your Hands, Feet and Words to Yourself.”

One thing I like to do is to “sing” the rules instead of “say” them. I have found that students respond very calmly and cooperatively to the singing voice. Don’t worry if you don’t have a great voice! They will believe it when you sing it!So I use A LOT of songs and silent signs to get students attention.  Here are some I wrote-for FREE!

Freebie Line Up and Brain Break Chants, Songs and Activities
Line Up and Brain Break Chants and Songs








and an adorable set of Manners and Classroom Rules Posters (Free)

Freebie: Manners and Classroom Rules Posters
Manners and Classroom Rules Posters









I have my “tools and props” prepared ahead of time and easily accessible for students and me to use. I have my instruments set out in buckets, I have the projector on when they come in the room, I have my music or other materials organized on the table or in drawers. All I have to do is “teach”. These are my “worksheet” drawers. The crayons and pencils are stacked above in small cups for easy student use.I love these open shelves where I can stack my flash cards, games and instruments.

I’m a visual learner and so I tend to create and use tools that are very “visual”. I came up with these “Magic” tools to help my students use their eyes, ears, hands and feet to help them keep attentive. When I ask students to use their “magic glasses”, I have their immediate attention. I pretend to put on glasses, or magic shoes, or wipe magic glue on my feet. This not only get’s my student’s attention-it gives them something to do. It’s a positive way to manage hands, feet, eyes and ears.

I create playlists on YouTube so that I have the lessons ready to go.

Here are two Halloween Blog Posts that have activities and ideas for Halloween including my Playlist link:























I use alot of visuals and these “Magic” tools have come in handy. And it’s another way to manage monsters in music class. If my students are messing around instead of doing what they are supposed to do, I’ll say; “Let’s get out our magic music glasses and check out this instrument over here. Why, what’s going on with this instrument?” When everyone puts on their magic music glasses, we all see the same thing! It’s a great tool to manage monsters.

Freebie: Magic Teaching Tools Posters


Hey-no one’s in a good mood all the time. So it helps me too to stay positive with my students. In fact, it’s going to work that helps me be positive! I’m so grateful that I get to have a job teaching music to children. Though there are tough days, most of all, it’s been a thing of joy for me. I have noticed that students are positive when I’m positive. If I have a little prop to help me-then it’s so much easier to be positive. Many times I’ll use a puppet to teach the lesson or to get student’s attention. And they are fantastic for helping to manage monsters. If you want to read more about that- “Why I Use Puppets in Music Class”.

It’s amazing to me how well children respond to puppets.If you want, you can read more about using puppets in the classroom in this blog post. Why I Use Puppets in Music Class


I think every teacher has a special “super-power” that they can call upon to help them in difficult situations. It may be a great sense of humor, the ability to make up silly songs that diffuse a situation, it may be a winning smile or the ability to hug kids and make them feel great. Whatever your super-power might be-it’s important to find it and use it freely! It really helps to have my super power ready on the days I know it’s going to be hard to manage the monsters.

I find that if I’m comfortable and calm with my lessons, my communication, and have confidence in my classroom management plan, I’m much better equipped to handle the times when the “monsters” come out. It’s good to have “tricks” up your sleeve to either diffuse a difficult situation or, correct one so that the class can move on! What’s your super power?







Here’s some ideas from a different post; “5 Tips for An Amazing Back to School”


I like to set up little competitions that go on between classes of the same grade level.  What’s really cool is that the classroom teachers LOVE this too!  They check to see where their class is in relationship to the other classes. It’s super effective.

Basically, the class get’s 1-3 stickers for good behavior. That means that only 1 student has made a poor choice and had to sit in my thinking time.  If more than one student has to sit out-then the class doesn’t get a sticker. This simple chart has more POWER than any words I might say. It works because it requires ACTION and ACTION gives you power.

Holding these types of competitions can really change my game in the music classroom. It’s also a very positive way to reward good choices. Classes that go the extra mile might earn 2-3 stickers in one class time. When a class receives 10 stickers they get a reward day. At the end of the competition, I’ll give the winning class a “free day”. They choose the music activity!

This is my way to proactively hedge against having to manage monsters in my classroom. It works really well for a short time period like the three weeks before a break or a concert, or right before the holidays.  If you’d like a copy of these charts, all you need to do is subscribe to the Free Resource Library!


I also use wrist bands and brag tags and even little stickers to reward students and motivate them to keep doing their best.










Here’s some other blog posts on classroom management:
“Why Not Teach Students to Be Calm”

These monster posters to help students visualize where they are in their learning and performing. I ask the students if they like to play video games…well, we’re going to play a video game-LIVE! We are going to see if we can beat the monster!

I begin by asking; “Can we learn the words/melody/concept before class is out?” And then I move a clip up and down the cards to show the students their level of learning. I also use them for behavior. If the class has been rowdy, I move the clip down to level 1. Now they have to earn their way back up the levels. Our goal is to be at level 6 all the time. The monster theme works really well with all grades.

Ideas:Use in the classroom to help students visualize their level of achievement or behavior.

Relate the posters to “Beating the Monster” in a Video game.

“How do we beat the monster?”  Then tell students your expectations.  Keep the goals short and very  specific. For example: Let’s see if we can get to Level 6 (the highest) by having EVERYONE complete their rhythm writing assignment before it’s time to go.

Let’s see if we can beat the monster-all we have to do is memorize the third verse in our song.  Simple and concrete goals are much easier for elementary students to understand.  Achieving level 6 will be an accomplishment! Cheer! “Yay” do a dance-break out the smile!

After using the Level’s for a while, your students will be able to self-assess.

This  means you can then ask them, “what level do you think that work/effort was?”

An  honest appraisal is a good thing for students to learn how to do. If enables them to see where they are, where they came from and where they need to  go—great skills to develop for all of us teachers too!  I know that if I have the VISUAL tools and the MENTAL attitude in the right place-I can manage monsters in my classroom. Because it’s not in my power to “make” student do anything- I want to motivate and cultivate a climate of learning.

Managing monsters in the music room helps to keep teaching and learning music as the top priority in my classroom.
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