Setting Up Projects
One of the most common classroom management issues I see when I observe student teachers is failure to adequately set up the instructions and environment for complex projects. In fact, sometimes teachers avoid the arts because they are too "messy" or too difficult to control. This is unfortunate, because children can learn procedures for engaging in the arts safety and in an organized manner. The following five steps are intended as possibilities to consider when setting up an arts project whether visual or performing arts.
First, make sure you have everyone’s undivided attention. It doesn't matter how good your instructions are if the children aren't paying attention. If someone isn't paying attention, you will have to give that individual the same instructions again. So, get their attention now and keep their attention so you don't have to keep repeating yourself.
Second, give all instructions up front, or at least as many as possible. If the project is complex enough that you can't give the instructions up front, then plan the increments and what instructions will be given at each. Try to anticipate any problems that will come up (distributing materials, steps in the process, behavior, time). In my experience, you can't anticipate too much. Do not let the students begin any part of the process yet; sometimes you have to tell them to sit back down and wait until all instructions have been given.
Third, review the instructions with the students to make sure they understand. Ask them questions about what they are going to do. Have them explain to a neighbor what they are going to do. This might seem like a waste of time, but resist the urge to skip this step. It is well worth it to take the time now so you don't need to get their attention while they are engaged in the project and less interested in listening to you.
Fourth, especially for complex projects, include an example and/or a written set of instructions. This is so that the students who have questions can refer to the written instructions rather than raise their hands and wait for you to come and tell them what to do. Be sure to include in the instructions that if they get stuck and don't know what to do next they should consult the written instructions. Your instructions and written instructions can include an example if necessary. Sometimes I avoid giving an example because then everyone's project turns out similar to the example. However, sometimes an example is necessary.
Fifth, proceed with the project. Tell the students "okay, go ahead and begin." If everything has been set up and anticipated in advance, your role is simply to wander around the room and offer help as needed. Sometimes teachers are uncomfortable with the noise level during group projects especially. However, animated communication is essential in successful group projects, so if it's not getting in the way of the process or interrupting other classes, maybe a bit of noise is okay. If you would like to control the noise level, you can specify the volume as part of your instructions and have a signal (e.g. turning the lights off) to let the students know if they are getting to loud.