If you teach in Texas, you've probably already been at it for a week or two. As for the rest of you, well have a nice rest of your summer- we'll think of you next June when you're still in school and we aren't. As you're facing those bright shiny new beginners' faces, I want to share a few things I've found to work for setting up your classroom for those newbies. I know you're busy, so I've made it short.
1. Now this seems like a "no brainer" to me, but as I look at online pictures of beginning classes, it appears that not everyone has thought of this. For the first few weeks, move the music stands out of the way. You're not using a book yet anyway (please tell me you're not using a book yet!) Students need as few distractions as possible to focus on embouchure and air stream, and you need to be able to see everything they are doing. I know it's a little hassle, especially if your beginning class is sandwiched in between two band classes, but it only takes a few days to train your students to move the stands. You can have the next class put them back.
2. Clear cases out of the way. Under the chair, beside the chair, along the wall, but not in your way. The picture is a great example of what NOT to do. You need to be able to make contact with each student without stumbling over a case.
3. If you need two rows to seat your class, take 3 or 4 chairs out of the center of the first row. Have the students on the second row sit toward the center behind the gap you created. Now you have quick access to the second row as well as the first. And since there are no music stands (right?), you should have plenty of room to circulate among your students.
4. If some of your students took private lessons over the summer, scatter them out in the class. They can be very helpful peer tutors. You'll also begin to see very quickly who catches on fast. Just seating these students next to those who need more time is a great teaching and learning tool. And it's especially helpful if you have a large class. My largest clarinet class ever was 53. I couldn't have made the year without my peer tutors!
Up next, that ever present question I get at every workshop - "What strength reed should my beginners use?"
Marilyn Mattei is the author of "For Clarinets Only," a method for beginning clarinet instruction. Click the title to learn more about it.