Bill Swick Bio PicI had a new guitar teacher that I was supervising tell me on the fourth day of school that he had already taught his class the first four strings on the guitar and was asking what he should teach on day five.

I simply told him to tell his class on day five that the first four days were a quick overview of what they will learn the first 10 weeks of school and start over with the first string. I provided this teacher with enough materials to fill three weeks of classes on just the first string.

Most student teachers do their student teaching in the Spring and never witness the first week of school. In high school, the band students may have already had 2-3 weeks of marching practice and are in full-swing on the first day of school. Orchestra may have had a summer camp prior to school starting, and those students may be ready to go on the first day of school. A beginning guitar class is going to need some preparation and instruction on classroom procedures including the do’s and don’ts of the guitar classroom.

Here are 10 suggestions for week one of a beginning guitar class:

1) On the first day of school, the first day of guitar class, students will be coming into your room with the anticipation of playing the guitar
2) For the most part, you will not want to make the guitar accessible the first 3-5 days of school.
3) A seating chart needs to be created so that you can start calling students by their names. Write down nicknames and make note of what name each student would like to use in class.
4) Classroom procedures need to be covered including the following:

  • What are the consequences for being tardy?
  • Are cell phones, mp3 players, etc. allowed in class? If not, what are the consequences?
  • How will bathroom breaks be handled? Is there a bathroom pass?
  • What are the consequences for gum, food and drinks?
  • What is the responsibility of each student for acquiring a method book? Is each student responsible for bringing a book and/or guitar to school each day? What are the consequences for not having music or a guitar?
  • How will the class retrieve guitars? How will they be taken out of the cases? How will the cases be stored during class and after class?
  • What is the procedure when a string is broken in the case? What does a student do when a string breaks during class? Are there spare guitars to use?
  • Are students required to have picks? Where do they get them?

5) Complete a Guitar Usage Agreement form. Is each student limited to playing one specific guitar? Or, may they play any guitar they grab? Are students responsible for reporting damages to the guitars? What are the consequences when a guitar is damaged?
6) Are students allowed to take guitars home? If so, complete a school district Instrument Usage Agreement.
7) Administer Pre-tests to determine what knowledge and skills students already possess
8) Set goals for the class and have students set individual goals in writing. Create a file folder for each student to store results from pre-tests and personal goals.
9) Describe your procedure for “rest position” or “quiet position.” Have a procedure that students follow when you want quiet time to talk and give instruction. Also, discuss consequences for those students who do not follow the procedure. Guitar students love to play while you are talking. Take control of this before it starts.
10) Band and orchestra students rely on their teachers as the main resource for instruction. Guitar students have many resources in which to learn including the internet. This is the time to define what your class will cover, how the grades will be determined, the role of each student, and the importance of following class instruction and classroom procedures.

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