Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

5 minutes to make an impression: Orchestra is your ticket

Today was the 7th grade orientation at the junior high where I teach.  This is when the 7th graders go to each of their classes for 5 minutes so they can have a little practice following their schedule and finding their classes before school starts.  I had 5 minutes with each of my 7th grade classes - 5 minutes to make a first impression.  I've done these orientations before, and I used to just tell the students a few annoucements - when to bring instruments, where they will store their instruments, etc.  But this year, I starting thinking....this is the first 5 minutes I get with my new beginners.  Do I really want to just rattle off information that they will probably not remember?  I want them to be super excited for my class and I want to plant the seed that motivates students to stay in orchestra for years to come.  That is why I changed my 5 minutes.

As students entered my classroom today, I greeted each student and gave them 1 carnival type ticket (I already had a bunch on hand from doing raffles for practice motivation).  They had no idea what the ticket was for because I didn't say - and they were so scared they didn't ask.  But they all wanted a ticket.  As soon as my 5 minutes started, I starting talking about the tickets - about how each student who enters my class now has a ticket.

Here's a quick summary of what I said:  Tickets remind me of carnivals - where there is so much to do and so many opportunities for fun rides - but you need tickets to go on those rides.  When you join orchestra, you get your first ticket.  Tickets mean opportunity.  Because of orchestra class, you will have many opportunties available just for you - and the more you focus and work, the more 'tickets' you earn and the more opportunities you have.

I had the picture above projected in front of the room.  I then talked about the different tickets of opportunity - doors that will be opened - because of the talents they are about to develop:

Kids were mesmerized. After I was done, I had 1 minute left.  I called out a few random raffle numbers and gave prizes (magnets printed at that I designed for students lockers with my orchestra theme.)  Since I only gave a few prizes, I told the rest of the students that they could still earn a magnet and I would tell them how later.

This presentation went over really well.   I had one parent come to me afterwards to tell me about how much she agrees that orchestra opens doors of opportunity.  Another parent mentioned that her son is already determined to do whatever it takes to earn one of those magnets.  I'm so glad I ditched the annoucements.  Now students have had a glimpse of where orchestra can take them and I think they took it to heart.   I meant to tell students to save their ticket as a reminder of this lesson, but I forgot.  You would think I would have found a bunch of discarded tickets on the floor of my classroom after this mini-lesson, but I didn't find any.  Every student kept their ticket.


  1. I would like to use this for my elementary violin class next week! Curious... What will the students need to do in order to earn a prize? I haven't done much in the way of prizes yet! Thanks.

    1. I use prizes for practicing goals, or specific pedagogical accomplishments. Last week, I let my students win little balancing eagles (.30 cents, but very cool little toys), for demonstrating perfect left hand position and playing part of twinkle. My beginning classes are huge - over 50 students in each, so when I can get every student super motivated to learn correctly and create a good solid left hand in only 1 day, it helps me a ton. Totally worth the 30 cents. :)

    2. Kristen...If your budget is like mine, any prize that does not cost anything is great. After researching a ton of ideas, I "borrowed" the idea of class incentives such as sitting in my chair or on the bass stool for a class period, a free practice pass (in case they happen to forget their practice log), chew gum in class, play the piano before/after class....and to my utter astonishment my middle school orchestra kids LOVE these ideas. Using Angela's idea from above (thank you!) on the first day of class each student received a ticket. As Angela suggested I didn't explain what they were for immediately....and heaven forbid I should forget to give one to a student. I have drawn tickets and they are so excited to earn more. Our school (grades 6-8) is really placing an emphasis on positive behavior. Since our mascot is the hawk, our school "saying" is SOAR which stands for safe, organized, accountable and respectful. I have come up with at least one very clear way students can earn tickets for each area...some are weekly and some are monthly. My plan is to "hire" a student to help remind me and pass out/collect tickets. Thanks again Angela for the inspiration :)