Using the performing arts for behaviour management (Part 1)


Artis Music


Most teachers agree that the key to behaviour management is preventing the poor behaviour in the first place, rather than knowing what to do after it occurs. For that reason, there will be no advice here on how to punish a child through song, signal your displeasure using dance or give a good ‘telling-off’ in role as a drill sergeant!


Rather, this article aims to give some practical suggestions of how the performing arts can help create an environment where poor behaviour can be avoided in the first place, through keeping the children engaged and motivated throughout your lessons, and turning the tricky parts of the school day into positive experiences. What’s more, you don’t have to be a trained performer to try them.


Movement and music straight after break-time

One fairly high-risk time of day is straight after lunch time, or any break in routine in which the children may be moving from another location back into the classroom en-masse. These transitions can lead to the focus diffusing, or the children bringing their quarrels from the playground with them into the classroom, and it can sometimes take a long time to regain their engagement with the work. Try using the performing arts to sweep the children into an activity as soon as they re-enter the classroom, leaving no ‘dead-time’ in which their only task is to sit down and be quiet.


  • Before the children arrive, put on a backing track with a strong pulse, and find a position where you can lead simple, rhythmic movements to the music with all the children facing you.
  • When the children enter they must take their place and copy your movements.
  • As this activity becomes routine you can vary the music you use, suggesting different qualities of movement through music of varying tempo, time-signature and genre.
  • Try letting children lead the activity, perhaps even setting this up before lunch-time, so one or two children know they have a job to do as soon as they come back to class.


As well as engaging the children immediately, this type of whole-class activity changes the children’s physical and mental state, bringing the group together in a positive, expressive activity, which can wash away any niggling problems that may have occurred immediately before your lesson.


Rhythmic refocus during lessons


As we know, it’s not only on the way into class that attention can wander, and maintaining focus during lessons is a key-factor of behaviour management. Using call and response clapping rhythms is a good way of bringing the class back together, listening and focussing for a new instruction or activity, and here are some tips for executing this as effectively as possible.


  • Keep the rhythms varied, and enjoyable. If you always clap the same rhythm for the children, they will quickly get used to it and it will cease to hold their interest.
  • Vary sounds you use; throw in clicks, stamps and knee-slaps to keep the children guessing.
  • Extend the activity; use a drum, and ask the children to answer a hit on the skin of the drum with a clap, and a hit on the rim with a click; perhaps different instruments require a different response (e.g. click your response to the tambourine, stamp to the wood-block etc.)
  • Perhaps certain rhythms aren’t simply copied, but are answered by a different rhythm.


Eventually the children will be able to lead these re-focus activities, and they could even build into a simple rhythmic performance-piece, in the style of Stomp! The key is that these activities are not punitive measures, but enjoyable performing arts activities with lots of learning opportunities embedded within them. The children will focus, and behave better if you are relishing leading these call-and response games, and valuing them as opportunities in themselves.


Watch out for part 2 of this blog, looking at reward systems using the performing arts and using drama games to vary the configuration of your lessons.


If you have any questions about what you’ve read, or you’d like more information about the Artis approach, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email or download our brochure here.

23 Mar 2014

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