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Keeping Your Students Engaged In The Dark Days Of Winter

It’s easy to get excited during the early days of winter. The snow looks beautiful. Everyone’s gearing up for the holidays.  Your students are focused on putting together the best holiday concert the school has every had! But then comes winter break and the difficult return to school in the new year.  Everyone’s a little exhausted. The charm of the snow and crispy weather has passed – now it’s just dark and cold. There’s always a noticeable group of people with the sniffles and no one’s motivated.

It’s a tough time to keep students engaged. Even so, it’s up to you to help students find reasons to get excited again. Here are our tips to help you out: 

Make sure you’ve found your own motivation 

Teachers aren’t excluded from the winter blues and post-holiday let down. If you aren’t authentically excited about what you have planned for students after winter break, the students aren’t going to be either. So whatever personal tricks you have to get yourself re-focused and energized to return to school – do it.  Hopefully, brainstorming and mapping out what you have planned for your students will help spark your own excitement. 

Change everything 

Not everything, but a lot. Get rid of any holiday decorations in the classroom, which will just look tired, and replace them with a new theme related to the works and composers you’ll tackle this semester.  Mix up the class routine as best you can so the students get jolted out of autopilot mode. 

Get them moving! 

Don’t let them slink into their chairs. Rehearse standing up. Have those who can move while playing. Or break up playing with physical games. Physical movement not only increases energy, but also improves their mental acuity, which can improve their performance. Not sure what to do, try this short chair yoga ideas for musicians. 

Have a competition or extra rewards 

Basically, give students all sorts of opportunities to earn extra praise. Competition can be a great motivator and you can devise enough awards that everyone has a good chance of winning something. You can set it up so different instrument groups compete with each other, or have musicians within the same group compete against each other. Do both!  The more chances students have to earn some recognition, the more engaged they’ll be.  

Let them make some decisions 

Ask their opinion about how some things are done and what kinds of works they’re interested in learning more about. Involving students in how the class or semester goes gets them emotionally invested in your work together. 

Bring in a special guest 

Tap into your network of music professionals and teachers to find someone you can invite to meet with them. It could even be a former student who’s now at conservatory and can give your students some insight and motivation about attending themselves. Maybe you can invite another teacher or musician who can give some new interpretation or “eyes” to a piece you’ve been working on. 

Share the music 

Your students aren’t the only people laboring under the dark winter days.  Plan an outing where they can perform for others who’ll appreciate their effort. This could be at a senior living center, a grade school, or community center.  Mix this idea with a competition and take some students to busk and see who earns the most! 

Fortunately, February is the shortest month. If you get things going on the right foot immediately after the winter break, these ideas should take you through the rest of winter.  By late February, students can start sensing the coming of spring, and you can start preparing for the spring concert.

Violins on the wall