CME Blog: Positive Behaviour Techniques


Dr Elizabeth Stafford explores themes from Unit 4 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators.

How can we promote positive behaviour in music lessons?

In our first blog on this subject, we considered the importance of behaviour policies in formal educational environments such as schools and colleges. Therefore the first answer to the question ‘how can I promote positive behaviour’ should be to read and adhere to the behaviour policy for the setting in which you work. If you are a music educator working in a non-formal setting, it would be beneficial to create your own set of behaviour expectations and reward system, and share these with your pupils. These should underpin appropriate behaviour and respect for others.

When following the behaviour policy, you should be consistent, and keep language positive, friendly, assertive and professional. Don’t be afraid to tackle challenging behaviour, but try to focus on positive behaviour as much as possible. Give attention to those who are doing and saying the right things, and do not allow those who attention-seek through poor behaviour to take over. Remember, however, that praise can be misused. If you reward meagre effort then pupils will be less inclined to make real or extra effort.

The most important aspect of promoting positive behaviour, however, is to plan and deliver your sessions in such a way that behaviour problems are less likely to arise. If lessons are dynamic, well-paced, jam-packed with music making, and fun, then pupils will not have the time or inclination to misbehave. This approach is motivating for pupils as it allows you to catch them doing the right thing, and praise them for it, rather than to be constantly catching them out for misbehaving.

Many causes of misbehaviour can be pre-empted if your lesson is:

  • Musical
  • Well-planned
  • Well-resourced
  • Well facilitated
  • Musical

“At the heart of effective music teaching is a strong focus on using musical sound as the dominant language of teaching and learning, with the spoken and written word supporting musical learning and musical assessment predicated on good teacher and pupil musical listening skills.”

OFSTED MUSIC REPORT ‘Wider Still and Wider’ 2012

We must always remember that pupils come to our lessons in order to make music. The more time we spend giving verbal explanations, filling in practice diaries, and completing worksheets, the less opportunity there is to make music. If we wish pupils to respond positively to our lessons then we must make every effort to ‘teach music musically’. More information on making your lessons musical can be found in Unit 1 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators: Understanding Children and Young People’s Musical Learning.


A major part of promoting positive behaviour is ensuring that every pupil has something appropriate to do at all times. If lessons are not planned effectively to take all pupils’ needs into consideration then pupils may become bored or frustrated, leading to misbehaviour. Similarly, if you are making things up on the spot, pupils will misbehave in any period of inactivity where you are thinking about what to do next. More information about planning can be found in Unit 2 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators: Planning, Facilitating and Evaluating Children and Young People’s Musical Learning.


Pupils, like magpies, are attracted to anything new and shiny! Playing from ancient, tatty old books, or photocopied* sheets that constantly fall off the music stand, is not necessarily a particularly motivating experience. If however, you use high quality and up-to-date resources, pupils are far more likely to be motivated, and therefore less likely to misbehave. In particular the use of technology can be extremely useful for elevating pupils’ music-making; for example, the use of a backing track can make a performance of a piece on only a few notes sound much more interesting and exciting.

*If you are using photocopied resources you must always check the copyright permissions first, to ensure that you are not photocopying illegally.


There are many tips and tricks music educators can use to ensure that they facilitate their sessions well. For example, it is useful to have two plans for starting the lesson, one to use if all the pupils arrive together, and one to use if the pupils turn up at different times. Activities should run seamlessly into one another, led by non-verbal cues, teacher modeling, and following an established routine. The less ‘space’ there is in the lesson, the less opportunity for misbehavour. More information about facilitation can be found in Unit 2 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators: Planning, Facilitating and Evaluating Children & Young People’s Musical Learning.

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