Engage young people by letting them choose the music.
Sometimes when you chat to someone they point out that what you do on a day to day basis is actually ground-breaking for other disciplines and has real benefits that should be shared. If like me the following post is too obvious to you then I aplogise - this is meant only in the spirit of sharing practise.
As a DJ School we know the value of letting young people feel culturally represented by letting them play their own music. When behaviour management through engagement is key to a session and essential to start a course in which longer term relations are required, we find that the best policy is, as quickly as posisble, to get each student in headphones, undisturbed, listening to a song that they 1) like, 2) know, 3) feel culturally represents them.
One of the key drives we have as a non-profit is to keep plowing any funds we can back into more units so more of our students can have their own set of equipment to use. This term we have been hosting a PRU group on a weekly basis, and because they have attended our studio we have had enough equipment for everyone to remain independent. This has meant that each young person has been able to use their own set of equipment to choose music they identify with. We additionally facilitiate this by allowing our young people to bring in CDs, Flashdrives etc but also by maintaining a selection of tools which can transfer files from the various different format of mobile phones young people bring into the studio, onto our DJ software.
Because each session begins like this the students feel represented, relaxed and comfortable. Also their support staff get an unexpected moment of quiet and so relax. This means that when we want to begin any teaching everyone is in a much more conducive mood to listen and take part in the rest of the session. Over the weeks we have used this headphone time to individually teach each students basic steps such as how to set up the equipment, log-in the computers, load the software. Now each morning starts with the kids hungry to get to their desk and independently set themselevs up to hear their song.
It's a simple idea we have always used - as I said at the beginning I only note it in case it could be applied to other lessons or scenarios - in a nutshell: where behaviour/nerves/peer pressures/tension etc rule a group - if you can let them all find something individual to enjoy, that they can keep to themseleves, just long enough to let them all calm down and feel respected - it might make the rest of the session a bit easier.