Here is a center dilemma that I didn't have a good answer to for a long time....mostly because the answer was so easy and obvious that I almost missed it.
I would like my students to have access to instruments during centers, but I find that what starts out as gentle experimentation often turns to noisy banging if I am not available to hover over the instrument players. Having to hover over any one center takes away from my ability to keep moving and monitoring.
So, as you have seen in previous posts, I do have one center that uses xylophones. Honestly, in the beginning I'd always put my most well behaved small group there first and hope that the least well behaved group would simply run out of time.....Oh my! Look at the time..... I guess we'll have to have our next turn next time..... This worked to a point, but really everyone needs the hope of a turn eventually....So I had resigned myself to the fact that I would either need to hover over the xylophones OR only use the center with select groups.
Until one of my students who had not listened to me at all grabbed the wrong mallets..... EUREKA!!! Problem solved.
By choosing the "wrong" mallets, she had actually chosen the "right ones" for composition centers, because the foam mallets sucked up most of the sound which gave my students the freedom they needed to really experiment without being so loud that other equally as creative centers were drowned out by the sound level of the xylophones. Using the foam mallets means that the xylophones are now no louder than the "flip flop pipes" and actually complement their tone quite nicely.
If the focus of your centers is proper instrumental technique then these foam mallets may not be the best fit for you because they tend to inspire students to play with abandon as they try in vain to make a louder noise..... However, if you are wanting students to experiment, improvise and compose, while other centers are also in session AND you want your sanity and hearing in tact, then these MAY be the perfect fit. They certainly made my centers work more smoothly! Let me know if you have similar results.
For more information about centers please, check out my other posts about centers here:
Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 5
Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 4
Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 3
Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 2
Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 1
Reflections on Centers