I’m an iTunes junkie. Every six to eight weeks, I’ll waste an entire Saturday browsing new music from various genres, buying songs, and reorganizing my playlists.
Perhaps those of you who live in large cities and take public transportation can relate to the need for blocking out city noises on the daily commute.
But my playlists are used for classroom purposes too. The three playlists I use most are “Classical”, “Tween Party”, and “Easy Listening.”
Research is being done on the relationship between music and brain function. I’m watching to see if researchers eventually confirm my observations on how music improves the classroom environment. Listed below are ways I use music playlists in my classroom:
Perking up a Lethargic Group
Sometimes I play music because students look exhausted and I know a bit of music will perk them up. Today, it was obvious students were still tired from camp. I played “Everyday” by Buddy Holly while students were working on an art project reflection. A couple heads started bobbing from side to side as fingers typed away. Happiness in the workplace can increase productivity. The trick is finding the line where happiness ends and chaos begins.
Calming or Settling Students into Reflection
Music can enhance independent work time by providing a calmer atmosphere. I use classical music during “rote” work-time, the rare occasion when I want students to practice typing skills, review multiplication facts, or cut materials they will need later. I have also found that classical music creates a good background for written reflections of weekly work or units of study. Does music help students filter out the random noises of classmates?
Music hasn’t worked well during intense problem-solving, synthesis, analytical tasks or cooperative learning… except to signal a transition.
I first considered the use of music during class after attending a professional development session on classroom management. The presenter suggested music be used as a quiet signal for transition times. Students know that, when they hear music, they should move from one activity to another or clean up their work area. The technique works like a charm – if I choose the right songs. Some songs hype up the class, making them want to dance more than transition. I learned that a quiet transition requires quiet music.
One year, I experimented with student tweets to parents. At the end of the day, groups of students composed Twitter messages about the objectives and activities for the day. My transition song: Rockin’ Robin (tweet…tweedily-deet!). Students immediately knew what to do when they heard Bobby Day.
End-of-day transitions are upbeat because I want students to leave with a smile. I tend to play some student favorites (currently Justin Beiber or Tyler Swift) on Friday afternoons as students pack to go home.
Connecting to Content
Music should be an integral part of Social Studies instruction. Something about music takes a person back in time. Music is a way of connecting with the souls, dreams, and stories of the past. My students especially connect with the spirituals as they work on Civil War Freedom Quilts or reflect on the history of “Amazing Grace” in a classroom chapel.
Music is also connected to poetry. It is one area of writing where authors regularly talk in the “second person” point-of-view, using the word you to talk to the audience. I once taught the art of creating humor in poetry using Christmas Can-Can by Straight No Chaser. What great poetic lines can students find in their favorite pieces of music?
Today is the last day of school before a week-long holiday. Time for Monster Mash…
What has been your experience with music in the classroom?