A number of years ago I started playing music before my students walk into my high school classroom, just to alleviate the awkwardness and angst that is sometimes associated with walking into class on the first day. Over the years, I have now continued to use it before every class, every day. When I go and speak professionally to teachers and school districts about creating a positive classroom atmosphere, this topic of music in the classroom is always a must. I had always just figured that I understood the reasons why it was so positive, but after reading some more of the support evidence, it convinced me more than ever that having music in your room should be a best practice.
This excerpt from Chris Brewer’s book Music and Learning supports what I have always felt, but now backs it up…
How is it that for most people music is a powerful part of their personal life and yet when we go to work or school we turn it off? The intentional use of music in the classroom will set the scene and learning atmosphere to enhance our teaching and learning activities. Plus, using music for learning makes the process much more fun and interesting! Music, one of the joys of life, can be one of the joys of learning as well. The following pages give you suggestions for when and how to use music during your teaching or training. With these techniques, you, the teacher, can orchestrate a classroom environment that is rich and resonant– and provide learners with a symphony of learning opportunities and a sound education!
Music helps us learn because it will–
establish a positive learning state
create a desired atmosphere
build a sense of anticipation
energize learning activities
change brain wave states
facilitate a multisensory learning experience
provide inspiration and motivation
add an element of fun
accentuate theme-oriented units
Here is the link to the full excerpt…Music and Learning: Integrating Music in the Classroom
Here is how I use it… As my students are entering the classroom, music is playing. It is typically a Pandora station (although other sites like Spotify or iTunes are great also) I’m a high school teacher, so my student’s musical needs are going to be different than other grades, obviously. Find what works for you. I teach mostly seniors who were born around 1999 or 2000. So, stations like ‘Summer Hits of the 2000’s’ are a huge hit for them. However, as variety is the spice of life, I always mix it up. My music ranges from classical to death metal and everything in between.
As a positive relationship builder with kids, I always ask for their input regarding music choices. What I like and what they like ranges wildly, but if it’s school appropriate and not distasteful, I go with it.
I always, without fail, once or twice a year have a Disney Day, where I play the Disney Pandora station, but then do a quick ‘name that Disney movie’ as I fast forward through the songs. (Pandora limits you to only 6 songs for that hour, so it goes pretty quickly) It’s amazing to see who can identify Disney movies AND how quickly they can do it. I’m usually always surprised by someone who is a secret Disney fan and they can name the movies in one note! It provides a lot of joy at the beginning of class and gets kids into a great state of mind to learn.
You don’t have to do it every class, every day. Use it whenever you want, but my thoughts would be definitely use music, it will really help increase joy in your classroom and help to improve the learning state of mind for everyone!