Growing up most of my teachers told me that if I wanted to listen to music while I studied that I had to listen to classical music. According to the research they had read, classical music was the best music for the brain. At the time of course I didn’t like classical music. Beethoven and Tchaikovsky were “lame and boring” and made me want to take a nap. I wanted to listen to bands I liked like Metallica and Reel Big Fish. That was the music that interested me and made me want to work. To this day I still listen to non classical music when I work because it’s what motivates me and helps me focus.
Of course going through my teacher preparation program I read the same research about classical music. Even though I had grown to appreciate and really like classical music, I still didn’t use it personally for studying. When I studied or sat down to complete a project I was either listening to the same music I would listen to in my car or working in silence. Fast forward to my first year of teaching and I had the opportunity to play music in my classroom. Thanks to the magic of iTunes and mp3s, I wasn’t restricted to one cd. I could play whatever I wanted….I choose classical music. At first my students responded well. They liked that the classroom wasn’t dead silent and that the music was “cool”.
The problem I was facing though was that I was playing the same songs over and over again. Over time the students became bored and the music no longer had an effect on them. One day on a whim, I decided to play more modern music in my classroom. The student’s immediately responded positively to the music. They thought that it was “cool” and “awesome” that their teacher was playing music that they enjoyed and not just classical music. Since then I have made an effort to play music that my students like almost every day. To this day many of my students have told other students and teachers that I’m the “cool teacher” because I let them listen to music.
With modern advances in music technology it is now easier than ever to play music that your student’s like. Services like Spotify, Pandora, and Songza have made finding FREE music easy. While Songza and Pandora are awesome services, I personally like to use Spotify because I can control the content of what songs are played for my students and because Spotify contains several radio or clean edits of songs that students like. I created a play list of “approved” music that contains no profanity or inappropriate content. At my school I have share this playlist with other teachers and encouraged them to add their own music as well. My goal is to create a database of “approved” songs that any teacher could play for their students.
One of the main ways that I use music in my classroom is to help with my classroom management. Below are some of the ways that I currently music as a classroom management tool:
- Music as a timer. Instead of setting five minutes on a traditional timer I choose a song that is roughly five minutes and tell students that they have until the end of the song to complete a task.
- Setting a noise level. I turn on the music at a set volume and then ask the farthest kid from me if they can hear it. If the student says yes, I tell them that once they can’t hear the music to let me know because that means the class is too loud.
- To encourage students. Many of my students request songs. If a student is on task and completing their work I’ll normally play their request. If a student is off task I make them a deal. Start working on your assignment for x amount of minutes and then I’ll play your song.
- As musical cues. Even though I teach middle school I still revert back to Kindergarten and use music to cue student’s as to what’s next. For example if we are about to take a test I like to play “The Final Countdown” to ease student tensions and let them know that this was their final chance to study before we took the test.
If you have any ways that you use music in your classroom please post a comment below. I would love to hear what others are doing in their classrooms!
PS: As I wrote this blog post I listened to “Battery” by Metallica, “My Orphan Year” by NOFX, “Pennwise Tribute” by Bassnectar, “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, and “Wake The Dead” by Comeback Kid on Spotify AND stayed focused the whole time.