I can’t handle silence. With silence, I feel like there is an empty void that has to be filled. Until it is, I cannot focus on the task at hand. Before I leave my driveway, I have to have either music or an audiobook playing. Before I go to bed, I choose a Netflix episode to narrate my sleep. When I begin lesson planning for the following week, I need a playlist already chosen to push me through the learning targets and standards.
I know I’m not alone. A lot of my students feel the same way. These are the same students that HAVE to chat to their neighbor because they cannot focus in the complete silence of independent work-time. An easy – almost too easy – solution is incorporating music into the classroom!
But what kind of music … ?
I needed something without lyrics because when students are focusing on the lyrics, they cannot focus on the task at hand. I did not want the usual go-to tracks from classical musicians or jazz numbers because A. I didn’t want my room to sound like an elevator and B. I wanted my students to enjoy what they were listening to. If they listened to music that they listened to for entertainment, I wanted that enjoyment to correlate with what they were doing in class.
I created a playlist on Spotify that incorporated many artists that did instrumental covers of “Top 40” hits from today and well-known ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s classics.
They loved it.
Morning Routine: As soon as my kids come in, in the morning, it’s playing at a low-volume. This signals to them that it’s work-time as they begin their morning warm-up as I am able to send last-minute emails and submit attendance.
Attention Getter: Pause or mute the music. Their eyes go up to see where their favorite hit went – immediately putting their attention on you!
Volume Control: By using music they enjoy, they are more willing to listen along. This means they have to use a low-volume to actually hear it! No more “Use a whisper voice when working!”. They are now in control because they want to listen to their favorite songs.
Ad Free: The best thing about Spotify is that even without the ‘Premium’ version, you can get away with listening to your created playlists without ads by streaming it off of a laptop or desktop computer. You can pick and choose which songs to play or skip without getting stuck listening to a song you’re just simply tired of.
Engagement: It’s great when they find out the song playing without the lyrics and they start to hum along. Talk about melting your heart. Some students started requesting songs to be added to the playlist. This became a bigger incentive to listen along instead of talking to their neighbor because they wanted to hear when their song plays next.
Differentiation: I do have a couple students who do need that absolute silence in order to concentrate on independent work. Easy fix, I send them to the back of the room where the music is low enough where it no longer bothers them or right into the hall where they cannot hear it at all. However, this is rarely an issue with my group of kiddos.
In Social Studies I incorporate music from the time period we are studying. This transports students back in time to walk alongside the people within their history book and view life from their eyes. We finished up our Slavery and Civil War unit by listening to “Dixie Land”, “The Drinking Gourd” and various slave songs used to find their way on the Underground Railroad. Need a different time period to travel back to? Check out this site: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/music.cfm?key=1228.
In Reading, my students finally understand the difference between nouns and verbs thanks to Schoolhouse Rock’s catchy tunes of “A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing” and “Verbs: That’s What’s Happening“.
With the ease of incorporating music in our classrooms and the research that encourages the daily use of music for engagement, it really is a commonsense solution that most of us are already using. If you are not, I suggest to test it out at a small portion of your day. When students come into your room at the beginning of the day or period works great.
Feel free to use the playlist of songs I have already created on Spotify. If you’re a fan of Pandora, look up instrumental covers on there!
Happy jammin’ 🙂
Practical Tips to Get Started Using Music
- Talk to the music teacher at your school. Music teachers receive publications that include content integration suggestions, and these are a great source of potential songs.
- As you listen to music, keep in mind the question, How could I use this music in my classroom? For example, when I watch a movie, I almost always hear a song appropriate for the classroom—either for the atmosphere the song induces or for its powerful lyrics.
- Vary the music you showcase for students. I listen to country, Christian, rhythm and blues, classical, jazz, hip-hop, and rap. If you respond to a piece of music, someone in your class will too.
- Keep alert to possibilities wherever you go. I found a compact disc of songs about trains at a garage sale and a collection of World War II songs at a discount store. Keep your eyes open for any book that comes with a compact disc.
- Use the Internet to research music that connects to specific content and characters you are teaching about. One good Web site is the Sounds of America audio programs available through the National Museum of American History, which highlights music of different locations and eras (http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/music.cfm?key=1228).
- To find the lyrics to songs, enter the name of the song and the artist into an Internet search engine.
- Ask your students where they get their music and learn from them. At least one kid in the class can show you how to download music from free sources right onto your computer.