Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Teaching: Music in the Classroom

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For those of you who know me know that I use to be a regular classroom teacher. Also, the reason for starting the blog was to help deal with some of the stress from being a classroom room teacher. Since I am no longer teaching I have thought about how to share my teaching knowledge out there so someone else might benefit from it. So I am starting a series entitled Teaching, it's that simple, when these posts come up it will be about things that I've learned over time that has helped in my teaching. When these posts do occur they will be titled Teaching:... and they will take my experiences teaching and apply strategies and tips that I have learned over time.

So without further ado: Music in the Classroom!
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You know that sound, clack, clack, clack. It's the sound of the heat or cold air blowing in your room. Sometimes it's loud and obnoxious and you can't concentrate. This luckily is not what I am talking about when I am talking about music in the classroom. Just about everyone loves music in some form. I recently went to a concert and it was fantastic, I can almost always be found with headphones on in my cubicle working, listening to music. It helps me focus in on what I am doing and blocking out whatever else is going around me and I can get my work done. This is not just a phenomenon with me but with most people, we like to do something that helps us focus in on what we are doing.

What if I told you there is science a.k.a. hard facts, that show playing music in the classroom is good for the learning environment. Think about, in the younger grade classrooms there is a lot of learning that goes on through songs. Even before school age what is one song most toddlers learn first "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ now I know my ABC's next time won't you sing with me?" In late elementary school, middle school teachers and high school teachers use Flocabulary (if you've never heard of him, click here, the French Revolution one is amazing!!! There are a bunch of videos available on YouTube for free, the website though has lesson plans and other great tools you can use but there are fees, so watch out). All of this to say, that's not what I'm talking about.
The studies I am talking about has to do with playing music as background. The music can be useful in something like group or pair work. It can help keep the volume of each group down, act as a buffer to the other groups, essentially isolating them from each other. When groups are not distracted by students who are not in their group. Per the international bibliography, music is a powerful tool that assists with brain development, emotional regulation, sustainability of memory and aids learning. (This is from Effortful Control: Relations with Emotion Regulation, Adjustment, and Socialization in Childhood Eisenberg et al. 2004)

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For almost the entirety of my time teaching, including substituting and student teacher, I played music in the background. I experiment with which type of music. As you can image students are extremely opinionated and will tell you that the music you choose 'sucks' and 'no one likes that'. After a few years, I noticed that once the students got over that I wasn't going to play Jay Z, Beyoncé, Fetty Wapp or whatever rapper was popular at the time, the music did have an effect on them. I saw that the students could retain more of the lessons, that there were less behavioral problems and overall it created a positive learning environment which couldn't be ignored. When you have a positive learning environment, everyone's attitude and mood was better.

One blog I read about this had some suggested occasions for using music that I have listed below:

* During role-play (to set the mood and add fun)
* During brainstorming (to alert them)
* When reading out a story to young learners (to set the scene / create suspense)
* To assist literature (to create atmosphere when reading out a chapter)
* During pair-work / group-work activities (to enhance interaction)
* During individual creative writing (to facilitate creativity and ensure the students are not disturbed by external noise)
* During preparation/presentation of projects (to add an element of formality and sustain attention)
* To create a positive scene for learning new content
* To activate the new material in the brain and trigger motor learning
* During skimming and scanning of a new text (to create an atmosphere of deep concentration and extend learning time)
* To increase and sustain the learners' attention
* To create a welcoming atmosphere (on the students' entering a learning setting)

When it comes to having background music in the class though, the most often recommend music is classical, which is great and can be used effectively. I found though if I could mix up the Bach and Beethoven with something that was a little more modern I could enjoy it more. After a year of listening to classical music for 6 hours a day and 180 days a year, it was draining on me, I don't know about you but I don't listen to classical music on my own time and I find that my mind wanders. If that sounds like you, you could sign up for my Spotify playlist which has a mix of modern music (all wordless) and classical and set it to random. A side note, if you don't pay for premium Spotify there will be commercials so be prepared for those breaks, similar to Pandora or any other streaming service for music. I have some solution ideas for this, for those who want more.

Another side note, there is about 48 hours of music and if you select random it would be a long time before you heard the same song twice by the same performer.

Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below!

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