I love music. While I can’t play an instrument, I know good music when I hear it. When I hear good music, it takes me to a place that feels right. The right music takes me back to my childhood; it takes me back to drives to Rowan to visit my wife when we were dating. The right music takes me back to a world that once was. Music profoundly impacts my life; as I am sure music does your own life. Music has the same profound impact on the lives of your students. It is no small assumption to say that music has an impact on the lives of your students. There are times when playing music in your classroom will help with student concentration and student engagement. However, playing music during every circumstance isn’t necessary, or wise. It’s all about discerning the amount of music that should be played and the time that it should be played. Some teachers are on the fence about whether or not to play music in their classrooms. You can look online and find all kinds of research for and against it. If you’re thinking about playing music in your classroom, there are some things that you really should consider. Here are some do’s and don’ts for playing music in your classroom. These are the very tenets that I followed when I played music in the classroom.
- Don’t play music during the lecture portion of your lesson (unless it has specifically to do with your lesson). When you are actively speaking, and instructing, the only thing that student should be listening to is your voice. Music will distract them and give them the license to talk to their neighbor.
- Play music lightly during class work or group work times. Some nice instrumental background music might be just the thing to keep your students focused on the task at hand, as well as setting the tone for the noise level expected from your students as they are talking.
- Don’t play music during standardized testing. Rules prohibit you from playing music during standardized testing times. Also, the music may be a distraction for students are really trying to focus on taking the test.
- Check IEP’s for students in your class (and 504’s) before playing any music in any given class. You should check any and all plans that students have to make sure that music isn’t a distraction and a hindrance to their learning before playing any music. If music is a problem for any given student with an IEP or a 504 plan, you shouldn’t play music while they are present.
- Play hip hop instrumentals, jazz instrumentals or classical music. I would personally recommend that you stay away from any music with lyrical content when playing music in your classroom. Studies have shown that playing classical music or any kind of instrumental music does help with productivity in people; you should do the research to check out how instrumental music impacts the way students perform in the classroom. If you do play any music you should stick to music without lyrics and allow the instruments drive the atmosphere for your classroom and the work that students are doing.
- Play during quizzes, not test. Quizzes and test have different connotation from each other. Quizzes are less formal and test are formal, so anxiety naturally is higher for test then it is for quiz. I would suggest that you play music during quizzes instead of test. If you find that your students perform well with music during quizzes (and there are no students with IEP’s or 504 plans that prevent you from playing it in your class), try to play during a test as a test run.
- Use music as an indicator of mood or to set the mood for your room. Music should be played to express a more relaxed or even casual class atmosphere. When the music is off, it should denote a more structured serious tone in your room.
- Make music selection a part of a rewards system in your classroom. One way that you can get your classroom management where you wanted to be is to make playing music a part of your class rewards system. If you know your students like you playing music, use that to your advantage. The ability to use music to help your classroom management is no guarantee; students might respond indifferently.
- Always make your playlist ahead of time. You should make a playlist on your phone or laptop prior to class. It saves you time, energy and its just good lesson planning strategy; particularly if you are being observed by your administrator.
- Mix in your playlist music that your students listen to. This one is tricky because depending on your student population, students may listen to music that would be considered vulgar, violent or misogynistic. There is a way to get around this. One way is if you have a Pandora subscription. There is a feature on Pandora where you can play any genre of music and there is no cursing or vulgar or offensive language. Also, there are some websites that play jazz and or classical versions of popular music where it’s recognizable to the listener and also pleasant to those who don’t like songs that may be categorized as offensive.
Music is one of the greatest gifts that the Almighty has given to humanity. Through music we express ourselves, we give voice to the voiceless and the hopeless and were able to celebrate the very humanity that binds us together. Music also relaxes, soothes and heals us. Using music in your classroom might do the trick to getting the response that you’re looking for out of your students. You shouldn’t attempt to overdo it; you have to do it correctly and with measure. However, ours is not a world of silence; neither should your classroom be silent.
Let us continue to press toward the mark!