During my early years of teaching, I didn’t implement musical arts in my classroom. I might have brought my guitar in class during winter holidays but aside from that, that was about it.
It was not until I had the opportunity to attend an Eric Jenson workshop that I fully realized the powerful impact of music on the brain and student achievement
I slowly began to incorporate music into the curriculum. I first started with a “call back” song. Now, when my students were involved in activities such as cooperative learning, partner work or brain storming, or whatever it was, and I wanted them to return back to their seats, I would play the call back song – which was “Brown-eyed girl.”
So, what would happen when my kids heard the beginning of the song, they would automatically stop talking, gather up their materials and quickly (without running) make their way back to their seats. And of course, this was practiced over and over until it became second nature.
After my students got the call back song down pat, I introduced music (with lyrics) as children entered the classroom in the morning and departed school in the afternoon. I kept this up for a few days, and once I felt comfortable, I introduced music (no lyrics) during independent reading time.
Then after about a week or so, I introduced music during partner work and brainstorming activities.
Before too long I was playing music a good part of the school day. I guess this whole process took me less than 30 days to implement. I found it to be one of the best things I ever did for my students. And they really enjoyed it as well.
I would recommend that you not rush into implementing music in the classroom all at once. Take your time—and only add music as you feel comfortable doing so.
Kids today are exposed almost constantly to music of various kinds on television, in malls and office buildings, on their own cellphones or computers. As movie makers know, music can set the mood for any scene. Playing music during classes can change the atmosphere of the class from noisy to quiet, from chaotic to organized. It is an important tool that is not used as much as it could be by teachers.
The next thing that I want to address is the beats per minute or BPM. The BPM is likely to have real effects on student learning and the mood in the classroom. Like a conductor, you can orchestrate the mood of the class.
Theoretically, listener’s physical heartbeats may change to sync up with the musical beat. Scientists have recorded brain changes with differing beats. Again, try to match the BPM appropriately to the task or activity you want students to do while the music plays.
Now, as far as the type of music that I played in the classroom, it was mostly from Eric Jenson’s CD Collections of Music.
Jensen has become internationally recognized for his brain based” publications for teachers. He links current brain research with strategies to improve student achievement. Music is one of the key tools he uses to stimulate positive feelings in the classroom.
He suggests considering the emotional state you are trying to elicit, the age of the listener and the types of music that that are most familiar to them. Songs with words should be reserved for special occasions or games; Jensen suggests relying mainly on instrumental music of various kinds.
To celebrate the start or completion of tasks, something upbeat can get students inspired. For lengthy writing tasks, calming music with a slow rhythm can aid concentration.
Accordance to various brain studies, beats per minute can have profound effects on the human body and brain. Jensen writes:
“Songs in the 35-50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seat work. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev things up.”
Lyrical music is best when the activity does not involve memory formation, for example: lining up, cleaning up, finding a partner, greeting students at the door, exiting the class, etc.
Music with no lyrics is best played at low volume when engaging in executive functioning for example: reading, writing, math problem solving, group discussions—things of that nature.
Now once I finished the workshop I bought a $600 BOSE IPOD Sound Dock System that I had used regularity in the classroom. Now I would not recommend that new teachers spend that kind of money initially.
I would suggest going to Wal-Mart and picking up a CD player for around $25 – or if your school offers Audio-Visual equipment, to request that a CD player be made available in your class every day.
Alternatively, you can attach good speakers to a computer or smartphone – just be sure they can put out sufficient volume to be heard by a classroom full of excited, noisy kids!
The point here is that it is not the cost of the system but rather that appropriate music can assist students with a given activity and you will want to be able to access music as a teaching tool at any time.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’d recommend that you gradually introduce music into the classroom to coincide with your instruction. Music itself and the technical issues to get it playing can become distractions. Start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the use of music as you begin to feel comfortable with its use.
My friend, we barely skimmed the surface with respect to the advantages of implementing musical arts in teaching your curriculum. There is an excellent book by Eric Jensen that I’d like to recommend to you that is chock-full of valuable information and studies. The book is: Music with the Brain in Mind – it is an excellent read.
I will conclude by saying that one could fill volumes when making the case for musical arts in the classroom. There’s overwhelming evidence that music is central to learning. It impacts academic achievement, motor and social skills and much, much more.