Classroom Music: 3 Easy Ideas for All Classes

music in the classroom

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Most educators don’t realize that you can control the noise level of your class by adding more “noise”…and by that, I mean classroom music. This accomplishes a number of things (and many are counter-intuitive to what you think).

Most educators don’t realize that you can control the noise level of your class by adding more “noise”…and by that, I mean classroom music. This accomplishes a number of things (and many are counter-intuitive to what you think).

First, it adds more “white noise” to the room…which automatically makes the class quieter. Second, studies have shown that students can focus better with music in the background (in fact, often they don’t even know that there’s anything playing unless it is a song that they know).

Most importantly, music helps students stay focused and engaged in the lesson. Let’s explore how you can add complex layers of music to your class…and make it look easy.

Classroom Music

Naturally Incorporating Classroom Music

As a social studies teacher, it is easy to cheat. US History II is the absolute best for this. I play classroom music from whatever decade we are studying, so we move from the jazz of the Roaring 20’s all the way into music from the 2000s. It is always fun when you hear them start perking up with, “Oh! I know this song!”.

It keeps it extremely relevant and I usually just stream through Pandora or even YouTube to find a good playlist of classroom music (you’ll get a big thumbs up from your students if they hear you are using YouTube as that is how they often listen to their music….and for good reason.)

Other courses and classes are not as easy, but there’s a fix for that. At the beginning of the year, I survey the students with five Pandora channels that I know will always play appropriate classroom music and I rotate with the top 2. Different stations have won out depending on the dynamic of my class of students. You can walk past my classroom at any given time and the classroom music might be Country….or Motown…or Disney tunes. It really depends on the students.

I had a colleague who also did this by polling the students about their favorite songs. He made a playlist and when he would have time for classroom music, he would play it. His students were guaranteed to hear their favorite song at some point in the school year and it was always an exciting moment. Granted, this took a little longer to coordinate as he had to make sure he had “clean” versions of them, but once it was done, it was done, and it worked out well.

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But…why music in the classroom?

As I’ve mentioned before, Generation Z learns much differently than any other generation before them.

One of the key differences is their absolute need for music. It is at their fingertips and it really resonates with them. In an article from Forbes titled “New Study Spotlights Gen Z’s Unique Music Consumption Habits“, teens were surveyed as to their musical habits. “Almost all survey respondents (94%) cite music as “important” or “very important” (73%) to their lives. Most (92%) say the music they listen to impacts their mood.” When you use music in the classroom, it is incredible the transformation that takes place.

If a class is getting a bit past that volume level, or they’re distracted, or something on their own accord just isn’t going the way it should be and the music isn’t up, go ahead and turn it on.

Every single time I have ever done this, the students mellow out and get into a groove. Think about it: they are listening to music that either they have picked or are relevant. With something having THAT MUCH influence in their overall being as the survey above states, it is only natural that it will change the mood and even the overall dynamic of a classroom.

There is also scientific reasoning behind this. In an article aptly titled, “Benefits of Listening to Music in the Classroom“, Dr. Frances le Roux discusses (with a number of references backing her up) that “music stabilises mental, physical and emotional rhythm to attain a state of deep concentration and focus, to enable the student to process and learn large amounts of information”.

Think about it…how many people do you know that have music playing in the background when they are doing work? It really creates a specific mood that lends itself to a positive nature and allows the opportunity to intensely focus.

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There are also numerous educational benefits to listening to music in the classroom.  For example, the children are more likely to be attentive and learn better when they are listening to music.  Studies have shown that students who listen to music before studying score higher on exams than those who do not listen to any music.

Music also allows people of all ages to explore their creativity.  There are plenty of examples to prove this point.  For example, composers Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven all began their careers in childhood.        

Fortunately, we live in a day in age where it’s easy to provide this for our students. You can create a YouTube playlist, turn on programs like Pandora or Spotify (with explicit filters engaged), or physically download the songs to your device to play out loud. You can also switch playlists depending on the tone you’re looking for in class.

It’s never been easier to engage your students with music in the classroom. I encourage you to try music as a method of engaging your students with the content being presented.

Taking Classroom Music One Step Further

Listening to music in the classroom on a daily basis is good for a number of reasons. However, did you know that there are specific genres that actually help a person study? There are a number of stations on Pandora that promote this, but they are all versions of Classical. The tunes and melodies of the instruments help set a brain pattern that is good for memory.

Dr. Le Roux also brings up a study in her article. She says, “In a study at the University of California, students used a headset to listen to either white noise, relaxation music, or Mozart for 10 minutes. The Mozart group performed better on spatial tasks than those in the other two groups.”

At the end of the day, playing music in the classroom on a regular basis is as beneficial as allowing your students to move in a way that benefits their learning. It sets a tone and has multiple psychological benefits. It is our job as educators to make sure that we are teaching our students in a way that benefits them the best. As we’ve mentioned, Generation Z learns differently than any other generation has before them.

That can be a bit intimidating for those who have taught the other generations. On the same token, it keeps things fresh and forces us to think outside of the box. If the students in our classrooms today are musically inclined (especially in an era where arts funding is not what it used to be for those other generations, either!), shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to make sure they are utilizing that in the best ways possible?

They are a new generation of students and we need to make sure we are a new generation of educators, willing and ready to meet them in the middle and ensure their success in the life we are helping them prepare for.

Classroom music is one simple way to do this. And again, age or subject area is irrelevant. If you can pick music that flows with your curriculum, great! Otherwise, music in the classroom that sets a mood or just gets the students excited to hear will do the trick just fine.

Music in the classroom can be used to set a tone. It can be something that gets students excited about what they are learning or it can help them find motivation when studying is getting difficult – especially if you play music related to your lesson, or relevant to the subject matter!

It has multiple benefits and so many ways to be implemented. It is difficult to say it is a “waste of class time” when the opposite can be said. It can do nothing but help those students who need just that extra push!

Utilizing Classroom Music and the 4 Keys

Finding ways to incorporate classroom music in the most effective way for your students isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.

If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.

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