If you’ve read our post on the noise level of a student-centered classroom, then you are very aware that the volume can be a bit high. There’s NOTHING wrong with that as long as it is because the students are being productive. To add to the chatter, I always play music in the classroom. This accomplishes a number of things (and many are counter-intuitive to what you think).
As a social studies teacher, it is easy to cheat. US History II is the absolute best for this. I play music in the classroom from whatever decade we are studying, so we move from the jazz of the Roaring 20’s all the way into music from the 2000’s. 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 (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.)
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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 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 music in the classroom 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 music in the classroom, 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.
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.
Taking Music in the Classroom 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. Music in the classroom is one simple way to do this. Thanks for reading.