So, you are making dinner in the kitchen while the television runs in the living room. You have completely lost track of time. All of sudden, without even looking at the clock, you realize it is 6:00 and the news is starting. What gave you this great epiphany? Was it your radio alarm clock? Or is your internal clock that precise? My guess is that the news program theme music triggered a brain cell that alerted you that it was 6:00.
Music is a powerful tool, one that can tell you it's time to watch the news — or help you manage your classroom.
Images courtesy Renjith Krishnan.
Just as Pavlov trained his dog to salivate to a bell, you can train your students to have a conditioned response to music. Before we talk about when to use music, let's go over the rules:
- Be Consistent — This is the hardest rule to master. I would advise introducing musical elements slowly into the classroom. Experiment with the effects. It can be pretty cool.
- Do Not Overuse It — As with anything, knowing when to say when is important.
- Have a Purpose — Music in a classroom without a purpose is counterproductive.
- Make Sure It Is School Appropriate — It might seem obvious, but be sure you know the lyrics (or the hidden meaning) of any song you pipe into the ears of children.
Some of the Times I Use Music in My Classroom:
Before School — I put on some upbeat pop music about five minutes before the morning bell. This energizes not only me, but also the students as they enter the room (see example). I play music so consistently (see rule #1) that if there is not music playing in the morning, then the students know that they are not allowed to enter the room. How about that? Classroom management without even having to be present.
To Start School — The moment the bell rings to start school, the lights go off, the music starts, and the day gets rolling. We play a theme song to start our day much as a theme song starts your favorite television show. This is usually an upbeat tune, and it's accompanied by some simple motions to get the students moving around and giving high fives to their peers. It is a good wake-up call. For more details, see my post on starting your day with a clean beginning.
During Transitions — I have ten-second, 30-second, and one-minute sound clips. After the first few weeks, the students know exactly how long they have for a "Turn and Talk" or to transition to the next subject. Once you have conditioned them to respond to your songs, it is amazing to watch the talking in the room stop as the end of the song approaches.
Setting the Tone — Who hasn't cried at a Hallmark commercial? It's not the acting. It usually has something to do with the music. Play upbeat songs to energize. Play classical music to calm. On Fridays we share our highs and lows from the week, and I use tunes that tend to be more sentimental.
Challenging Students — There are times I will play a new song before, during, or after a lesson. My students learn that I do everything with a purpose. Eventually they try to connect the lesson to the song. I tend to do this a lot in reading because making connections is a great comprehension strategy.
As Lessons — Songs do have deeper meanings. To challenge my highest readers we analyze the literal and beyond literal meanings of song lyrics.
End of Day — Just as we started our day with a song, we end with a song and a little "Bye, Bye, Bye" routine. See my post about clean endings to the day.
Absence of Music — Again that pesky rule #1 comes into play. I consistently play music every morning and for every transition, so when students enter the room without music, they realize I might be setting the tone for a serious discussion.
Yes, music can be a powerful motivator and tone setter. It is a pleasant nag in the ears of the students signifying what they should be doing next. Your homework assignment is to pick one or two times during the day to try it out. Do it for two weeks. Reflect on the effect it has on your students' behavior. I will share some of my playlists in a post in a couple of weeks.
What music selections do you use in your classroom and for what purpose?
2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's classroom.