I recently attended a professional development seminar Peak Learning Systems Performance Excellence for All Kids. I came away with several strategies I like to use in class. One struck a chord–music as an instructional tool.
For some this may seem like a gimmick at first. I was skeptical too, but I tried it and it works. Music is everywhere, in organized religion, the military, and sports. It teaches, engages, and energizes us. Music can be a powerful tool in the teaching and learning setting.
Peak Seminar Suggestions:
- Beat: Match the pace of music selections to the energy level you want to encourage. For energy select fast music over 60 beats per minute up to 180 or more (faster than normal, at rest heart beats). For calm use music between 40 and 60 beats per minute (slower than normal heart rates). For work select familiar music with a simple beat of about 50-75 beats per minute (normal heart rates for people working calmly).
- Classroom Focus: Always screen music to ensure the lyrics are appropriate. I would suggest a step further– research song selections. Appropriate words are only half of it; appropriate meaning is important too.
- Audience and Purpose: Select music with a target in mind. Do you want to motivate, energize, soothe, unsettle, relax, provoke sadness or laughter? Rock and roll, jazz, classical, baroque, country, bluegrass, rag time, theme music, and blues all have a place, but careful consideration is important.
How I Integrated Music?
Song of the Week: Each week I select a song for the week. It signals a shift in the daily lesson. My school’s schedule consists of six-periods each with 55 minutes of instructional time. I break instruction into 10-20 minute chunks and include 2-5 transitions in each class period. The song of the week signals a transition is near. I use volume to dictate time. For instance, if I have a 3:00 music selection, I may play only the first :30 seconds and use volume to alert students. When the music stops students realize it’s time to listen to instructions or go to the next step (based on previous direction).
Music gets us out of our duty-bound pragmatic left brain lives–like daydreams or play that calms us–perfect for a soothing or energizing shift back into task-focused behavior.
During class work I select music for a specific theme or subject. When teaching The Odyssey, I select songs with a journey association: The Beatles, Get Back (Odysseus’ longing for home); The Beatles, Help (Odysseus’ trip to the Underworld seeking advice); The Crest, Trouble in Paradise (Odysseus’ return and the suitors). Music can enhance almost any lesson across disciplines. Listening skills can focus concentration, increase pleasure and enhance knowledge. Streaming music of different times and genres can support creative assignments in writing, art, psychology or social behavior. You can select songs to signal partner work, group work, or independent study. In its website Peak provides a free resource for music title selection: Classroom Playlist.
Decide what works best–for you, your classroom climate, and most importantly, your students. I got past pessimism and plugged music in. My classroom is better for it.