In this blog we discuss benefits of music in classrooms:
- Research-based benefits to music use in the classroom
- Ideas for ways you can incorporate music today
- Tips for making music use as effective as possible
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1. Information Retention
This is perhaps one of the best benefits of music in classrooms. Most of us remember a time in school or at home when our parents and teachers told us to take out our headphones. My tenth grade English teacher would stand on her chair and shout, “How can you all focus with all that noise in your head?” While she may have been right for some types of music listening, research shows that there are actually many positive benefits. Various studies have suggested that listening to music improves brain function in a number of ways, including memory and focus. This means that listening to relaxing music at a reasonable volume is great for classrooms! Don’t be afraid to turn up the volume and start a class playlist to use for class work and study time.
2. Concentration and Creativity
That improved brain function has other benefits as well. While music is playing, concentration and creativity will increase along with brain function and focus. Scientists believe this may be related to the strong emotional link that many of us have with musical melodies and patterns. In the classroom, consider having various playlists for different types of work. Consider using calm, mellow tones for individual practice sessions, up-beat and fast-paced varieties for games, and expressive/emotional instrumentals for creative projects.
3. Memory Tools
I can still remember the way my middle school math teacher taught as about the order of operations when solving algebraic expressions. He would sing the acronym PEMDAS (parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) over and over again until it was hard-wired into our brains. To this day I hear it in my head when I solve a problem in my own chemistry classroom. Even high school students enjoy a clever jingle that helps them memorize important information. This simple use of music should not be overlooked or underestimated.
4. Engage Kinesthetic Learners
Take a moment during each class, or several moments during each day, to get up and move. Research has shown that this is incredibly helpful for all students, but especially kinesthetic learners. Engage your kinesthetic learners with music and movement by playing musical chairs, having an impromptu dance session, or a free-movement minute where students can move to the music as they please. The best part – it’s fun!
5. Students with Physical Disabilities
This is one of the often-overlooked benefits of music in classrooms. Students with physical impairments may benefit from listening to music while learning as well. Soothing, slow music will result in more controlled movements while fast music will result in jerkier movements. This may be beneficial to a variety of classroom projects or activities that require movement or even sitting still.
6. Increased Engagement
Student-created music is a powerful way to enhance projects and presentations. Consider adding a music creation component to any project you already do. Even something physical like a poster can be enhanced with music. In my classroom, as students hang their posters before a Gallery Walk, they each get to place a phone by their poster and play a musical selection of their choice. Viewers of the poster will hear that music playing as part of the poster experience. The engagement in the Gallery Walk and the project as a whole increases dramatically.
7. Powerful Lesson Hooks
This is one of my favorite benefits of music in classrooms. There is no better way to get students interested in what you’re about to say then music. Try this: as students enter the room, turn the lights off and play something dark and dramatic. Stand in the front of the room, but don’t say anything at all until they’re all seated. If you have a projector, show an image or video that gets them thinking. They won’t be able to stop shouting out, “What is going on and what are we about to learn?”
8. Student Ownership
Students take ownership of the classroom by selecting songs for a class playlist that is used during work time. Set up a simple Google Form where students can submit 1-2 songs of their choice. Then, simple add their selections onto one class playlist that is listened to during various points in the day. I like to use Spotify for this. The free version allows you to add any song to any playlist of your own creation. It even clearly marks which songs are explicit and shouldn’t be used in school.
9. Classroom Management
Songs can serve as powerful behavior cues. Use a certain song for transitioning from one activity to the next and other songs for quiet work time. This is a great, simple way to manage your classroom with ease.
Music serves as a great “brain break” that allows students to reset and recharge. Play something calming during a breathing exercise or something exciting during a free-play period. Either way, this will help to get out extra energy and put their brains back in a good place and ready to learn.
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