Simple ways to use mood music in your classroom to amp up learning

Music has so many uses in the classroom. After being jolted awake by Dave Burgess‘ Teach Like a Pirate wisdom – I realized that there are so many aspects of the mood I need to use in my classroom.

Music sets the mood

I now use music for many purposes. When students are doing something a tad stressful, the Carribean calypso music is so relaxing, they just relax and get it done.

When they are brainstorming, peppy music that they like gets them thinking. If they are making – it makes them more creative.

There's a time for all types of music in my classroom. Like some choose wine for the meal, I choose music for the task. Sometimes that means the students pick. Other times it means we create a special station on Pandora and enjoy it.

Music makes a great timer

Here's what I've found that I love the most about music. I have always used a timer in my classroom to keep us on track. Otherwise, we'll just spend forever brainstorming – which isn't a bad thing – but I do have things to get accomplished with them. The problem with the timer is that no one pays attention to it. No one really knows how long 5 minutes is or 10 minutes. It isn't tangible.

Now, I say “Ok, we're going to spend 2 songs on this.” Most of the songs are around 4:30 or so. The students listen but they also know that time is passing. They tend to more creatively, enthusiastically get their work done.

Music has a place in the classroom

Music not only sets mood, it marks the passage of time in a way that students understand and respond to. I love it. I've always used it, but I haven't always used it in all of my classes pretty much daily. My classrooms works better when it is on.

Set guidelines for music

I have guidelines for music when students pick it.

1. Keep it clean.

I explain that I'm accountable for the words so I have to be able to understand them. I also ask them to help me keep it acceptable for school. If they break trust with me, the person who picked the song or music can't pick again.

2. Keep it simple

Students who are put in charge of music for a day in my classroom should make a playlist. This “pick one song at a time” is a real time waster. They should make it ahead of time and have it ready to go. Quite of my students have a “computer class playlist” they have just for me.

3. Keep it low bandwidth

I prefer NOT to do youtube playlists because of the bandwidth of the video. It also tempts students to want the videos to play and I find it distracting. There are also some things in some videos that just are not OK for school and there's no way for me to watch those ahead of time.

4. Keep it at a reasonable volume

The teacher next door shouldn't hear the music. Period.

How do you use music in the classroom?

So, this is a short post and on a simple topic. But this one simple thing has made a huge difference in my classroom.

I'd love to hear what some of you do with music in your classroom.


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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