Music is a great way to set a tone in your classroom, reward your students, or to add an additional learning element to the overall classroom experience.
I first started thinking about music in a classroom when I taught in an elementary school. My third-grade class said, “Don’t forget to tell our homeroom teacher that we were good in our special area because if we get enough stars, we get to listen to Christmas music.” That next day I popped into this classroom and was so shocked to see all the students on task at their desks while a CD player on a low volume was playing a Mannheim Steamroller CD. I think the teacher had purposely turned it on a lower level, so the students got quiet to hear it. I have since tried this in my classes, and it is correct, if you turn on music to reward your students, they will get quieter to hear the music. This is an excellent classroom management strategy. I love to have this dangling carrot to reward students but also something simple like background music to take away when voices get out of hand.
I know that students are exposed to enough music from Disney CDs and the radio, so I do not play any Disney or top 40 hits in my classroom. Instead, I take the opportunity to use the music in the classroom to expose and teach the students about some great artists. I have a jar of names in the classroom, and once a week, a student selects an artist’s name from the jar, and they become our Musician of the Week. The artists in the jar include Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, Mozart, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. I then go to my favorite streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, or Amazon Music and type in that artist. I love it when after the Beatles week, a parent came to me and said that her child had correctly identified a Beatles song that was playing in the grocery store.
The last great way to use music in your classroom is to enhance your lesson plans. If you are doing drawings on animals in the safari, why not try to find some African beats from the world music section? It would be a great tone-setter in the classroom and auditorily transport your students to that time and place. Global music is a terrific way to add a layer of multiculturalism to your classroom with very little effort. It can easily become an anticipatory set to help hook the students as they are walking into class, or as background music while they are working.
Below is a link to a general Spotify album that I use in my classroom. As of this moment it has 52 of my favorite songs from Motown.
Here is also a link to another Motown’s Greatest Hits on YouTube. It is 2 hours and 24 minutes of some of my favorite songs.
How do you use music in your classroom and what are your favorite albums? Comment below to share your resources with others.
Don’t you love the coziness of a crackling fire? You can pull your rocking chair right up to it and do a little weaving or read a good book. I think background ambiance can set a mood, so I have been using screensavers at school to do just that. If you have a projector, a screen, and the internet here are a list of the best screen savers on YouTube for your classroom.
Here is a picture of my classroom ready for Friendsgiving with the fireplace on the screen in the background.
It all started with an episode of Bob Ross's Joy of Painting (Netflix). I showed it during some open studio time in the classroom just as background noise. Bob, as you know, is wonderful and so soothing so he was a perfect choice while my students created. It was open studio time, so the students were busy working and I was walking around slowly giving advice and directions for their projects. I noticed a few students actually watching the Bob Ross video instead of working, and I redirected them to continue working on their own artwork. After this I went in search for a video that could set a mood but also be background. I didn't want students to be caught up in watching the screen like they watched the Bob Ross video. YouTube is filled with screensavers, many are 5 to 10 hours so I don't have to worry about what is on the overhead screen. I can literally, like the commercial says, set it and forget it. These are in no particular order, I encourage you to try them all.
1. Crackling Fireplace
I use this one on a cold snowy day, and it seems to warm up the room. It is also good for story time, time when students are laying on the big pillows weaving, and for Holiday parties. FYI- This one is 10 hours!
2. Aquarium (Water Zoos)
Even my college students love an aquarium. I have the Monterey Bay Aquarium Jelly Fish webcam as a permeant tab open on my laptop so I can click right to it and see the jellies. They also have webcams on otters if that is more your style. This is great for any “under the sea” unit or just to get your students to draw from life in a quick manner. Click the image of the jellyfish to be taken to the Monterey Bay Live Cams. The Jellyfish cam has music playing behind the swimming jellies, but the other webcams such as the otters or sharks do not. I go back and forth on the music so the following YouTube link is an aquarium screensavers without the music.
Here is a second Aquarium with natural sounds instead of music in the background.
Being from a land-locked state I love the ocean, but do not get to visit as much as I would like. This ocean waves helps and is very soothing to hear and see the waves come in and go out with the tides.
4. Winter Snow
Just as the ocean waves is a hit in the middle of winter because it gets us dreaming of warmer weather, when school starts in September and it is still Hot, Hot, Hot, try this YouTube video of a snowstorm. It might also be a great screen saver on the day you are painting that polar bear in a snowstorm.
5. Birds in the trees
It feels like a hike in the middle of your day. This screen saver is a gem to play in the background on any day but especially on a day when you might be working on drawing birds or insects.
6. Cave sounds
My pre-service teachers showed me this video that they used with their cave art lesson. It was a great addition to the overall class period and really set a tone that we were in a cave.
I know there are others, comment below on the ones you use in your classroom on a daily basis or for special assignments.
I teach future art teachers at Emporia State University. Here is what is going on in my classes.