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.
Sticks of Fate is a creative spin on the classic technique of a teacher calling on students to ask them questions. The teacher has a cup with popsicle sticks each with a student’s name on them. The sticks are stirred around, and the teacher randomly calls on a student to answer a question or contribute in the classroom. There are endless ways the sticks can be used in the classroom, but some important ways would be during discussion, brainstorming, presenting individual or group ideas, or even paring students for projects.
When the can is picked up by the teacher and swirled around it gets everyone’s attention because it uses randomness to the teacher’s advantage; therefore, students feel more accountable to not only listening in class but listening to their peers in class to summarize and demonstrate active listening techniques.
Sticks of Fate: May the odds be ever in your favor!
Lemov, D. Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (2010). San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishing
I teach Art Education at Pittsburg State University. Here is what is going on in my classes.