Music plays a major role in our lives. We use it to set the mood for holidays, parties, romantic dinners and exercising. Music can pick us up out of a funk and calm us down when we need to relax. (Where do they get that music in the spas anyway???)
So is there a role for music in our classrooms?
We’re not talking about a pizza party where kids play their faves. We’re talking about teacher curated playlists, played in class, every day.
I started playing music in my room my first year teaching and still do it. It creates a wraparound mood that not only the students enjoy, but I do too! Now, if my speaker needs to be recharged, everyone in the room notices and I rush to plug it in.
There is intentionality in this effort. There are playlists to calm us (after gym or lunch), playlists to energize us (first thing in the morning) and playlists to have fun with (when we are playing games). This music is not necessarily loud, it’s just played as a background noise to set the tone.
The music is always set at the same level. If noise in the classroom gets loud enough to drown out the music, that’s time to reign it back in. At the beginning of the year we establish that if noise gets loud enough that you can’t hear the music, that’s too loud, take it down.
The music is playing when the kids enter the room and start the do now. I pause it while I go over the do now or mini lesson, then it goes back on when we get to work. If I need to stop the class to make an announcement, I pause it again. It’s controlled through my phone so I don’t have to run around to pause it.
Here’s what’s really cool: the kids know that if the music is on they should be doing something, and when it goes off they should look for me because I’m about to say something.
It’s actually an outcome that my Principal noticed on an observation years ago. In my debriefing, she shared, “I heard the kids say ‘the music is on, let’s get to work!’ so that’s a highly effective classroom management technique.” Hmmm. Don’t think I even realized it was part of my classroom management…
Over the years kids have made song requests from time to time. My reply is that I’m not a DJ and I don’t take requests. (lol) But I want their requests to be heard! So at the beginning of the school year students share their favorite “red carpet” songs in a google form and I turn those into a playlist. This is the playlist for test days and kids really enjoy hearing their favorite song. It energizes them and helps them feel more positive about their work.
I always download radio edits and pre screen songs for content before they go into a playlist. Many of my mood setting lists are instrumental so there is no need to screen those.
In conferencing with students, many have shared that the music creates a relaxing space where they feel safe and comfortable. Many have told me the music helps reduce the stress of the day. This, to me, is the whole point. I just want everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed so they can approach the work with a clear head.
At the end of the day, in this crazy year, if a student tells me my class is relaxing and comfortable, that’s a win in my book.