Sound in the classroom

I have written before about using music in the classroom.  I have been following a thread on one of my networks which has been discussing should we allow music in the classroom? Many schools have a ban on those little white buds which hang from students’ ears.  Should we allow students to listen to music that is beneficial for their learning?    Julian Treasure, ‘The four way sound affects us’ talks about how music affects us.  Although this video is aimed at businesses, it holds great relevance for education and learning.

1. Physiological – it affects our breathing, heart rate and brain waves.

2. Psychological – that which affects our emotions and cognitively, for example, we can’t listen to two people talking at once or listen well if there is a lot of background noise.  Productivity in open plan offices is 66 percent less than in a quiet room. However, if you had a set of headphones that is playing soothing music, your productivity in that noisy space will increase.

3. Behavioural: we want to move away from unpleasant sounds to pleasant sounds.  Ie noisy to quiet.

Julian goes on to state that music is the most powerful sound there is. Watch the video and see if it changes your mind about students listening to music in the classroom.

The four ways sound affects us.

Also read George Lozanov’s music for improved learning.

Make learning fun: music and movement

After attending a workshop with Rich Allen yesterday, I came away inspired and eager to use the ideas he covered.  As educators, it is easy to use familiar strategies and forget about being on the receiving end of learning.  Some of the highlights of the session are as follows:

Give one direction at a time:

So many teachers may string together five or six instructions and wonder why the kids are asking “what do we do?”  When the first instruction is given, it is being processed so what follows isn’t heard.  Aim for success: when the first direction has been achieved, give the second and so on.  Mostly, kids want to get it right, so give them ample opportunity. For example, stand up (when they are all standing), move back the chairs (when that is completed), form yourselves into groups of 3-4 (wait till they have formed their groups) and so on.

Get them moving around:

It may seem like a recipe for chaos, but kids do love movement (good for adults too). Kids don’t have to be sitting to be learning.  They can learn just as easily by moving around. Get them to mobilise, for example, post the lesson questions or tasks on cards around the room and give them time to move around (in pairs so they can collaborate) and read or look at the examples and report back.

Encourage group work:

Two heads (or more) are better than one!  Why isolate students in their learning?  Adults like to discuss, share and compare. We are preparing students for the world of work where  they will rarely be isolated in what they are doing. Learning becomes more fun and powerful when it is shared. Research has identified that (in most cases) the results are greater when there is teamwork.  Students can work together to problem-solve, discover, make assumptions etc.  Cosntantly changing the groups means that there will be different energies coming together to produce great results.

Story telling and visualisation for memory learning:

There are times students need to memorise facts.  Try this fun exercise with your class and then modify it for whatever needs to be learnt.  The following is a story containing 14 ‘facts’ (to be remembered) in italics.    Have students work in groups to come up with a story that will help them remember the 14 facts and then modify it to whatever you need them to remember.  Get them to use actions as they prepare their stories ie, hand movement for snake, drinking from a cup etc.  The students can present their stories to the rest of the class.  Here is an example:

a feather floated from the sky and the snake slithered over it. He was wearing a belt, drinking from a cup and needed his glasses to see …. he looked up at the building and saw a comb with a pair of scissors trying to cut it; on the handles of the scissors were cufflinks …. they belonged to the elephant who was looking for them; he came along and bumped into the lamppost which knocked off the coin sitting at the top, into the open briefcase under the tree.

Music in the classroom:

Adding music to the classroom is a great way  establish a positive learning environment and research has identified music improves concentration, attention and memory, provides inspiration and motivation. Additionally it enhances the imagination, develops rapport and ingests fun into learning!  What more reasons could an educator want?  Here are some suggestions for when to use music:

  • Before class: use music to set the tone and welcome students to the learning environment.
  • During movement: music to energise and motivate; use fast-paced, upbeat, energetic music.
  • Group discussions: use music with our without lyrics. During discussion the music will add background ‘noise’ so students are not disturbed by their neighbouring group’s discussion.
  • At the close of the class: This will provide a positive impression of the session.

So download some tunes, take your ipod to work and see the difference it makes to your students’ learning!

Further reading:

Songs for Teaching

Samples of welcoming music, music for focus and reflection, background music for groups, music for active learning and fun and so on.