I love music. I belt out my favorite tunes in the car, I sing in the shower, and I hum when I’m nervous (or concentrating!) So, why not in the classroom? Today, I want to talk about how I use music in my classroom to help increase my student’s ability to focus.
In my first year of teaching, I was desperately searching for ways to cut down the chatter in my classroom and increase their ability to focus on the work in front of them. It was one of my biggest hurdles. I tried a class behavior plan, but I felt that I was publicly shaming kids into being quiet. (I’m not saying that all class behavior plans do this, but the few that I tried that first year felt that way.)
I also tried class rewards for working quietly. I tried stickers, tolken systems, and student coupons, but they all left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Why should students be rewarded for EXPECTED behavior? It just wasn’t for me. I had to keep thinking!
Over the years, I have upgraded my stereo and put together a variety of different playlists for my classroom. I will be honest… there were a few times when I played a song, and then realized a lyric or two that would probably have been better left out of the classroom. Picking a playlist is diligent work, especially when you have to account for lyrics, volume, tone, tempo and other things that can affect the mood you are trying to create in your classroom.
- Make sure it is on the quiet side– ALL OF IT (a lot of songs fool you by starting off quiet, but then you are left with a loud clatter that can be very distracting for your students. Always listen to the whole song first!)
- Check the lyrics- Don’t only watch out for specific words, but also listen for phrases that you don’t want your kids going home and singing. For example, F.U.N.’s We Are Young contains the lyrics, “my friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State.” I love that song, but I don’t want my students singing that to their folks at home!
- Pick a slow tempo- It has been my experience that the slower the tempo, the calmer the class.
- Give a mix- Make sure that you give a mix of artists genres to engage all of your kiddos. It also helps keep the kids on their toes as they listen.
- Have different playlists for different times of your day! It helps you control the volume of your students, and it provides consistency for them. (for more info, see below)
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