It all started with bellydancing. Wanting to set the mood for my students’ mid-unit review activity for our study of Homer’s The Odyssey, I searched Pandora for a bit of Greek music. Acoustic guitar? Eh, I could do better. Instrumental flutes? Uh, snore. Bellydancing music? Yeeeah! Two minutes later, the Bellydancing Channel (yes, there really is such a thing) filled my classroom with snappy finger-bells and I was craving hummus.
As kids entered the room, they were full of questions. What’s happening? What’s with the music, Ms. R.? You’re not going to make us dance, right? Dance? Yay, let’s dance! Opa! I faded the music for a little instruction about how to track Odysseus’ first 15 adventures and then everyone got to work. Midway through the lesson, the background music shifted from baklava to Bollywood, but it was all good. My Indian girls were jammin’ while they worked, happy to teach me proper wrist-flick technique as I helped them clarify the differences between Scylla and Charybdis.
They were happy. They were learning. I was happy and learning that I should add more fun to my teaching day. Our daily lesson objectives were achieved and my batteries were juiced by the end of the day instead of drained.
I now add music whenever possible. Usually I’m able to bust my jams only during our six-minute passing periods (the music can be a distraction for heavier lessons), but I’ve also found pockets of time when music adds to the mood or message of the lesson.
While reading Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” play a little of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” low in the background.
When studying Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” wouldn’t the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack be a nice fit?
Heck, I’ve even played the Jaws theme right before final exams. We have to be a little twisted; we teach high school.
Not feeling up to being the disc jockey? Assign a class mix-master – trust me, you’ll have plenty of volunteers – and let the (school-appropriate) funk reign.