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.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Love these suggestions! I have music on in my room constantly because I discovered that it usually helps students to be more productive. I got the idea because I am often more productive when I have music playing and notice a lot of students working with headphones on in various places. So I tried it out… MAGIC! It fills any awkward silence so they don’t feel the need to fill it with pointless chatter and it also creates an atmosphere that is more positive and enjoyable. After the first month of school, if it’s work time and I don’t have music on, someone will ask, “Mrs. E. can you put some music on?” And any time I ask, “Do you want music while you work?” a chorus of yeses follow. I subscribe to Spotify (I have a 2-hour round trip commute to be entertained on) and it’s well worth the $10/month in my opinion. They have pretty much anything you could want, including some great stations in the “Focus” station. I will say the “Hipster” and “Indie” stations tend to be my go-to bc they have good beats, are lighthearted, and most of the kids don’t know the words. I do throw in the 80s or 90s music on occasion with the deal that they can’t rock out TOO MUCH haha. Sorry this is long – I got REALLY excited about this post!

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  2. Love your passion, Sarah! I’ll definitely try out Spotify this fall. I love having the music, too, during work sessions because the time seems to fly by so much more quickly, no?

    Hope you’re having a great summer,
    Laura

    Like

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