Using Music in the Classroom

How Different Types of Music Benefit Students Throughout the Day

Music can be a powerful learning tool in the classroom. Here are some ideas to get you started…

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Firstly, it is important to note that some of your students will prefer to work in silence. It can be relatively difficult to find quiet spaces in our busy world. One of the easiest ways to achieve complete silence is to wear a pair of earmuffs – the ones you mow the lawn with such as ear plugs, or use some old headphones from the listening post. This is a very effective and rather unique way of finding a quiet place. If you have the space, you might also have a quiet room students can work in. Some schools allow students to work in the staffroom as a quiet space.

For the students who prefer music in the background of their learning, the type you play can make a difference. First, music without words is best. The brain is designed to learn and will always focus on the words of a song rather than the content you are teaching. Secondly, baroque music will enhance your students’ learning and memory. This is because it has approximately sixty beats per minute, which is equivalent to the average resting heart rate.

The music, therefore, helps relax the student into a calmer state for learning. It has a predictability about it, as opposed to the classical and romantic eras of music which tend to be unpredictable and more stimulating for the mind and body.

Baroque music slows down brain waves from Beta waves, where the mind and body is very active and very busy, to Alpha waves, where the mind and body is calm and relaxed, allowing for the long term memory to be activated. Learning then becomes easy and rapid. Baroque composers include Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Corelli and Telemann. Baroque music played softly is best used in the background when your students are working quietly at tasks such as writing and reading. A study was conducted at Stanford University, USA, to determine the effect music has on plants. Three identical rooms were set up with plants. All plants were treated equally during the three month study.

In the first room there was complete silence. The second room had loud rock music pumped in, and the third had quiet Baroque music playing. At the end of the three months the plants were compared. In the room with silence the plants were normal and healthy. The plants in the rock music room were shrivelling and dying. Finally, the plants in the Baroque music room had flourished beyond expectations. But more than this. Researchers noticed an unusual phenomenon. The plants were growing towards the speakers. Now, I know students’ brains are not like plants… or are

Music in the Classroom:
There are many times you can add music to your classroom routine. Here are a few ideas…

Discussion: Playing music while students are talking can enhance their discussion. Play it softly in the background so it doesn’t intrude on the discussion.

Examples: Kenny G, Gato Babien, light jazz or instrumental versions of popular songs.

Call-In Song: A song to let students know it’s time to get ready to start the class. Very useful after morning tea and lunch, and especially good for between classes as a guide for children to know how long they have to get to the next class. I tend to prefer music with positive words and an upbeat tune.

Examples: Simply the Best, Tina Turner; Surfin’ Safari, Beach Boys; No Limits, Hits Unlimited S2; Joy to the World, Three Dog Night; Life, Haddaway; Hello, Martin Solveig; Everybody Everybody, Old School Players; Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson; Happy, Pharrell Williams.

Special Effects: To add more fun into your programme.

Examples: Twilight Zone Theme; Chariots of Fire, Vangelis; Eye of the Tiger, Survivor; I’m So Excited, Pointer Sisters.

Pack Up: A track of music that you can use at pack up time so students know when to start packing up and how long they have. This music has a fast beat which indicates to pack up quickly.

Examples: William Tell Overture, Rossini; Heigh Ho Heigh Ho, 7 Dwarves; 1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky; Grease Lightning, Grease Soundtrack.

Reflection: Useful to calm students and for stimulating creativity.

Examples: The Mariner, Tony O’Connor; The Butterfly, Jeff Clarkson; Espresso Guitar, Martin Winch.

Baroque: Great for opening the brain to a receptive state of learning and accessing long term memory. This music is recommended for studying.

Examples: Pachelbel, Correlli, Vivaldi, Telemann, Handel, Scarletti, Bach.

Remember to provide a time when your students can play their own music – maybe two or three minutes before the lunch bell. I do advise, however, that you screen their music first – some is not appropriate for the classroom.

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Karen Tui Boyes

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for LifeLong Learning. A multi-award-winning speaker, educator and businesswoman, she is an expert in effective teaching, learning, study skills, motivation and positive thinking. Karen is the CEO of Spectrum Education, Principal of Spectrum Online Academy and the author of 10 books. She loves empowering teachers, parents and students and is the wife to one and the mother of two young adults.
Karen was named the GIFEW Evolutionary Woman of the Year 2022.