We all know how music has the power to move people’s feelings and alter their moods. Many of us use music every single day to make us happy, to help us relax and to motivate us during exercise.
Music is also ingrained into our memories. If you’ve ever had a song ‘stuck in your head’ you will know how easy it is to recall even the most annoying song on the radio, in a way that seems completely involuntarily. This phenomenon can drive us crazy, but for teachers, this idea can be adapted to help with the learning process. Here are some ways in which music can be used as a classroom aid to improve memory, aid concentration and boost morale!
Many of us still sing the alphabet song to ourselves whenever we need to alphabetize things in day to day life. So it comes as no surprise that a study by the University of Illinois found that listening to music activates both hemispheres of our brain, increasing the students’ ability to process information, resulting in improved memory test scores, against a control group of students.
Songs that are interactive and include movement work best for aiding recall. So if you have a concept that your class needs to memorize, then turning the key facts into lyrics and actions may be the most effective way of making the lesson stick. You can try writing your own classroom songs or adapting well known tunes to suit the content. But, you don’t have to be a song writing genius to make this concept work, there are many free teaching songs online that you can sing with your students, covering a wide range of topics.
Listening to classical music whilst studying was found by researcher, Alfred, A Tomatis, to boost spatial-temporal reasoning skills, in a term he coined as the ‘Mozart Effect’. Spatial-temporal reasoning refers to our cognitive ability to visualize how things fit together and how we can problem solve by creating mental patterns. So if your class have been set a creative or critical thinking task, playing some classical music in the background can subconsciously help your class order the new information in their heads and may enable them to come up with creative solutions.
Certain tunes never fail to cheer us up when we hear them, so if your class are low on energy because it’s a rainy day, or they’re stressed out in the lead up to exams, playing some upbeat music can really perk up a class. Similarly, if your classes are becoming rowdy, relaxing music will have a calming effect on them and it may go some way in stopping them chatting amongst themselves and disrupting others whilst working.
You can also use music as a way of motivating students. If your class has behaved well, you may want to allow the pupils to choose the music you listen to for a while. This will reinforce the idea that behaving well is ‘cool,’ because they get to listen to their favourite music, increasing the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated in the future.
For more information about listening to music in the classroom, visit our Inspired by Listening page!
How do you use music in your classroom? What educational songs do your pupils like the most? Share in the comments below.
Louise Blake is a blogger from Bath where she lives with her husband and young son. She likes to offer advice to teachers on motivating and rewarding pupils, on behalf of Carrot Rewards.