Imagine a PreK classroom brimming with vibrant energy, where little learners engage in various activities like play, painting, and exploration. Now, imagine adding a subtle touch of melody and rhythm to the background of these experiences, and you’ll witness the transformative power of music in action. This is called Sountracking! Integrating music as a backdrop to teaching and learning in the PreK classroom is an art that can significantly enhance the overall experience for both teachers and young students.
Soundtracking is a teacher favorite inside of the SEAL Method as it helps students to find calm and focus on their learning. Inside our SEAL course, we look at many strategies of using music to Soundtrack your classroom. In this article, we will begin to delve into the enchanting world of music, exploring its ability to create an immersive environment that supports a wide range of PreK classroom activities. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting your journey with young learners, incorporating background music can have a profound impact, fostering engagement, creativity, and a sense of wonder.
Why is this important work?
Music possesses a unique ability to elevate the atmosphere, creating a positive and inviting ambiance within the classroom. By using music as a subtle backdrop to various activities, teachers can inspire and captivate their students, facilitating a more immersive and enjoyable learning experience.
One of the key benefits of Soundtracking is its ability to promote focus and concentration. When carefully selected and implemented, music can help create a calm and harmonious environment, enabling children to stay engaged in their tasks. Soft instrumental tunes or soothing melodies can provide a gentle auditory backdrop that enhances concentration during independent work, art projects, or other quiet activities.
Moreover, background music can stimulate creativity and imagination in young minds. As children engage in play, painting, or other forms of self-expression, music acts as a catalyst, encouraging them to explore and experiment. The subtle melodies can inspire movement, inspire storytelling, or even prompt the creation of unique artistic masterpieces. By Soundtracking these activities, teachers provide an additional layer of inspiration and encourage children to express their thoughts and emotions in new and imaginative ways.
Furthermore, Soundtracking your classroom with background music serves as a powerful memory aid. As children participate in activities, the presence of music can actually enhance the retention of information. Melodies and rhythms can act as anchors, making concepts more memorable and easier to recall. Whether it’s a catchy tune reinforcing letter sounds during a painting session or a playful jingle supporting counting skills during playtime, background music creates a multisensory experience that strengthens learning and reinforces important concepts.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, Soundtracking your PreK classroom also fosters a positive social and emotional environment. As children engage in collaborative activities, the gentle melodies provide a cohesive element, unifying their experiences. By establishing a shared auditory background, music promotes cooperation, communication, and a sense of belonging. Furthermore, certain styles of music, such as calming tunes or cheerful melodies, can evoke specific emotional responses, creating an environment that supports emotional well-being and self-regulation.
Lastly, Soundtracking offers an opportunity for seamless classroom management and smooth transitions. By using carefully selected tunes, teachers can create a predictable and structured atmosphere, signaling transitions between activities or different parts of the day. The consistent presence of music serves as a gentle reminder, reducing disruptions and providing young learners with a sense of routine and stability.
Putting Soundtracking into Action
Each section of the day can have a different type of music to fit the needs of of your little learners. Let’s take a look at some of the times during the day that you might want to use Soundtracking.
Entering the Room
Playing music as your children enter the room can really help set the tone for the day. Try playing some sort of upbeat or seasonal music. For example, for the week leading up to the holidays, you can use jazzy Christmas music or if you are studying different cultures, you can use music from that culture. The morning is a great time to play around with different genres that will welcome the students to a new day.
If you keep the music consistent, you can also use it to help cue your students. For example, maybe the second or third song you play is the same one each morning. If so, your students can start to understand that by the time that particular song is done, they need to be sitting quietly on the rug for Circle Time.
Circle Time/Morning Meeting
When you play music for the start of your instruction, it’s wise to choose music that is calm and has no lyrics. If your intent is to get students ready for the day, talk about the date, weather, etc, then lyrics can be distracting. Of course, Circle Time is always a great time to sing songs as well! It’s ok to have a low volume, calm sound playing as you sing morning songs. Then, when students are done with that song (or whatever activity you might be doing), they can take a deep breath and focus back in on the music you have playing.
Believe it or not, having music playing as you are teaching your students is a great way to keep them engaged. Choosing music that is calm and somewhat repetitive can help to regulate your students. Many teachers like using a slow, droning, yoga type of music that just lays a blanket of sound across your classroom. It has no lyrics, no rhythm and really no melody either. An example of this is “Study Music Alpha Waves” found on YouTube. This can be used when you teach a lesson, while you’re giving instructions and while the students work on any assignments you give. This particular track lasts over 3 hours and has no true beginning or end, and it truly creates an atmosphere of constant peace.
This music is especially beneficial when you feel a student (or students) needs a brain break or a chance to take some deep breaths, the music automatically sets the tone to quiet down. They just stand still and feel it! It’s like I have my own yoga studio in my classroom at the drop of a hat.
Play time is so important for PreK and primary grades!!! Music can play a huge role in creating just the right atmosphere for play. Depending on your taste and what may work best for your kids, you can have all types of kids music playing during this time. Teachers have used things like movie soundtracks (think Star Wars or Indiana Jones!), Kids Bop playlists, and instrumental lofi music.
Again, experiment with different genres, volumes, lyrics/no lyrics, etc. and find what works best for you!
Another thing you can experiment with is playing nature sounds. These range from water sounds to birds chirping to rain storms. Be careful not to play a sound track that has a loud or strange sound come out of nowhere. This can be ineffective and startle your children. For example, a soundtrack of a thunderstorm can create lots of tension and when lightning cracks, it can be scary!
You’ve probably guessed that I have found using music in my own classroom very beneficial. I teach upper elementary and was able to some of the reactions from my students on what they think of Soundtracking. I’d love to share with you what they said!
Overall, they consistently have a positive response to the music. One year, I handed out a survey and asked them to check off their initial reactions to the music and sound in our room. They could check off whatever they wanted and as many things as they felt applied to them. There was also an option to write in an alternate response.
Overall, “It relaxes me” and “It helps me.” were at the top of the list.
Here is a (very high tech) graph of how they responded:
In addition, some students wrote a comment about their experience:
“I don’t notice it, which is good for me.”
“It’s helping me stay calm. It helps me think.”
“I like having it on while we are doing work. Maybe we could have it on while we are reading.”
“I really like the music you play. It keeps me relaxed and focused.”
Of course there are a couple students who are not into the entire experience:
“You can keep playing the music, but quieter music and no more nature sounds. I don’t like it.”
And others who are good at defining thus far that they prefer music to ambient (nature) sounds.
“I don’t like the nature sounds. The jazzy music is relaxing.”
And one student said this:
“Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes I love it.”
Which brings me to another point of bringing up emotions. Sometimes, unexpectedly, an emotion is triggered in a child (or anyone, really) when a certain song comes on, or a mood is amplified through sound. This is something you will want to be aware of and look out for in the future. Of course you probably already know to be careful not to excite students too much with upbeat pop music or hard core rock and roll. Keeping a relatively even keel of emotion in the classroom is important!
Ready to Learn Even More?
As an educator, you have the incredible opportunity to harness the magic of music, transforming your PreK classroom into dynamic, engaging space where every moment is infused with creativity and inspiration. Using this SEAL Strategy of Soundtracking can help to empower you to integrate background music seamlessly into your daily classroom routines and activities.
So, let us embark on this melodious journey, where the power of music as a background to teaching and learning will spark joy, amplify engagement, and create a symphony of growth and discovery for our little learners.