I’m a big advocate of using music as a teaching tool. It constantly surprises me that more teachers don’t use it. I can understand the fear that it will excite pupils too much thus distracting them from work, but with a little experimenting it can have a fantastic impact.
Perhaps as an Art teacher the practical nature of most classes lends itself more readily to background music, but I’d be amazed if it did not have a positive impact in other subjects too.
Granted, I have had lessons where the music becomes too much of a focus, but once you find the right approach the impact is usually impressive. Not only can it calm and focus classes, but more pupils enjoy and look forward to lessons because of it. You’ll also probably find that you are calmer and enjoying lessons more too.
The best approach I have found is to play full albums or long playlists so that less time is wasted selecting songs (YouTube, Spotify and iPods work well for this). With loud classes I select the music, usually something very calm like ‘Enaudi’ or ‘Cafe Del Mar’ then as they improve they are rewarded with more choice.
Playing with the volume is a good way to control class noise. If things get too loud, a short sharp increase in volume grabs attention before turning if off to reinforce expectations. It’s important also to explain that music is a privilege, not a right, so that the idea of reward for positive responses is encouraged.
When more choice is introduced explain that the environment should be considered ‘we are not in a dance club on a Friday night’, ‘I like loud excitable rock and dance music as much as the next person, but it’s probably not appropriate for the lesson’. Explain that inappropriate language is not permitted and the general vibe of the music should be calm or purposeful, a ‘beats per minute rule’ can also be useful. Explain the idea again of full albums or a pre-setup playlist and that work should be the focus. Eventually you can get all students to write one album each on a slip of paper that is put into a hat. You can then check out the music ahead of future lessons, removing inappropriate choices and confidently select from the hat.
YouTube I have found to be the best tool to use so here are my current top recommendations to get you started (note the mixture of old, new and multicultural):
1. Bob Marley (brings great vibe to class) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrU5i_ikS3Q
2. Jack Johnson (calm singer songwriter / surf) http://www.youtube.com/watchv=GLYpcQ37yYE
3. Ludovico Enaudi (very calming piano) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqczMg8bGcY
4. Ed Sheeran (calm pop) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hpiu2rrZH8U
5. Ben Howard (calm folk) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDOh754QPFU&list=PLeYjRN8bBm8_rCUOWfPV6DnLPFDJP3yyG&index=9
6. Fat Freddies drop (calm beat music) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNefL4q0k5E
7. Flume (calm’ish beat music) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyDJWxCep8&list=PLfk_Bv3x7xZLaDTrnJwvsJwQD_qJ2PmZ-
8. Van Morrison (calm easy listening) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJjCaEkcXCY&list=PLGmkETWhsiEbEj4NI-n6JPU2fw6zyg_aQ
9. Bastille (calm’ish pop) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvSsbW3cq54
10. Café Del Mar (beach chillout beats) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tJTKG5wR2k
Calm Japanese compilation (3hrs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgjmhbkPVAI
Calm Piano Compilation (3hrs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNYcqj8A1Tg
ZEN: (8hrs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrx1vyvtRLY
Buena Vista Social Club (calm Cuban) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp6h6EY7XOU
First Aid Kit (calm modern folk) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AplhZ3Dpcwc
London Grammar (calm modern alternative) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQof6hbbXuQ&list=PLfimnwaZdumgCl_AQYyPZFSAwsx5cj-2e
Feist (calm upbeat pop) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4yOdGs88Mo<a href="http://