Sometimes, the best classroom aides are found in the simplest places.
A study from the University of Helsinki noted in 2015 that the simple act of listening to music while in class can help improve students’ memory and learning capability. There is also evidence to show that music played at low volumes during class activities can boost creativity and concentration.
When used creatively, music can serve as a core feature of a lesson or just make for good background ambiance and signal transitions in class activity. Whether playing it during tests or reading time, music can have a significant impact on how students react to learning. Studying with music has been shown to help students study longer and retain more information.
There are no limits to music’s application in the classroom as it can be used to help teach any subject at just about any level.
If you teach one of the following subjects, consider these ideas as a starting point for how you might bring music into your classroom as a way to break routine, pique student interest and elevate enthusiasm.
Reading and Writing
Getting students interested in reading can be a challenge, particularly if they haven’t grown up thinking of books as entertaining. For these students, incorporating song lyrics into a lesson can be a great way to encourage them to engage and think critically about language.
Playing a song and approaching it from an analytical perspective helps connect students to artistic works they may previously have only listened to in passing. Teachers can print out lyrics and have students read them through to try to decipher metaphors or symbols. It may not feel like reading a book or article, but it can be an important stepping stone to those longer works and, more importantly, a way for students to learn that reading and thinking about what they read can be enjoyable.
The relationship between math and music is something scholars in both disciplines have been looking at for hundreds of years. That said, the concepts can also be simplified to help students in math classrooms better appreciate the relevance of math and inspire them to see mathematical patterns in other areas of life.
All music, from pop to classical, exists along a spectrum of time that is subdivided into different units. Students do not have to be musicians to appreciate learning that music written in beats and measures is related to fractions. Whether a song is written using four beats to a measure or three (or something else entirely), these beats can be understood as parts of a greater whole. Try introducing students to this concept and encouraging them to try to hear the rhythm of their favorite songs with fractions in mind.
One of the great things about music is that it has existed in some form or another for nearly all of recorded human history. Just as a history class might focus on political decisions, wars, or great thinkers, it can also focus on the role of music at a particular point in time. Try finding and playing an excerpt of music from the ancient world and watch as students perk their ears up to try to understand what they’re hearing. They may not enjoy it in the sense of how they relate to their favorite music, but it will nonetheless make the class, and lesson, feel more lively and relevant.
At first glance, music may not seem to have much to do with teaching science. While this is to some extent true, at least in the sense that it relates less obviously to science than it does to the other discussed subjects, music can be used as a fun memory tool for difficult scientific concepts with great effectiveness.
As an example, a teacher may consider the idea of taking popular songs and replacing the lyrics with something scientific. It may sound a bit silly, but in the case of memory, it is often the silliest songs that are the most memorable. Students can be encouraged to replace song lyrics with their own ideas in an ad lib mashup of popular songs with the goal of remembering key scientific words or phrases. This works particularly well for older students, who may even be keen on the idea of writing their own science-based songs. Whatever the approach, using music can be a fun way to ingrain scientific concepts in students’ memories.