Magazine article Techniques

The Educational Benefits of Using Music in the Classroom

Magazine article Techniques

The Educational Benefits of Using Music in the Classroom

Article excerpt

MORE THAN 10 YEARS AGO, I PARTICIPATED IN A WORKSHOP ON INTEGRATING the brain. Integrating, he brain involves doing activities that engage the tell and right hemispheres of the brain, which enhances comprehension and retention. The presenters touted the benefits of playing classical music in class, and I dutifully ran out and bought an assortment of Bach, Beethoven and 'Vivaldi to incorporate in my lessons. I was thrilled to have an excuse to play any kind of music in my classroom.

Most of' the students appreciated the addition of music during testing or lab periods. and they could even identify some of the classical pieces, but I couldn't help feeling there was more to know about learning and music--all kinds of music. I added a CD of the London Symphony Orchestra playing songs from Pink Floyd, and I couldn't help but giggle when strains of "We don't need no education" would play to my unsuspecting students. One day, I was working with my students in the lab. Someone (maybe me) randomly started singing the Gilligan's Island theme song. Pretty soon, everyone joined in. Then someone started the theme song from The Addams Family and then Saved by the Bell. We sang TV theme songs all period. The mood was excellent and the students worked hard on their projects while they sang. We also laughed and bonded.

After that experience, I knew there had to be more to using music than just integrating the brain with the classics. Other than the initial workshop I attended, it was difficult to find information that supported using genres other than classical in the high school classroom. I decided to do a thesis and action research on the subject. I wanted a rationale to play lots of music and different genres to see if I could recreate that same sense of community each year. I eventually found a tough, hut interesting read, This Is Jour Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin, and completed action research with my classes. I am happy to share what I learned through this process.


We all know that rigor, relevance and relationships are vital in the classroom. Most cultures (except the high school classroom have incorporated some form of music as a piece of community gatherings. Levitin's studies verify the connection between culture, music and a sense of belonging. Music provides a shared experience that helps students develop a sense of belonging, especially if they are allowed to help create the classroom soundtrack. This feeling of inclusiveness is valuable to teachers as the basis for relationships and ownership, or a sense of community! During the first week of school, I have my students play 30 seconds of music that is meaningful to them, and I require them to explain its significance. It helps us to get to know each other. Additionally, by playing music as the students enter and exit class, the bonding grows and continues and we become a community of learners. I am careful to choose music with positive. appropriate messages.


Levitin's studies proved that a majority ot non-musicians were able to sing a song within 4 percent or its original recording tempo. This is because rhythm engages the cerebellum and the left hemisphere HI the brain, and the melody engages the right hemisphere. Since there are various memory centers that work together in the brain, this process increases memory. How many of us sing the "ABC Song" when we are alphabetizing something? Who can name all 50 states by singing "Fifty Nifty United States?" Elementary teachers regularly use music as a tool to increase memory. …

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