Music and I go way back.

Many of my sharpest memories are indelibly linked to the soundtrack that accompanied them. Listening to ZZ Top reminds me of road trips with my Mom, Frank Sinatra reminds me of slow days at the lake with my grandparents, 2pac reminds me of high school cross country meets, and Alicia Keys brings back memories of exam crams at 2am.
I bet right now, you’re thinking of your own memories and the songs that trigger them. Music has an important place in our hearts, but even more so in our minds. It can fire us up, make us sad, give us hope, focus us and… calm us down.
Focus and calm.
This is the type of atmosphere that you and I try to create in our classrooms. I want to share with you how I’ve been using music in my classroom to work towards this as of late.

Getting to know Spotify.

Using Spotify is like getting a room full of vinyl but you can take it wherever you go. Spotify is an internet music library that allows users to search, browse, and compile music via a personal account.
Today I want to help you to harness the power of this application to fuel your classroom atmosphere. So the first thing we have to do is set you up with an account, and play around a little.

First, get yourself to Spotify.com <—Clicky, Click, Click.

Next, watch the video tutorial below. It will walk you through the account creation process and then show you around the basic features of the music application.

An educator’s usage.

Fun! But how can we purpose this toward the classroom?

Playlists are perhaps the number one feature to take advantage of as an educator because it allows you to target specific aspects of your practice, and curate a soundtrack tailored to your needs.

For example, I’ve created a playlist entitled, ‘The Classroom’ that is full of instrumental music. Most of the songs are string and orchestra covers of popular songs. I’ve chosen these songs to serve as low volume background ambiance, to create a calm soothing environment in my classroom.

Check it out below:

spotify:user:jger1:playlist:5b5etO7SgHYgvMvABgHYOi

I’m a big believer that students should listen to music as they learn, because I think that the right rhythms and melodies can put our minds in a state that makes it easier to focus and by proxy, learn. Many of my students want to listen to headphones as they work, and it does help some. But I think that many choose songs that demand the lion share of their focus. It’s a learned skill to identify appropriate study music and hopefully I’m helping to model this for them when they visit me each day.
Targeting covers of pop songs is a good compromise between genre’s. The songs are familiar to students which connects to their musical interests. Yet the soothing strings of the instrumental covers create the desired atmosphere for learning. I really like that there are no vocals. I feel that, when using music as a passive element of instruction, the sound of a human voice can be a distraction because we want to focus on what is being said. Unless you want your students to actively focus on the content of a song, try to avoid lyrics.
‘The Classroom’ is great for anytime in class. I play it at a low volume as students enter, keep it at low volume while we have discussions, raise it up slightly as students work collaboratively or individually, and keep it playing as they exit.

I also use songs as a timing mechanism to keep me on pace and it helps the students to anticipate the transition from one activity to the next.

On the active engagement side of things, Spotify has lots of songs that can be used to directly teach. I have a playlist entitled ‘Brain Beats’ is full of songs that can be used as active teaching tools.

spotify:user:jger1:playlist:3kZpwaNjvsFVgHZYamH7F8

I’m still searching for more songs to add to this list in all content areas. Let me know if you have suggestions!

Discussing, sharing, and enlightening one another.

How do you use music in your classroom? How do you imagine you could use Spotify?

I really encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below so that I (and everyone else) can learn from you!

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