Pipe in Some Music

Eleven Pipers Piping

Eleven Pipers Piping (Photo credit: Jonathan_W (@whatie))

Music is an easy way to add sensory pleasure to a classroom, so today we happily welcome those eleven pipers from “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Regular visitors to our blog know that we’ve written several posts on using music to make learning a pleasure (click here to see one of those). Here’s a recap for new friends.

To help preserve bandwidth, our college asks us not to stream music. Since I like to use music in my classes, I use a small speaker that features a dock for my iPhone or iPod, allowing me to use playlists that I make for different situations. Here are three opportunities to use music that students have told me that they enjoy:

    1. First day of class. As I pass out first-day paperwork and greet new students, I play some upbeat rock featuring the idea that hard work is expected. I like Mick Jagger’s “Let’s Work” and “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited. Any stadium rock is probably a good choice.
    2. Exam Days. My exams all feature a practical set-up, so students can’t enter the room until the appointed hour, and I don’t allow them to chat as they come in. The silence can escalate the tension that they are feeling, so I deliberately choose tunes that address this feeling. Songs that have elicited chuckles include “Mercy” by Duffy and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. I played “Kiss Him Goodbye”  by Steam (which you probably know as “Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye”) before the last exam for my departing second-semester class.  They danced into their seats. Students have repeatedly asked me to leave the music on during the tests. I decline.

  1. Group Activities. Whether students are dissecting rats and pigs or tutoring one another on bones and muscles, our classroom often has a lot of ambient—and productive—chatter during group lab activities. Just as background music at a party contributes to a pleasant and positive atmosphere, playing some soft, upbeat music makes the tasks more fun. Students sometimes contribute their own favorites, which I’m happy to play as long as the lyrics are not offensive.

If you’ve found ways to incorporate the pleasure of music into your classes, we would love to hear about them.


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