Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teaching in London, England: Music in the Classroom

I loved teaching in London schools where I could use music in my classroom. It does not matter how old your students are, music can be an incredibly powerful tool in teaching all kids.

Students in London are really into R&B, hip hop, rap and pop music. Depending on your tastes, teaching with music can be a wonderful or painful experience!

I posted on my twitter page and my facebook page that I'd be writing a blog post about using music in teaching and asked for any suggestions from fellow teachers. Here is what they said:

I used the song "Captain Kidd" by Great Big Sea last week with my Year 7s in English class. We are doing pirate themed creative writing, and it fit :) The kids were singing the chorus by the end of it.

for the young'uns, mary had a little amp. good compilation. and of course sho mo & the monkey bunch.

and high school students need to be schooled about the best hiphop record ever, which as you know is digable planets reachin' (a refutation of time & space).

my friend johne clarke plays music all day in his high school communication classes. he teaches video production, and brags about all the shows he & i saw in the 90s.

There is research about certain classical composers and how their music helps people with concentration. Good for intensive quiet writing or math sessions. For younger grades, short themes (ie batman, spiderman, etc) put on for tidy up time or getting ready time - use like a timer. Something like that would need to be integrated into classroom mgt strategies at beginning of year.
(Re: music in the classroom) I used a lot of instrumental music that can be classified as "world music."
"Great Big Sun" by Justin Roberts is my class' fave CD. Check out his site at justinroberts.org/music
I personally use music that the kids are into as a way to manage their behaviours. So, if I am teaching Year 6 in a fairly tough inner city school, then to start the day (or week, or year...) I will say that I'm happy to play their music at the end of the day provided that the music is appropriate and they earn the time by completely their work, being kind to each other, listening and so on. It tends to motivate the children. The only issue is getting them to agree on the music! There are a variety of ways to do this -
  1. Just pick something most students will like (whatever is popular in your class, when I was there Beyonce was really big).
  2. Have one student (ie the student councellor) choose the music. Or, if it is your class, you can rotate through the class list so each student gets a choice, but there can be no fighting! No complaining, no whinging, no grumbling, etc.
  3. Have a radio station that you know is appropriate and play that. There are plenty of good online radio stations that you can play through the Interactive White Board.
  4. Have a stack of class CDs that the students can choose.
  5. Just choose your own! You are the teacher after all.
The important thing here is that music can inspire, focus, motivate and create an all-round happy classroom environment. It can also create tension, anger, frustration and an all-round miserable classroom environment depending on how you introduce it to the class. That's your job! As the teacher, you need to decide how to introduce music into your classroom but do it right, and your job is made much easier by a happy class.

Kathleen's suggestion of using classical music is a good one and is in place in quite a few London schools. Some schools even name their classrooms after composers. So, rather than saying "Miss Westcott's class" they would say "Bach's class." The students learn about the composers & are able to indentify their music by the time they finish the year. Concentration improves and a love for music can't be a bad thing!

What about you? What music do you use? How do you use it in your class? Please share your thoughts below.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, I had never really thought about using popular music as a timer in a plenary or opening! I really like these suggestions. These are the "inside" glimpes a teacher going to the U.K. needs. I hope to try this out the next time I have a classroom!


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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