Background music in class
Do you play background music in class? If yes, what kinds of music do you play? I’m curious to hear what others are doing and share my experiences with background music. A few years ago, I taught at a university with a very charismatic teacher. He was extremely popular with his students and his students always performed well on the tests we had. (We taught the same course and every teacher had access to course wide student grade information.) I was curious to see what made him so popular and his students so driven so I asked him would he mind if I observed a class.
Creating an awesome learning environment
As expected, he was his charismatic self during the class and I could see that he had a great way of engaging the learners in the room. His demeanor was friendly and approachable. I could easily see why students would enjoy the learning environment he had set up. Even more than his relaxed style and approachable character, there was one thing that he did in class that seemed to help create this awesome learning environment. Loud background music!
Getting students on task
At the start of the class, as he set up the classroom, he had current lively music blasting from the speakers. Entering the room was more like entering a nightclub! Actually, it was more foreground than background music! Also, during speaking activities, he would always have the volume of music up high enough that there was almost no chance of hearing what the learners were talking about. Only when I got close enough to hear the students, could I hear that they were on task and talking in English. More than that though, they were engrossed in each other’s conversations. It seemed like they were totally unaware of what was going on around them and completely lacking in self-consciousness.
My experiences playing background music
Needless to say, I was curious and impressed! I decided to give it a go with one of my classes. I asked my class to recommend English music they liked and gave it a go. Wow! Without exaggeration, the music in class completely changed the dynamics of my class. Nowadays, I use music in all of my classes. I am careful to control when the music is playing and the volume, but I have become part teacher and part DJ! If used well, I really think it works too. I have had so many comments from my students about how much they like the music. I also often have students come and ask who the artist I am playing is.
Two reasons teachers should play background music in class
I think there are two reasons teachers might play background music in class:
1 To improve the atmosphere of the class
2 To reduce anxiety and communication apprehension
A three point guide to using background music
Here is my three point guide to using background music in a classroom.
Let the students select the music. I know my music taste is different to many of my learners, so what makes me feel relaxed is probably completely different to what relaxes my students. I usually find out what students like by getting them to offer suggestions. I have been doing this for a few years now, so I have a pretty good idea of what they like.
Vary the volume. I tend to crank up the volume when the students are talking, but if there is a time in the class where students need to concentrate or apply themselves, I turn it down. Also, I usually turn the music down completely if I am talking or giving instructions.
Build up a playlist. When I first started playing music in class, I didn’t have much of an idea about current pop music or what was popular amongst the age group I taught, but over time I built up a playlist. Now, I know what music is popular and I have different songs I can play for different kinds of activities. Upbeat music to get students going or something more mellow to calm them down. I can’t say I like all of it, but my students seem to like it!
Please let me know what you think. Have you had any experiences playing music in class? I would be interested to hear what you have to say. If you are looking for other ways to motivate your learners, please check out this post. http://dreamreader.net/walk-talk-activity-lower-communication-apprehension/