Welcoming Students with Music
One of elements that makes music so powerful in our life experiences is the way it helps us remember events. We have all had music trigger us into re-experiencing particular moments in time. It is possible to use this memory phenomenon in the classroom and to use other music memory techniques to help students retain more information and provide them with multiple modes or information retrieval.
There are many ways that music assists our memory processes. Musical sounds help to hold
our attention and we take in more information in this highly focused state. Music can lead students into an alpha brain wave state -- a perfect learning state for taking in information through auditory channels. Music also evokes emotions and stimulates visual images. The more senses we involve in our learning, the greater is our understanding. As teachers, we can increase sensory input during learning by using music intentionally during memory activities.
The activities below use these elements of music to strengthen student learning. In the Learning Journeys activity students are provided with opportunities to form their own visual memories about course information that they can later return to for improved recall. The Visual Reviews activity gives students a chance to reflect upon key elements in a unit and consolidate information by seeing these images within a four or five minute time period in an enhanced-focus state created through the use of background music. The music holds student attention and increases focus on the content information as it is visually displayed.
These activities are powerful adjuncts to existing classroom experiences and well worth the effort of putting the materials together. Content information used in these activities need not be complex and may be material you already have that needs only a soundtrack to deepen your students' understanding.
Take students on a Learning Journey by playing reflective music while you verbally lead
them on an imaginative journey related to an academic topic. Take them:
--through the structures of a cell
--around the solar system
--through the digestive tract
--as if they were a molecule of water moving through the hydrologic cycle
--through the setting of an historical event
--into the setting of a literature work
Set the scene by having students get comfortable and close their eyes (optional). Play music for a moment or two to allow students to relax and develop focus on the sound. Begin your Learning Journey. For example: have students imagine that are seeing the inside of a cell and as you describe the cellular environment and each of the specific parts of the cell, talk about color, shape, textures. Speak slowly, using a calm voice. Explain what each part does and how it affects the rest of the cell and the organism it is in. When you have finished your journey bring students "home" to your classroom and slowly fade out the music. Students love these quiet reflective times and the journey information will be securely bonded into their memory.
The music for a reflective Learning Journey needs to be calming and in a slow tempo. It is best if the music is long enough for your entire journey to be spoken during one selection.
Sound Suggestion Top Picks:
Galaxies by Kevin Braheny
Velvet Dreams by Daniel Kobialka
Music for Accelerated Learning by Steven Halpern.
Do a review of a unit or lesson by playing background music as your display multiple overheads used during a lecture or throughout the length of the unit. During this activity no one speaks (including you) ---students focus on the visual information as the music plays and they will remember the content better if there is no talking. Leave each overhead on for seven seconds --or more if there is a large amount of text. The best overheads use visual symbols and only a few key words. Using overheads during a lecture is, in itself, an important memory tool. If you're not used to using overheads, make some that show key elements in a lesson. The fewer the words the better. Use color and symbols when possible. Show these overheads during your lectures to help students visualize as your explain concepts. Display them again during this powerful activity.
Music for visual reviews should be instrumental only. It can be slow and reflective or a moderate tempo. Reflective piano, slow classical or ambient (new Age) music works well to create a calming experience.
Arousing Sound Suggestions:
Welcoming music Dance of the Renaissance or Emerald Castles (Richard Searles)
or more upbeat sounds of "Celestial Soda Pop" in Deep Breakfast (Ray Lynch) can
Reflective Sound Suggestions:
Velvet Dreams (Daniel Kobialka)
Classical Harmonies (LIND Institute)
Touch (Michael Jones piano music)
Musical Mindmap Review
Introduce a topic or review information using a musical mindmap review. During this activity you draw a mindmap that is an overview of a lesson or unit. The mindmap may be projected with an overhead projector or drawn on a white board. Play music in the background as you draw and explain the content. Students may want to sit quietly or better yet, make their own copy of the mindmap. As you draw the mindmap, start with an overview of the content in the center and then move to individual points as you branch out from the center of the mindmap.
When you prepare your materials, design a simple mindmap that outlines the main points of a unit or lesson. Use color and add symbols (the brain has high memory and association for symbols). You can use your pre-drawn mindmap as a guideline to look at as you draw it again with the students in class.
A variety of music will work for this activity. It is best if the music is not too dynamic or active.
Relax with the Classics Volume 1 and Volume 2 (LIND Institute),
Classical Harmonies (LIND Institute),
Music for Accelerating Learning (Steven Halpern)
Velvet Dreams (Daniel Kobialka)
Fairy Ring (Mike Rowland)
Breathing Spaces (Jiang Xiao-Qing)
An Dun: Calming the Emotions (Wind Records)
Touch (Michael Jones) piano music
Elements: Air (Christopher Peacock) piano music
Excerpted from Music and Learning: Seven Ways to Use Music in the Classroom by Chris Brewer.
Published with permission from LifeSounds © 1995.
This comprehensive resource can be purchased from www.musicandlearning.com. Suggested music selections may be heard online and purchased through LifeSounds or Amazon.com
About Chris Brewer, MA FAMI
Chris Brewer, MA FAMI is a musician, trainer and author with a masters' degree in Music Therapeutics. Using her knowledge of the powerful effects of music, Chris teaches how tointegrate
music throughout the curriculum as a an exciting way to learn academic content and how to create a positive, upbeat classroom using music as a classroom management tool. She has taught for over 20 years in various settings including numerous university programs, public offerings and school inservices. Chris has written eight books including Rhythms of Learning and Music and Learning: Seven Ways to Use Music in the Classroom.
In the health field Chris seeks to find ways to use music to enhance medical environments. She has developed a Pain Management program using vibroacoustic music--music that you feel as well as hear. Chris is also Fellow with the Association of Music and Imagery, using her music skills to assist people in getting to the AHA! of discovery in their lives.
Chris owns LifeSounds, dedicated to facilitating music use throughout the curriculum. Through LifeSounds she provides teachers and corporate trainers with
- how-to ideas for classroom music use
- dynamic training for music use techniques that make learning more effective and motivating
- research and articles on music use in the classroom
- a catalog of CD's with instructions on how to use them to teach
- information on use rights for corporate trainers
- a catalog of Usable Music with use rights for corporate settings
Chris' website is located at www.musicandlearning.com and offers a wealth of information and