I love to give kids “Active Listening” days in music. In the 90s, the positive effect music has on the brain was popularized as the Mozart Effect when research indicated that listening to Mozart while completing simple tasks resulted in short-term improvements to spatial-temporal reasoning. Since then, music advocacy has seen a boost in importance and relevance as a legitimate practice for facilitating growth and learning (despite the fact that many arts programs are underfunded and being cut across the nation). All of this boils down to one main point: Music makes children better students. In so many ways and with so many possibilities, I could hardly scratch the surface of how music can impact student learning across all subject areas in one blog post, so here is my SECOND, more important, main point: LET THEM LISTEN TO THE MUSIC THEY LIKE.
I constantly see teachers confiscating phones and devices because kids were listening to music during independent work time. Opinions concerning today’s music versus that of the past aside, there is a very tangible effect that takes place when we listen to music that we enjoy. This effect can be observed in the chemical process of the brain where, as we listen to music we enjoy, dopamine is released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and an integral part of the pleasure-reward system of the brain. This is a very subjective and personal effect for each student that we teachers can harness and use to our advantage. Experiencing small increases of dopamine while completing simple tasks in our classrooms will help students increase spatial intelligence and brain connectivity which will ultimately result in more connections to content and curriculum, regardless of subject matter.
Several times throughout the year I give kids an entire class period to just LISTEN. Now, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes pre-teaching I conduct before we get to “just listen” so make sure you have a solid foundation of procedures, expectations, and trust with your class before releasing them on Youtube and SoundCloud (seriously. what a mess.). This takes many different forms but one of my favorite is through a QR display.
I love to find really good or really weird songs/music videos and save the links in a doc. Then, once I’ve built up a good amount, I create a QR code for each link and display them on the board with no labels. Here is one of my more recent displays: Active Listening Display QR Codes
I project this on the board and post some sort of accompanying assignment on Google Classroom. Here is the simple assignment I paired with this display: Active Listening Assignment This could easily be printed and given to students. The real fun that happens here is the blind buy-in you will see from students as they randomly scan these QR codes without knowing what song they might come up with. Honestly, I can’t even remember what songs are in this display but I know some of them are popular and some of them are OLD and some are just plain weird! So enjoy 😉
And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll also enjoy this QR Code Display that is in every way exactly like the one above… except that each of the QR codes send you to Rick Astley’s, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For added fun, assign this the day before April 1st then continue the next day by Rick-Rolling every kid you see!