As a first year teacher, sometimes you have to make decisions that can make…or break…your classroom mojo.  Deciding whether or not to let your students listen to music is one of those decisions that you might be contemplating.  Now, if you teach K-3, this might not be as important a decision to make as it is for a teacher teaching 4-12…but you still might have times when you want to introduce music via class sound system or individual headphones.  Hopefully, you’ll glean a little direction from my experiences.

So, lately I’ve been experimenting with letting my students listen to music when they are working on individual products.  This of course is with principal approval.  Students are not allowed to listen to music any other time…not during announcements, collaboration time, instruction, or Q & A time…only when they are in the individual action stage of their classroom time.

The result…Awesomeness.

The work that was created/designed was noticeably better than what was being turned in before music was allowed in the classroom.  More importantly, engagement was up.  Students were less likely to start distracting conversations and focus on the work at hand.  This is a huge bonus for my classes because we have strict deadlines to meet.  Before I had to extend due dates on occasion…since implementing the music privilege, I actually have students get finisher earlier than expected because they are on task more.  Where I used to worry about how to manipulate due dates so all classes could complete assignments at the same time, now I worry about what type of assignment related “busy work” can I give those who finish early.  OH…and the answer to that in part…let them become class helpers.  Those who finish projects before deadlines can become your helping hands.  Use them.

There are two noteworthy observations as they pertain to allowing music listening privileges into your classroom.

First observation, music encourages creativity.  I definitely see an improvement in their work.  Now given, I am no longer teaching core subjects, but in my Graphic Design, Web Business, Personal Finance, and Yearbook classes, the students work has improved.  As a teacher who is constantly looking for even the smallest amount of advancement in learning and thinking through daily assessment, I welcome any and all tools, be it resources or strategies that encourage knowledge growth.  Music is one of those types of tools.

Second, the “music privilege” is a definite motivator and can (to some degree) aid in classroom management.  The privilege can be taken away as a consequence for poor behavior.  Students don’t want their music taken away, because they too see the uptick in effort and quality of work.

As stated, I am no longer teaching core classes.  State mandated testing very seldom finds its way into Graphic Design.  BUT, when I taught science, I definitely allowed the use of headphones/music WHEN my students were working on projects.  One project in particular, a solar system project, I saw improvement in engagement and product quality over the previous year when music was not considered.

I can see the addition of music in class project assignment to be of value to most classes.  ELA, Social Studies, Math, P.E., Health, and even Band.

The main thing to consider is the fact that class rules, as they apply to any form of music privilege, is crucial.  There must be consequences for students who use their phones for music (if you campus allows) and then pop on over to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.  It must be for knowledge transfer purposes only.  Likewise, if students are on laptops or desktop computers, they are allowed to start their playlist and then they must minimize whatever site (Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, etc.) they are using…and it can’t be opened again.  I don’t want music selection to interfere with learning.  It’s not music appreciation class.

Also…IF instruction and/or lecture is taking place, I don’t even want to see headphones or earbuds.  They don’t come out of backpacks until independent learning time begins.  And yes, some days…there is no  music.  Sometimes, we only do project work 1 or 2 times a week.  When we are not engaged in some form of individual project…music is not allowed in the classroom.

Anywho, I just wanted to speak to this topic because I really do believe that the listening of music can get the creative juices going and that music can help students better engage in independent learning time.  But like any classroom privilege, there must be clear policies with regard to use.

Do you allow music in your classroom?  If so, I’d love to hear your stories.  If you don’t allow music in your learning environment, why?  I’d honestly like more feedback on this issue.

~Mitch

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