“Music”, not only “songs” in class

The other day I was struggling to chose a topic to discuss about with the teachers in my school. It was somehow funny as things happened – two of the teachers came, on the very same day, asking about ideas and rationale for using music in class.

Well, this extract is not exactly on how to work with songs and have students to fill in the gaps with missing words, or organising lines, etc… It is actually in the sense of Brain Gym® and how to have the help of music in a lesson. I will be talking about music without lyrics. Just the melody, chords and harmony.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

There is so much music can do. In a way or another, everyone at any age likes music – any sort or any type and therefore they can relate to it in many ways.

“Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned.” Chris Brewer [1995], Music and Learning – Johns Hopkins University

Studies have shown that music may improve concentration and memory. Depending on the music, it also helps lowering the affective filter of EFL learners, making a lesson more enjoyable and motivating. According to Chris Brewer [1995], music helps us learn because it will:

  • establish a positive learning state
  • create a desired atmosphere
  • build a sense of anticipation
  • energize learning activities
  • change brain wave states
  • focus concentration
  • increase attention
  • improve memory
  • facilitate a multisensory learning experience
  • release tension
  • enhance imagination
  • align groups
  • develop rapport
  • provide inspiration and motivation
  • add an element of fun
  • accentuate theme-oriented units

When in class, teachers may use music as backbone of a series of activities. Some of them for changing learners’ moods, inspiring discussion or for any other simpler reasons.

Music can be used as background sound while students are working on vocabulary/structure work or during a creative writing lesson, for example. It may actually activate the mathematical side of the brain while the other side is being demanded by language work. Researches show that with the activation of both sides of the brain, retention of knowledge is enhanced.

Another way to combine activation of brain, concentration and classroom dynamics, is to prepare the extracts of music beforehand editing them with certain amounts of time, for example, if you give a task for pupils to match vocabulary with definition and set the activity to be done in two minutes, you play the music which will have 2 minutes, and students will know time is up when the recording is over.

You can find more ideas and rationale behind the use of music in class in many published materials, in specialised sites for teachers or  at https://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/Arts%20in%20Education/brewer.htm

Hope you enjoy your research into this topic!

Beatriz Meneguetti

Mª Beatriz Magalhães Silva Meneguetti Teacher, teacher trainer, school director and sworn translator with over 30 years’ experience, graduated in English, post graduated in methodology, linguistics, school management and marketing. Holder of major proficiency certificates from Cambridge and Michigan Universities and holder of the DELTA and MA in Professional Development for Language Education from Chichester University. Academic director of ABCI - Brazilian Association of Culturas Inglesas.

  • Matthew
    Posted at 11:23h, 07 março Responder

    What a wonderful article. You’ve certainly raised some ideas in my mind as to how I will proceed with music in future classes. For example, I’ve often been reluctant to use music during lessons for fear of it being a distraction, but having read your piece, it seems that the opposite is true.

    • Beatriz
      Posted at 14:05h, 07 março Responder

      Thank you so very much, Matthew. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg on the subject. Try checking the link I gave and also about the “Mozart Effect”.

  • Gecimara
    Posted at 14:38h, 07 março Responder

    Dear boss!! Once again something inspiring! I have used music as background sound and now I can see how profitable it can be for students and their performance in class!
    Way to go!!

  • Lilian
    Posted at 17:51h, 07 março Responder

    How inspiring this is! It is common knowlegde that music might enhance the process of learning a language. However, this article seems to open our minds in regards to creating an inspiring and motivating enviroment for learning. Therefore, stimulating other areas of the learners’ brain as a touch of sensitivity is brought through music, rather than just songs.

  • Amanda
    Posted at 02:22h, 08 março Responder

    Wow! This was amazing! I have been using music for some time since I started teaching, but now I feel even more confident to use this resource and improve the quality of the lesson and also enhance the students’ creativity. Also, I have already used one of your “tips” – using music as a background sound while students were doing something that required concentration – and it did work! Thanks for sharing this with us! I’ll sure take a look at the links you posted 😉

  • Aline Miriane Guerios
    Posted at 13:49h, 12 março Responder

    Very interrsting!!! Thanks for sharing a bit of your knowledge and experience with us, Bia!!

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