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Pop Quiz: Music in the Classroom

Control knobs of a Gibson ES330

Gibson ES330, by J. Schwartz

I am Jennifer and this is my official first post on School of Doubt.  I am public school science teacher in Pennsylvania and I without further ado here is today’s pop quiz.

This week in my class we measured the densities of various drinks in order to estimate their sugar content to the mellow tones of Reggae music.

I love Reggae music for labs, it is upbeat, but not harsh like dance music. It regulates the volume of a class, preventing it from getting too loud. It promotes good lab practice of standing, because really who can sit still to Bob Marley. Students work quickly, but not recklessly and when I need to get the classes attention nothing works better then turning the volume up a bit and then all the way down.

I like to use Pandora because I am not really an aficionado. I can set the reggae station with parental controls which keeps the music mostly school safe. Every once in a while a song slips in, but then I just casually unlike it.

So what about you? How do you use music in your classroom? Do you find that different styles of music are better suited for different situations? 

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).

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Jennifer teaches science in a public school in Pennsylvania. She lives there with her husband and two dogs.


  1. January 23, 2014 at 12:02 am —

    That’s an interesting idea, though I myself can’t stand to have background music on when I’m doing anything that requires concentration, as I find it too distracting. Teaching music classes, of course, makes this mostly impossible for me to employ background music in my own classes.

  2. January 23, 2014 at 9:12 am —

    I teach some classes with a lab component. It would be fun to have music on but I wouldn’t play anything that was too upbeat it may make them rowdy. I also know that music would probably disturb the other classes that are in session around me. I am pretty sure the crusty guy who teaches next store would have a fit. That being said I also wouldn’t want to have to compete with the music for the students attention when I needed it,

  3. January 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm —

    Dan – Music in music class does seem redundant especially if it is a performance class, but our Band director uses it for classroom control. He has a song that he plays at the beginning of the class and by the end of the song his students need to be in their seats, with the instrument out ready to tune. He also has a song on a timer set to go off a few minutes before the end of class to give the class enough time to put their instruments away. As to distraction there is a particular feel of music that is better then others. When I am previewing music for my class, my husband who is a musician usually starts to groan, he has even tried to get the dog to howl at it. The music is comfortable, familiar and well a little boring. I do not want to insult the group that I often play, Vitamin String Quartet by calling them boring, but their music is instrumental covers of popular songs, which is practically perfect for my needs.

  4. January 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm —

    jodee -The music volume should not be louder than conversation level, so it doesn’t travel very far, but if you are in an open school or have paper thin walls music could definitely be a distraction to other classes. I would also say that you might be surprised at how the volume level of conversation is controlled. The big thing is that you control the music so when you need their attention turning the music off makes almost everyone naturally pause.

    At a conference I was at a few years ago the speaker said that a good rule of thumb is that when the task you are asking a student to do is thinking and processing – instrumental music or music is a foreign language is good. Language according to him interrupted the thought process. Music with words should be reserved for activities that are more physical. So when my class is planning a lab in small groups we play instrumental music and when they are actually performing the lab we play music with words.

  5. January 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm —

    I wonder how music affects chatter, actually. Students might be less inclined to chit-chat when there is background noise already.

    I do sometimes start a history class with a listening example (or if teaching basic theory, start with a little singing), but that’s not quite the same…

  6. January 24, 2014 at 9:01 am —

    Hmmm…that is interesting Jennifer. I would love to try it some time but I cannot think to even type this response with music on in the background so it may actually not be too beneficial for my concentration in class. I don’t know what happened but when I entered grad school (back in the stone age) if the world wasn’t silent I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

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