The link between classical music and learning is well established. It has been shown to enhance certain forms of intelligence, like verbal and spatial abilities.
And teachers who regularly play Mozart while students are practicing math skills report that it helps with concentration and attentiveness.
But did you know classical music can have a positive effect on classroom management?
Having classical music playing in the background when students enter the classroom can reduce tension and anxiety, making them less inclined to act up. It also builds a subconscious association between the sound of the music and behavior that is conducive to learning.
A study on heart patients found classical music to have the same stress reducing benefits as the drug Valium. The study didn’t imply that the music made them sleepy, just more relaxed.
In 2004, classical music was piped into London Underground train stations and into certain dangerous neighborhoods. As a result, incidences of vandalism, assault, and robberies dropped in those areas by as much as 37%.
Have you stayed at a hotel recently? It seems more and more of them are playing classical music as you first enter your room. They want you to associate feelings of relaxation and peace with a stay at their hotel.
Stores, too, are using music and an appeal to our sense of smell to enhance our buying experience. Abercrombie and Fitch, for example, works especially hard at this. They want to build positive and hip associations with the act of walking into their stores.
Others, like Starbucks, use music to create an atmosphere that represents the image they want to convey in the customer’s mind.
What associations do your students have when entering your classroom? A chaotic, noisy, or frenzied experience will increase tension, encourage misbehavior, and negatively affect attentiveness.
The very act of walking into certain classrooms can trigger feelings of restlessness in students. Think of a Walmart store on the day after Thanksgiving. Chaotic situations cause people to behave poorly and do things they wouldn’t normally do.
In the midst of restless energy, students are not ready for learning, and teachers have an uphill battle before the day has even begun.
Classical music is an easy way to start building positive associations with entering the classroom. As soon as students hear Bach or Vivaldi wafting from the doorway, they know it’s time for learning.
But it’s not something you do just once in a while. It must be done every day in conjunction with a specific morning routine.
It’s important to choose music without big crescendos and startling transitions (avoid Wagner). On the other hand, I’ve found CDs specifically compiled for relaxation to be uninspiring. The best choices are the popular works of Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, and, my personal favorite, Vivaldi.
Download what you like at iTunes or you can find an excellent series called 25 Classical Favorites at Amazon. It’s a great compilation for around four dollars.
Put the music on as soon as you arrive in the morning and listen while preparing for the day. It will put you in a productive mood and remind you of the feeling tone you want to promote in your classroom.
Never let your students forget that your classroom is a place for learning. Besides having a potent calming effect, classical music is a perfect reminder.
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