I recently took my family to a minor league baseball game and was bemused by the music played at the game. Not just the anthem, the ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Park’ and that familiar Hammond-organesque tune that has everyone shouting ‘CHARGE!” at the end of it but also the choice of music that each batter chose to play as they came out to bat. In fact, there are even blog posts devoted to researching MLB “walk-up music”. Devin Schiff wrote that walk-up songs are those “that define who baseball’s heroes are and what they stand for. As the home team’s batters step up to the plate or pitchers go to the mound, they’re accompanied by music of their choosing. Walk-up music is a rare moment of player expression in a team sport that kind of despises on-field individuality.”
Let’s consider ways in which music can be used in the classroom.
State Management: Just as music can be used to motivate an athlete, it can be used to motivate students. Upbeat music makes a workout more enjoyable, and allowing students to choose the music played also energizes them to stay focused during the lesson. In his great book “The Kinesthetic Classroom”, Mike Kuczala talks about a teachers need to manage a student’s learning state to stop their minds from wandering. Movement in the classroom, chewing gum and taking notes increase focus but so too can the use of music. I’ll play a mellow acoustic Pandora station in the background when students are working on extended group projects, just to take a break form the sound of my voice or (even worse) the sound of silence.
Introduction of a Topic: At the start of my Identity unit I play Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as students enter the classroom. I don’t make any reference to it until the middle of the lesson where I ask what students think Lady Gaga means when she says “Rejoice & love yourself today, ’cause baby you were born this way“. This leads into a deeper discussion about gender identity. Andy Horne has a great lesson about love and he has been known to play Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It” or Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”
Music Analysis: Jeff Bartlett has an details of an excellent music-related lesson on his blog. Addressing NHES standard 2 and analyzing the influence of media and music on health behaviors he has his students identify which examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships are present within the song lyrics, and rank them on an intensity scale. Each is defined on a label, not dissimilar to a nutrition label too. Students then determine the overall value of the song and if it portrays a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
Jeff has also considered analyzing music videos both with the sound muted and then again with the sound playing. I’ve done something similar to this with alcohol commercials but I love Jeff’s music video idea.
Advocacy: By now you should know about the Schlolarly Raps from Andy Horne. With almost 50,000 views Andy reinforces the topics covered in class with his raps. It’s not too much of a stretch to see that your students could be encouraged to create something similar. Caroline Gazler, Health teacher at Loyola School, IL has had success with an assignment in which her students took a song that depicted sexism, violence and abuse and flipped it by re-writing the lyrics with a more positive and advocative tone.
Music App for Work Outs: Jarrod Robinson, the globe-trooting PE Geek, has a great app called Energize It. He was often asked for music suggestions that were appropriate for children of all ages, without suggestive themes and exempt from copyright issues. This led to him producing music for PE Teachers, freeing them from having to use Pandora, Spotify etc.
Using Music to Time a Circuit Workout: I’m a big fan of sharing the 7 Minute Workout (see the Positive Health Wellness infographic above) with my students and I have used Garageband to create playlists that have 30 seconds of audio followed by 10 seconds of silence as the students transition to the next exercise. Playlists like this mean that I don’t have to physically time the exercise and I can join in with the actual workout. Here’s and example of one of my playlists. I got a little carried away with this and made it an “80’s themed workout”.
Podcasts: I like to use students voices to create podcasts and have been known to spend far too long adding music that was specifically related to the audio. Discussing the decision to become sexually active? Cue Heatwave’s “Mindblowing Decisions“. Discussing the need for students to make healthy decisions throughout their lifetime? Why not add Massive Attacks “Safe From Harm“. Discussing the need for students to advocate for themselves? Perfect for Amy Winehouse’s “Help Yourself“. This blog post? The O’Jays “I Love Music” of course! The possibilities are endless for music lovers to get immersed in finding the perfect song.
Music & Mindfulness: Listening to music has many benefits. Listening to music is considered a meditative process and is a great mindfulness exercise. If you use music in your lessons on mindfulness, or relaxation, you should check out this site. The music for mindfulness site has 28 pieces of music of differing lengths that you can use in your class without the annoying ads that you get when you use Pandora or Spotify.
Here are this weeks questions. Feel free to keep the conversation flowing on Twitter, don’t feel restricted by the questions.
Q1. Using this link share what was the number 1 song when you first started your teaching career. #slowchathealth
Q2. What would be your walk-up song if you were stepping up to bat? #slowchathealth
Q3. In what ways do you use music in your classes? #slowchathealth
Q4. You can share 1 song on the slowchathealth Spotify playlist. What is it? #slowchathealth
Q5. If you could only listen to music from one decade what decade would that be? #slowchathealth