Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapter 11

So I totally fell off the book study wagon.  I read the chapters but I just didn't blog.  I decided to not worry about going back and trying to catch up and just start fresh from the current chapter.  Rachelle from What the Teacher Wants is hosting this chapter.  Click over to her blog to link up.

This chapter was all about the importance of music, rhythm, rhyme and rap in the classroom.  I have to say I loved this chapter because I was all about music in the classroom.  I probably knew about some of the benefits to playing music but I feel like mostly I am just a huge music fan and love listening to music and wanted to share that with my kiddos.

Writing workshop always called for quiet music playing in the background.  I had a bunch of classical cds that I would rotate through.  And there was always a student there to remind me if we hadn't turned the music on.  I really think it helped to set the tone for the classroom and created a calm, relaxing, quiet atmosphere for writing time.  I recently discovered a group called Vitamin String Quartet.  My sister played their music during dinner at her wedding.  It is pop songs that are played as classical music by this quartet.  I have it playing in the background as I type this.  It is relaxing but it is also fun to hear recognizable songs.  I think this would be great to play in the background for writing or any other quiet work time.  And since there are no lyrics, there is no need to worry about it being appropriate in the classroom.

Another big time for music in my classroom was during transitions.  When I team taught in a multiage classroom, we came up with a mixed cd of transition songs.  I didn't want any typical kid music so there was mostly older popular songs (to give the kids a music education of course) that were classroom appropriate.  This is where I ran into a little trouble.  I figured we could easily put some awesome 80s songs that we'd grown up with on a cd, maybe mix in a little New Kids on the Block and Journey for our own amusement and we'd be good to go.  Well, in going through songs I really tried to make sure there was no reference that could be questionable if a student went home and told their parents they heard in my class.  I started to question everything and tried to figure out what was appropriate.  I don't think I even knew some of the lyrics to some of the songs until I really paid attention.  Here are a few that we used throughout the day:

Morning Songs - to start our morning, once the music stopped they needed to have all supplies ready and be working on their journals
Hello, Goodbye - The Beatles
Manic Monday - The Bangles
Good Morning Starshine  - from Hair

Clean Up Songs
I Love Rock & Roll - Joan Jett
Walk Like an Egyptian - The Bangles

I know there were more songs on there but these tended to be favorites that were played over and over again.  I even met my former teaching partner and current BFF for breakfast today and we were racking our brains trying to remember what else was on that cd.  This was all we could remember because these were the ones the kids asked for over and over!  It was one student's job each week to turn the music on when we asked.  Sometimes we would tell them what number to play but often we would let them pick.

Not only did we use these songs for cleaning up (clean up had to be done before the song was over and everyone back in their seats) but it was also a great brain break.  The kids were up and moving and were ready to learn.  Sometimes when they just needed to move, we would have a dance party and just pick a song and let them dance.  One year the kids LOVED I Love Rock & Roll but they got out of control.  Someone started headbanging and it caught on and soon everyone was doing it and just being crazy.  So we took away that song.  One of the little first graders wrote an apology letter with a promise that they wouldn't headbang any more if we'd just let them listen to that song.  They secretly got everyone (50 kids) to sign it and presented it to us.  How do you say no to that???

I think one area mentioned in the book where I failed with music was to bring it into the curriculum.  I rarely used it during lessons to teach.  I don't know that I ever made up a rap or song about a subject we were learning about.  But it was sort of a Duh! (insert face palm) moment.  Why didn't I do that?  I knew the importance of music.  I knew how helpful it was to remember things when they were set to music so why didn't I create my own?  Maybe I didn't want to seem silly to the kids?  Maybe I didn't want them to hear my horrible singing voice??  I don't know.  I easily remember the parts of speech thanks to School House Rock (I know you are singing Conjunction Junction in your head right now) and I was happy to play videos like that for my kids but how cool would it have been to set what we were learning to music to help make it stick?  Definitely something to think about not only in the class but at home with my little ones, during tutoring (when those math facts and states and capitals just don't stick) and during religious ed where we need some more music and fun.