Music is a powerful tool for so many things. It can be something we use in our schools to help motivate our students as well as set the tone for our classroom.
Listening to music is a great way to bring music into your day, but what I find from other teachers is that they don't know where to start when it comes to picking out just the right music. Depending on what you do and teach will affect what type of music you wish to use.
Let's focus on reading. Some people love reading to music, others do not. You may want to test the waters in your classroom to see what your students prefer or ask them their opinion on the matter.
Of course you need to consider what type of reading your students may be doing. If they are free reading for enjoyment, they may welcome music more readily than if they are reading a selection on which they will be tested. Others may need some music in the background to help them focus in a testing situation.
Here are some options of music and sound you can consider when choosing to play music while reading.
1. Instrumental Music - If you choose music, the best type to consider is instrumental, or music without lyrics. The words that make up lyrics can get in the way as your mind will wander between the words you read and the words you hear.
There is a multitude of instrumental music you can use from classical pieces to popular songs. Don't assume just any instrumental piece will do, though. You must consider the tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume) of the piece. Usually, a slower, peaceful piece will suit a quiet reader's needs more so than something more intense, loud or fast. So, stay away from rocking guitar solos and intense Beethoven symphonies. You may search your own music collection or a variety of playlists online for titles that are collected to soothe, relax and create a peaceful atmosphere.
2. White noise is another option for sound while reading. It doesn't have the potential distract-ability that music does as it does not have a melody or other layers of instrumentation. Sometimes I find that even instrumental music can be distracting for people who are attuned to music and have a good ear to listen actively.
White noise can be helpful in situations where there may be random noises outside your classroom or office that tend to break your concentration. I work in an open concept school and white noise or a variation of it can be helpful to drown out the unpredictable noise from the hall.
3. Soundscapes are another way to create an isolated atmosphere without melodious music. These can be anything from a soundtrack of an ocean's crashing waves to the sounds recorded in nature to the constant sound of children playing and laughing.
4. Silence is always a great alternative. Although hard to come by, it is a great way to produce an area where readers can focus on reading.
Of course the objective in bringing sound (or the absence of it) to a classroom or small group of readers is to help them focus. Each group and each individual student may need something different. Have fun experimenting with a variety of musical genres and other sounds as well as silence and have students start to identify what may help them to read.