Creative Use of Music: Music in the Background


Simple but sweet.  Music in the background has a lot of uses.  Here are a few:

-  In general, music in the background is just a good signal once students become accustomed to it.  When you turn off the music, the students know that it’s time to transition, look up at you, etc.

-  Especially with kids, but also with adults the mood and tempo of the music can change the mood of the class. You can play fast songs for games and slow songs for thoughtful preparation or writing.

-  Playing music in the background makes your students talk louder.  This is a good trick for those classes that like to whisper when doing pair or group work.  I highly recommend it.

-  Music can also be used to block out the voices of other students.  This is especially useful if students are preparing for a debate or some kind of game where they don’t want anyone else to overhear what they are saying.  It’s also nice because students can ask you questions and not be so worried about embarrassing themselves by asking “a stupid question” in front of their peers.

-  Setting the mood for role-plays.  Dance music at a party, muzak during shopping, even speeches at a historical event can all be good for setting the scene and making things a bit more realistic.

Generally when picking songs it’s useful to play instrumentals as I’ve found that students sometimes stop doing whatever they should be doing in order to try and understand the song lyrics.

Volume is also important.  It should be just loud enough to have an effect.

Do you have any other ways you use music in the background for a class?

Related Posts:

Song Stories

Pictures Painted in Sound

Sing a Song


  • By adam, September 4, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    Great list of ideas, Nick. However, be careful with the non-auditory learners (if you believe in learning styles, that is). I often find that it’s the same students time and again who have a problem focusing when there’s background music.

  • By turklis1, September 4, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

    I don’t believe in learning styles, but student needs are always important :) I’ve had some classes where I won’t play it because students say it makes things more difficult. Usually changes with the class.

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