Most people can not imagine their world without music in it. Whether one actively engages in creating their own or merely enjoys listening to the compositions of others, music is at the heart of who we are and serves a multitude of functions in our daily lives. It has the power to invigorate the senses or soothe the spirit. It can lift the listener from the depths of a bad day or inspire unbounded creative heights.
For the classroom teacher, music can be an effective behavior management tool when properly employed. Using music during student engagement periods and portions of the day when students are working independently is also good for the teacher and should be viewed as part of a stimulating learning environment. Music in the classroom is an excellent means for developing or increasing reading skill, reinforcing math skills or remembering facts. It is also an opportunity for promoting cultural literacy. If carefully chosen, the right music can be a very effective tool for promoting calm in the classroom.
During periods of quiet time instrumental music is almost always the best choice. Western “classical” music and Jazz ballads are a good place to start in selecting music for periods when you want students to remain calmly in their seats. The reason it is best to stay away from music with vocal performances is that the lyrics will encourage children to sing along and quiet time will cease to be quiet. Even when listening to music sung in other languages children will attempt to sing what they interpret the lyrics to be or merely make up their own. Keep in mind that almost all music inspires physical movement.
The first step to choosing quiet time music is to identify what children will be doing during this period. Does quiet time mean nap time? Will it be silent reading time? Is it a time for journaling or reflection? Testing time? Or perhaps just being still after an active period? Will children be seated in their desks with their heads down or move to sit on the rug?
Once you have defined quiet time you can more easily identify what music will work best for you. The music of choice should be soothing but not so much that it makes you or your students drowsy. Most of the music we think of as “classical” is actually composed in multiple sections, or movements, with some parts being slow and other parts being more lively. If you are not that familiar with “classical” music you will want to choose adagios over allegros.
Jazz ballads are both relaxing to the body and stimulating to the brain at the same time. When choosing Jazz music for quiet time in the classroom look to smaller ensemble recordings rather than those of large ensembles. It may be tempting to use instrumental versions of recent popular hits but these will more than likely be familiar to your students and they may be encouraged to sing along.
For the best success, store a variety of music on a portable flash drive and use a program such as Windows Media player to create playlists for your quiet time sessions. Having programmed playlists will allow you to change up your music selections periodically and you can shuffle the playback or repeat music tracks. If selected carefully you will find music a helpful addition to your classroom.