I’ve been teaching Inclusion Biology for the past 8 years. The collaborative model my school uses pairs a subject-area teacher together with a special education teacher in a diverse class composed of as many as 28 students. It has been challenging to teach principles of Biology to our students because they have such a wide range of needs and abilities. I’m always looking for new ideas, new techniques, and new strategies for differentiating our instruction, both in academic strengths and in learning styles. This video inspired me to use more music in our classroom. This is a short rough cut clip from the documentary film Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory. The film describes the effect of music therapy used with elderly dementia patients. Henry listens to the music of his youth – music that reaches a part of his brain (a part of his soul, perhaps) that is otherwise out of reach. And what might be the most amazing thing about this therapy is that its effect endures long after the music is turned off. Henry becomes animated, responsive, and active. His face lights up as he recalls his love of Cab Calloway – he sings lyrics he may not have heard in decades.
I started to look for more songs to incorporate into my classroom, so that I could reach into otherwise inaccessible parts of my students’ brains. I found several that I now use regularly. Sometimes the songs are silly, and at times the students groan, but I know that I’m reaching part of their brains that will help them to store the information they learn, and teaching them a useful technique to help them recall that information.
There are countless ways you can use music in your own classroom. I like these short animated songs for science topics, but you can use more “serious” or timely music to appeal to your students and access more of their brain resources!
- ESL students can be introduced to American culture, stories, and patriotism or can practice reading and pronouncing words in repetitive lyrics.
- English teachers can use popular lyrics in place of poems or grammar and spelling exercises.
- History teachers can reinforce the feeling of a time period or the meaning of a historical event using period music.
- Even math teachers can use music in class. Study what makes a tune catchy by analyzing the beat and patterns used in a favorite song.
Challenge yourself to use a song in your classroom at least once before the year is over. You might be surprised at how much you and your students enjoy it.