Today I’d like to discuss the topic of playing music in the art room while your students work. In my opinion, silence is best for concentration and productivity. The reality is, however, many art rooms are far from silent. My art room is bustling with commotion, filled with students talking, collaborating, sharing, and helping each other.
Since silence isn’t the norm, and sound is, I like to fill my classroom with music. Over the years, I’ve experimented with what kind of I play in my classroom, when I play it, and how often.
When I taught elementary art, I played Greg Percy CDs a lot. However when I started teaching middle school art, I didn’t know what music I was going to play. As much as I loved Greg Percy’s music, I was fairly confident my middle school students wouldn’t be as interested in hearing his catchy songs as my elementary students were.
My first year, I played the local pop hits radio station. I quickly learned that playing pop hits turned my classroom into a scene from a middle school dance. Students got riled up. After looking into the topic, I found that researchers investigated the effect pop music has on introverts and extroverts. They found immediate memory recall was worse for both groups when pop music was played than if it was silent.
Bye-bye pop music in the art room!
Currently, I use Pandora to play music while my students create in my classroom. Generally, students work just as well, if not better, while the music is playing versus when it is off. Sometimes if the students are too loud, I shut it off. When students are taking a quiz or writing about their art, the music is off as well.
I rotate between stations but my most played stations are Two Cellos, Feist, Mumford and Sons, Florence + The Machines, Lana Del Ray, Bon Iver, Coffee Shop, Smooth Jazz, Classical Guitar, and Solo Piano.
Although some students refer to my music as “weird,” those same students are the ones who request I turn it on if I’ve forgotten. One girl said, “I like listening to your music because I don’t know the words, and sometimes when I know the words to music I get distracted and don’t play attention to what I’m doing. Plus, it’s relaxing.”
If students prefer to listen to their own music, I allow them to use their personal electronic devices with ear buds. They know they need to take out their ear buds when I’m giving directions and keep the volume low. This method works well for us.
How about you, do you allow your students to listen to their own music?
What is your opinion on playing music in the art room?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.