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The Perfect Music for Brain-Based Learning

Music to use in the classroom

How You Can Choose the Perfect Music Every Time

Here is how to decide what music to play in your classroom to help with brain-based learning. While you could use an endless number of criteria, these  are a good start. I recommend using an iPod with a Bose Sound Dock player. You get the best of all worlds.

1) State. What emotional state are you trying to elicit? Pay attention to what happens to your own body and mind as you listen to a song. Pay attention to the beats per minute (BPM). Songs in the 35- 50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seatwork. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 and for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev it up.

The state is also the feelings you want to have within your students. When students complete an assignment, project or even a simple task, I want upbeat celebration music. When we are doing a class stretching or reflective writing, I want slower, uncluttered, calming music. When we are about to start out on a big task, I want inspirational, upbeat, even marching music. In short, use music as a second teacher in the classroom to support the mood.

2) Age of Listener. What generation am I working with? Stay within your generation! The way to decide is ask this simple question: If they’re adults, what music did they listen to in high school and college? If they’re age 14 or less, what are the current soundtracks to movies that are hot?

3) Type of Music. Do I use music with words or instrumentals only? In general, use words only if it’s for transitions, games that require them or special occasions. Most of the time, instrumentals are better. If you use only one kind of music you’re missing out on some great alternatives. Read more

Music Tickles the Reward Centers in the Brain

Now That the Holidays Are Gone

Your Music List Upgraded

Music is a big part of our lives. But if you teach, there’s a chance, it’s an even bigger part of your student’s life. In this post, we’ll see if we can sharpen up your use of music.

You’re likely to have a bit of time this summer to work on your music, since the school year gets pretty hectic. Next month, we’ll show you the newest Alzheimer’s disease interventions.

Recent Discovery

We know that music tickles the reward centers in the brain just like other pleasurable, but evolutionarily significant, experiences. It also appears that music rewards the listener to the degree that the music is found to be pleasant.

There are many studies which suggest that the right music can influence the brain’s reward neurotransmitter, dopamine. The beauty of this is that classroom learning can get associated with positive feelings.

Why is this important? Two reasons come to mind: 1) emotional learning supports long-term memory, and 2) when positive emotions are associated with school, kids attend classes more and are more likely to develop a love of learning.

Unlike a concrete reward, music can arouse feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Scientists used PET scans and found endogenous dopamine release at peak emotional arousal during music listening (Salimpoor, et al. 2011). The time course of dopamine release was also curious; dopamine was more involved during anticipation of the music, and then again at the experience of peak emotional responses.

Put in teacher terms, even the anticipation of an abstract reward (listening to the music for pleasure) can result in dopamine release, distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself. By the way, dopamine release is highly beneficial for several things. One, it fosters a love of learning; second, it supports working memory. Both of those are very good in a classroom!

On the other hand, unpleasant music seems to involve a different region of the brain. In another study, scientists played music that contained dissonant chords varying in their degree of unpleasantness. They used brain imaging technology to observe and measure changes in brain activity as participants listened to the music. They found that the more dissonant the music, the less pleasant the participants reported the experience. Additionally, patterns of brain activity emerged that were consistent across subjects. Most active during the more dissonant sections of the music was a site in the brain that is physically situated between the cortex and the limbic system. Known as the paralimbic cortical area, this region mediates between cognition and emotion.

The choice of music you use DOES matter; not all music is good!

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