Friday, August 3, 2012

Creating a Learning Environment: Music and Mind Connection

As I'm writing this I'm listening to Bach's Suite in D major No. 3.  I have a whole playlist of classical music on my IPod that I have on in the background when I work.  Jill S. and I do a lot of cowriting and when we get writer's block we say it's time to turn on Bach! Hah! Does the beat/flow of the music promote the flow of our ideas?  We think it might.

There has been so much research conducted by neuro-scientists and  neuro-psychologists on brain based learning and one piece that has been studied is the effect of music on learning and the academic achievements of children.  Those of us who have been around for awhile remember the study referred to as The Mozart Effect--the theory suggested that listening to Mozart's music helps the development of the brain. This caused a flurry of  research disputing some of its hype.  Nonetheless,  the vast majority of research through the start of the Twenty-first Century does show this style of  music's influence on learning, memorization and spatial reasoning skills.

So, as a teacher does this statement make you sit up and listen. Greater learning, better memorization? I'm all for that.

This is what they are saying, baroque style music  (60 beats per minute) has a  pitch and rhythm that are compatible with a human's brain wave patterns. This stimulates the limbic system. The limbic part of the brain is responsible for long term memory.  There is no doubt that this music produces a physical effect as well.  It relaxes muscles and slows your heartbeat. Calming a learner and maybe a teacher too!

I talk straight up with my third graders about brain research.  I tell them that scientists are studying how brains work and I share some of their findings.  Kids love when you share "big people" information with them.  My students have responded well to having classical music playing in the background.  They will often request that I put it on.  It is always on during writer's workshop.

Now that we have I Tunes and I Pods it is easy to bring music into the classroom.  I just download my favorites to play for my students. Other teachers I know have purchased CDs such as these: 

I'd love to hear from other teachers.  Do you play classical music for your students? Do you have favorites that you could share?
Do you think it makes a positive  difference?