Enjoy the Ambiance

I teach elementary school (there, I said it. Please don’t judge me 🙂 ) In my classroom, I like to use quiet music in the background when students are working. I know a lot of teachers find the value in a peaceful work environment and students working quietly to the sound of Enya (or something else we would never listen to while driving in our car or sitting in our own living room). The “Old School” way to play your music would be to put on a CD and go.

The new school way is to rip all your CD’s on to your hard drive and play the music from your computer. On a Mac, iTunes will do this for you, on a PC, Windows Media Player will do this for you (both free). Once your music is on your computer you can just load up several albums/artists at a time.

The part that makes you really feel like a tech superstar is creating playlists and then making shortcuts to those playlists. I created a playlist for my classroom music (use the “help” button on the player if you don’t know how). Usually I add some albums more than once because I want the music to play for longer than my school day. Then I right click on the file for my playlist and create a custom shortcut for that playlist (on a PC this can be done by clicking on “Properties”). So, now when I want to start my classroom music I can just hold down CTRL+Alt+m (I chose “m” for music) and my music will play all day long!

I keep the music running in the background all day and just have my students turn up or down the volume depending on whether I am teaching or they are working.

Baroque music works great, as does simple piano music, rainforest music, Native American chants, Enya or anything thematic. Things with words can be distracting though.  I also make playlists that are more “pop” feeling for when we are doing art projects or other more active classroom projects.

If your students say they are distracted anyway, you likely have the volume up too loud. Happy listening!

Dave Kootman


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  1. Teryl Magee said:

    Kudos, Dave! Of course being a MAC enthusiast I use my iPod the same way. I purchased an iHome for my room and mounted it under one of my cabinets. I have a “music manager” who adjusts the volume and playlist for us via remote. He doesn’t even have to leave his seat! They love it!

  2. Dennis Grice said:

    Speaking of using playlists, one of our 2nd Grade teachers picked up this idea from a Rick Morris workshop she attended.

    On her computer (and iPod) she has a playlist consisting of various songs & TV Themes. Some songs are 20 seconds, some are 30 or 60 seconds. Still others are 1 or 2 minutes long. Each song is a “theme” for a different classroom task. For example, she may use the theme from the “A” Team for end of the day clean-up. Once that song starts to play the kids need to have their desk area clean by the time it ends. Students have learned to associate that song with clean-up and the teacher doesn’t even have to say anything now. Kids just start cleaning up as soon as they hear the song. Other songs and themes have other purposes in the classroom. The NBC chimes (3 seconds) remind them to put their names on their paper. The Spongebob theme tells them it’s time to get into their study groups and another song prompts them when it’s time to return to their desks.

    The workshop suggested playing the songs from a CD, but Marsha (our second grade teacher) finds it much easier to use when the songs are played directly from an iTunes playlist.

  3. dave kootman said:

    Another great Rick Morris Idea!
    I actually made custom songs using looped beats from other songs. I then put “beeps” into the short songs to let students know when there were 20 and 10 seconds left. I used Audacity.

  4. mary simpson said:

    Wow! Great ideas! I’ve been using my iPod and playlists, but I love the idea of using music for transitions. Dave, thanks for the shortcut idea. I love it!

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