Benefits of listening to music in class:
Let’s admit it, I am a terrible singer. I love singing under my shower but I doubt my neighbors appreciate that. Anyway. As a teacher we sometimes have to use our singing skills. Ok well maybe not singing skills but at least our musical skills. So why is music so important in the learning-teaching process? First of all it is enjoyable. Who doesn’t like listening to music once in a while? Second it’s relaxing, energizing and it helps us focus. Last but not least it helps our brain memorise and understand patterns.
How to use music in the classroom :
1. At the beginning of a lesson
I usually play some soft music before students enter the class. By the end of the song they should be ready and on task. This is an easy routine to put in place and it helps students –and teachers to relax and be ready for the next activity. It helps them to make a transition from their previous class to yours.
2. When students are on task
You can also play music while students are working on an activity. Sometimes having some music while reading or writing can help your students concentrate more. However for this you need to know your group well. If music is a good way to focus for some, other may need absolute silence. The best thing to do then is to ask your students what they prefer.
3. Music as a tool for classroom management
Music can be of great help for behavior management as well. In one of my articles I mentioned the use of the Yoga Stretch to start lessons in a smooth and relaxed way. Obviously instrumental music can be used at that time to reinforce the purpose of the Yoga stretch. Your students should feel more relaxed and ready to be on task. Music will help you also with pacing your lessons. Depending on the type of activity you may require soft or punchy music. For example for brainstorming I usually use Gotyie Somebody I use to know because the rhythm sounds like a metronome. For competitive games and especially dictionary contests I sometimes play Mission Impossible to liven the pace. As background music it will all depend on the mood and attitude of my group. If I feel they need to calm down I will probably put some classical music. If on the other I want them to be more energetic I will use a pop song that will wake them up.
4. Music for language teachers
Singing is a natural skill for human beings- well apart from me. From a young age we are surrounded by music and songs. That’s no doubt why young children love chanting and singing songs. On top of its enjoyable feature music is a good way to memorize patterns in sounds. For this reason if you are language teacher any reason is good for you to bring some music to your class. You can expose your students to real authentic language by using this tool and it will increase your students’ awareness of some grammatical structures, vocabulary and pronunciation.
Those who are not teachers often believe that teaching just requires knowledge. However we all know that it is far from being the case. There is a lot happening on the backstage and planning is part of it. Here are some easy steps that you will probably find useful.
Define the objectives of your lesson
Start with those. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the topic of the Unit? How does it fit in the Unit? This topic will usually be defined by the curriculum you follow. What do my students need to be able to do by the end of the lesson? If you are a language teacher choose specific linguistic skills and grammatical points that will need to be taught. Identify as well communication tasks that will be required. Think about their prior knowledge. What do they already know that you could use to start the lesson?
Check the material you have. You will probably use a textbook but this is not enough. Look for other material online and even better create your own material to suit your students’ needs and abilities. As much as possible try to find authentic documents that will trigger your students’ speaking skills and engage them more. Include technology as much as possible but don’t fall into the trap to use technology for the sake of it. Your material needs to serve your teaching objectives.
How to organise your lesson plan
Have a progressive lesson. As any good story we need a beginning, a middle and an end. We usually use what we call the PPP format which means Presentation Practice and Production. It has to be progressive.
- Start with reviewing prior knowledge. Have a quick starter to refresh their memories such as a word search, a crisscross puzzle, a reading comprehension, a matching up activity. The starter is aimed at knowing what students already know and it can also introduce some parts of the language introduced later in the lesson.
- The presentation stage is the introduction to the topic. It is a teacher centered activity. Students start getting used to the new language progressively. Here we focus on receptive skills.
- Then short practices follow such as games to reinforce the language and to have students to integrate it. As much as possible vary the types of activities (kinesthetic, auditory, visual) and the mode of interaction (group work, pairs, individuals, whole class)
- Then you dig deeper to focus on grammatical skills for example. Remember that your grammar point has to be embedded naturally in the lesson. It shouldn’t come out of nowhere. You need to get students think before eliciting the grammar point so that they can integrate the grammar point.
- Include some practices to reinforce the grammar point.
- The final stage is the production. By the time you get to that stage students should already be able to use the language autonomously. In the production they use their creativity to reuse the language learned. You could have a writing activity (letter, emails, conversation), a speaking activity (role play, debate, conversations) depending on the context.
- Last but not least the plenary will help you check what has been learnt and what needs to be reinforced.
How to manage your time
Timing is important. You need to evaluate how long each activity will be so that they can fit in your lesson plan. Activities for secondary school students shouldn’t last more than 10 minutes each which means you need to prepare short activities to avoid boredom and keep them on task. I also suggest that you plan more activities just in case. If you don’t do everything that was on your lesson plan, never mind you will have something ready for the following day.
“Time flies, running out of time, meeting deadlines, time management.” If these expressions sound familiar to you are probably one of the happy few in the teaching field. Time management is certainly a major issue in most careers nowadays but it seems as if teachers are the first one to suffer from the ‘lack-of-time syndrome.’ Managing time in education is indeed one of the biggest challenges, as you will need to manage your own time but also that of your students and that imposed by your other responsibilities in the school. Planning lessons, organizing the classroom, evaluating students, setting targets, checking books, behavior management issues, duties, paperwork, meetings etc are just some examples on a long list of teachers’ everyday life that make them work against the clock.
Most teachers work over fifty hours a week and sadly only half of this time is spent on teaching, which should make us, think about prioritizing time.Setting priorities and organizing our agenda according to the main activities is crucial. We need to arrange our workload around these activities and around the impact these activities will have. To do so, use your agenda and make to do lists to decide what is important and what can wait. The first priority as a teacher should be the students which means that your do list should reflect lesson planning and the preparation of resources. Try to have as much planning done before the start of the year. Your Unit Plans or Schemes Of Work should be ready to use as well as most of your lessons. You should have a routine set in each class that will save you time in terms of organization and behavior management. If you are beginning as a teacher ask your colleagues to help you and to tell you where the resources of the department are, as it will save you a lot of time and energy.
You must be extra organized. Use different files and colors and know exactly where you can find your documents. Avoid procrastination and break up the paperwork into smaller units. You may decide to mark some assignments on Monday, record grades of some groups on Tuesday, check books on Wednesday, fill in any paperwork for the school on Thursday while students are under your supervision in detention and Friday could be used for parents meetings. You need to find your own balance and find what suits you best in your practice. But remember not to leave things at the last minute, as it is even more exhausting.
Last but not least: include your personal time in your agenda. As teachers we usually are perfectionist and we tend to stay our classroom until we get the work done. There’s nothing wrong with that but when you don’t even get time to get a proper break or get time for your lunch, that’s an issue. When teachers are exhausted and don’t find time to relax with their family and friends the burn out is not far. So, find time for yourself. Try to be ready to say: “That’s enough for today, it’s time for my personal care”. Finally I would also say that you should avoid bringing work at home. Bringing home piles of books of marking can be seducing after a long day but how many of these do you actually get done? And what about your work-life balance? Think about it and make sure you get the right balance to be efficient both at work and home.