Yes, i’m old enough to have actually made a mixtape. I have been obesessed with music since junior high. I can distinctly remember waiting for my favorite song to come on the radio and hitting record as soon as it begins as to not miss a second. Music fills a void, a void of silence. I hate quiet and usually avoid it at all cost. There is a reason why I went into teaching. It is a profession in which conversation and discussion is a daily occurrence. If I’m not teaching or with my family, I’m listening to music or podcasts.

A few years back I read Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. The book is phenomenal and one that I try and read before the start of each school year like some teachers that read Harry Wong’s The First Days of School. One of the great things about Dave’s book is that each section starts with a series of questions that gets you thinking about your lesson designs and presentation methods.

When I got to the “Mozart Hook”, I was hooked!

Pirate Mozart 1 Pirate Mozart 2

I realized I was missing out, and so were my students. I looked over my lesson plan book from the previous year, opened the I-Tunes store and started creating my first class playlist. That list grew and grew. My current list is here. Now I begin every lesson with a song. I play this song while students complete their daily bell ringer. Every song has a connection to the lesson of the day whether it be to a historical event, theme we are covering, climate type we may be addressing, or just to get them excited or focused for that lesson. I ask some trivia connection to the song, usually the artist or possibly about a movie that it was featured in. In addition, we always come back to how the song connects to the lesson. The song functions as an intro to the lesson. Sometimes we will delve deeper into analyzing the lyrics of the songs we use like I mentioned in my Apartheid music post.

What I need to start doing is posting a lyric on my front board from the song of the day like Kevin Cline does. ( @mrclinefhs )

Cline 1

Some other lists of music with ties to social studies topics are this one shared by Chuck Taft ( @Chucktaft ). Here is an additional list shared by Mary Buell (@MsBuell ) These are just a few of the resources to pull music from. The Library of Congress has the National Jukebox.  In addition there is also the Global Jukebox. This website has aggregated a playlist of numerous social justice songs. Be sure though to check the lyrics before you use in class. Last, but certainly not least is the amazing resources shared by #worldgeochat’s official DJ, Jason Baker ( @GetSoundsAround ). He has assembled so many great playlists that are a gold mine for any global studies teacher. You can find his playlists here.

Even if you are not using music to tie into the lesson, you can still add in music during quiet work time too. I like using the film scores station on Pandora. I also have used music by Vitamin String Quartet which features strings only renditions of pop songs minus the vocals. If you want to eliminate music altogether, yet still avoid the silence you could also customize your own sound machine using the Noisli website or Chrome extension. I like coffeehouse with the fireplace going. Coffitivity is another sound machine website you could try.

Beyond analysis and as an intro during a bell ringer you could have your students incorporate music in a number of ways. You could ask as a closure, what song would best represent the theme of today’s lesson. Students could curate a playlist of songs that could illustrate a topic or theme. If you want to go all out the students could design their own album cover using Read Write Thinks cover creator. You could use music as a timer or as a class discussion technique. I saw Paula Kluth ( @PaulaKluth) present and she brought in toy stuffed birds. She had the teachers at the conference pass them around the room while she played “Rockin Robin”. When the music stopped, the people holding the toy birds had to share out. I adapted this strategy, and used toy stuffed monsters. I play the song “The Monster Mash” when I use this method as a discussion strategy. Another way you could build in music is to have students write take off songs about a topic being studied using a published song as inspiration. The HistoryTeachers ( @historyteacherz ) The Singing HistorTeachers ( @SinginHistTeach ), and Mr. Betts’ Class ( @MrBettsClass )could serve as good models or examples.

Since publishing this post, the awesome folks of the Talking Social Studies podcast had this episode about using music in the social studies classroom. This episode is awesome! They shared links to the fantastic resources they shared as well as their own playlists in their show notes which you can find here.

If there is a day that I don’t include music, students are always disappointed. There is no doubt that using music has enhanced my classroom experience and made each period more enjoyable for both me and my students.

How do you incorporate music into your class? What songs am I missing that I should add to my classroom playlist?

6 thoughts on “Take Your Classroom Playlist To 11!

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! Music is a big part of our class, especially second semester when we cover the 20th-21st centuries. I’d be happy to share some lessons with you; just give me a shout!


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