Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dear Katie (Vol 1 #4), The Rockin' Classroom

From time to time I plan to encourage my niece Katie in her pursuit of being a teacher.  She is currently a Sophomore in college.  These blogs will take the form of a letter.

If any of my teacher friends have any topic you would like be to write about or would like me to paste your own post on here for her or anyone else to read, by all means, please be my guest.

Dear Katie,

For the past 8 years, I have tried to open my class with a song.  As you know, the opening exercise for my classroom is called "What's Up Now?" and it serves three purposes, one, to inform students on current events for the day,  two, to remind them of upcoming assignments, and three, introduce the essential question and tasks that we will accomplish during that class period.

Each day I choose a theme song for "What's Up Now?", that is also a cue for the students that they need to quiet down because class is about to begin.

I typically choose songs based on the lesson or unit.  The most popular of the songs ever has been "Down Under" from the Australian band Men at Work for our Geography unit on Australia.  When studying the Byzantine Roman Empire, I would open class with "Istanbul, not Constantinople"(the They Might Be Giants version).  On Friday's, it's typically Rebecca Black's "Friday"with the multiple complaints and "ughs" from my students making it even more fun to play.  And this year, a good friend of mine who creates Industrial music even produced an official class song.  (I still have to come up with a name for it).

Make sure you know the lyrics of the song you are choosing.  My student teacher one year wanted to use the song "Money" by Pink Floyd for a lesson on economics.  Thankfully I was able to mute the sound before a word of mild profanity was sung (Since I know you went to see "The Wall" I think you know what was said)

What some may believe to be a waste of time, I see as a very important piece of my class.  In order for students to learn, you have to make them feel comfortable; they have to want to be in your classroom.  The anticipation of "what song is going to be played today in history" gets the student thinking and getting their mind ready for your class.  And we know from studying how people learn that people can "peg" information to seemingly unrelated but familiar items (Look up the Roman Room memorization technique).  

You would be surprised how many students have said over the years, "I remembered ________ because of the line in the song _______________."

Always think of ways to create a classroom environment where students can't help but desire to be a part of it.

Just my opinion,

Uncle Kevin

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