The benefits of adding background music during learning are numerous. Music, one of the joys of life, can be one of the joys of learning as well.
Music stimulates students not only mentally, physically and emotionally, but also enhances creative learning states and understanding of the learning material. Music will make the learning process much more fun and more interesting. Music will set a positive mood at the start of the day or at the beginning of a class. It can reduce stress, relieve frustration and create a peaceful classroom environment. At the same time, it can help to encourage interaction, build classroom community, reduce anxiety, improve concentration, on-task behaviour, and enhance the way children can process language and speech.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BRAIN AND MUSIC
A great spurt of neural integration occurs between ages seven and nine. The more music children are exposed to before they enter school, the more deeply this stage of neural coding will assist them throughout their lives. From nine to 11 the auditory pathway undergoes a further spurt, enhancing speech and listening. The nervous system is like a symphony orchestra with different rhythms, melodies and instrumentations. There are many rhythmic and melodic systems that keep the brain synchronised. Often external music movements or images bring the unconscious systems into expression.
BENEFITS OF MUSIC IN THE CLASSROOM
Integrating music in the classroom could result in many beneficial aspects, such as improving concentration, increasing retention of material, improving grades and accelerating learning, greater retention of material learned, high test scores and reduced stress and tension. The music not only helps eliminate ‘white noises’ but also creates a sustained supportive ambiance. As a result, it could reduce the students’ frustration levels, enabling them to perform tasks effectively and efficiently.
The ability to retain information plays a big role in the education process. Retaining the material being taught is very important for the student. Classical music has been shown to aid in memory enhancement, which helps with all courses of study, especially those that stress knowledge. And the retention of material could lead to better grades, completion of tasks and assignments, and increased participation in the classroom. The emotion that music creates heightens involvement, which generates a stronger neural connection, which in turn makes it easier to remember information. Koppelman and Imig’s research indicates that background music also enhances spelling and word retention.1 It has been found that using music to teach reading motivates and increases the reading ability of students.2 According to Michael Griffin, ‘Do not let the students select the music, it is not about entertainment, but about establishing an environment to improve learning arousal.’3 Use instrumental music and the volume must be low and consistent.3
POSITIVE LEARNING STATE
Studies suggest that incorporating background music into the learning environment may help to improve students’ academic performance and create a positive effect on cognitive development. Malyarenko studied the effects of background music in preschool settings.4 He found that the music group members appeared to tire less easily than the controls.4
Music creates emotion in people. This emotion can help them learn. This emotional state can be influenced by the type of music played in the classroom. Students are more likely to be working productively if they are in a healthy emotional state.
MUSIC WILL REDUCE STRESS
Many students are stressed. This may be from school-related activities or from home. Students cannot leave their negative emotions and worries at the classroom door. This leads to decreased motivation to learn which leads to decreased productivity. Students with stress are often more passive and cannot focus. Background music will reduce stress and these negative effects will fade for better achievement.
Music affects our chemical composition. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the reward system of the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes people feel good. And dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are all released when music is played. These hormones will help the students to relax and reduce their stress levels.
ATTENTION AND ATTITUDE
Music stabilises mental, physical and emotional rhythm to attain a state of deep concentration and focus, to enable the student to process and learn large amounts of information. The rhythms and tempo of musical sound can assist students in setting and maintaining their attention and focus, by perking them up when they are weary, and also helping them to find peace and calmness when they are over-energised.
Baroque music such as composed by Bach, Handel and Telemann – 50 to 80 beats per minute – creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Then, on the other hand, Mozart’s music assists in holding attention during sleepy times of day and helps students stay alert while reading or working on projects.
BENEFITS OF MOZART’S MUSIC
Mozart’s music can improve test scores, cut learning time, calm hyperactive children, reduce errors, and improve creativity and clarity. At the same time it integrates both sides of the brain for more efficient learning. In a study at the University of California, students used a headset to listen to either white noise, relaxation music or Mozart for 10 minutes. The Mozart group performed better on spatial tasks than those in the other two groups.5
MUSIC AND MATH SKILLS
Listening for, and responding to, short patterns in music also expands a child’s understanding of the patterns in maths. It is well known that music improves cognitive skills, and studies show that music improves maths skills, especially when performing music as it reinforces parts of the brain you use when doing maths.6
Tapping out a beat may help children learn difficult fraction concepts according to new findings. An innovative curriculum uses rhythm to teach fractions where students in a music-based programme scored significantly higher in math tests than their peers who received regular instruction.
Music and maths are both full of patterns. Out of simple rhythms, chants and games of pat-a-cake grows an ability to understand and manipulate patterns of big and small blocks. Moving in a different way for each section of music helps children begin to identify, through movements, the parts that make up the whole.
There are two main reasons why teachers should use background music in the classrooms: It will improve classroom behaviour and atmosphere and also the quality and quantity of the work. Music has the potential to be a special assistant in the classroom.
Editor’s Tip: FATTY ACIDS
According to homeopath Dr Juanita Ferreira, ‘Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of the brain and essential for its functioning as they help to keep the entire traffic pattern of thoughts, reactions and reflexes running smoothly and efficiently.’
Key omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Both are found primarily in oily cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel. A general dietary guideline is to eat at least two portions of oily fish per week. In capsule form, the US Food and Drug Administration advises one gram, or 1 000 mg, per day.
- Koppelman D, Imig S. The effect of music on children’s writing content. Clearinghouse, 1-1. 1995. Retrieved 6 October 2006, from ERIC database (ERIC Item: ED383002).
- Anderson S, Henke J, et al. Using background music to enhance memory and improve learning. 2006. Clearinghouse 1-30 Retrieved 6 October 2006, from ERIC database (ERIC Item: ED437663).
- Griffin M. Learning strategies for musical success. Adelaide, Australia: Music Education World. 2013.
- Malyarenko TN, Kuraev GA, et al. The development of brain electric activity in 4-year-old children by long-term sensory stimulation with music. Human Physiology. 1996;22: 76-81.
- Rauscher FH, Shaw GL, et al. Music and spatial task performance. Nature. 1993; 365: 611.
- Graziano AB, Peterson M, et al. Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training. Neurological Research. 1999; 21:139-152.