Middle School Playlist

Let’s talk music. 🎶

Are you a fan of completely silent reading time, or do you play background noise in your space? As a reader and a teacher, complete silence stresses me out. If one shoe squeaks like a fart in the back of the room, all is lost. In my experience, playing some soft music gives us all a little grace.

As a trained musician and music teacher (Fun fact: I have a Bachelors degree in music education, and am certified to teach instrumental music K-12!), I know that music can be an amazing way to set the vibe and make the kids feel included and valued.

I could play any music in my space and it would be fine – but tracking down my students’ favorite songs is a great way to say “I see you, hear you, and want to know you: You belong and matter here.

A few years ago, I started a playlist specifically for middle school readers. It has grown and changed a lot over the years, but what has worked consistently is to collect classical

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and instrumental covers of songs that students love. This list has grown to span genres and decades. You can see a tiny glimpse in the attached screenshot – the actual playlist is over eight hours long! The Vitamin String Quartet is one of my best resources – from Drake to Radiohead to video game themes, they’ve released hundreds of “Wait, I think I know this song…” covers over the years. Acoustic guitar, full orchestra or symphony, and piano tracks are also a big hit with my readers.

This playlist is always changing, and students know that they can request that a song be added or removed at any time (from feedback, I’ve learned that songs with lyrics and vocal tracks are too distracting during independent reading time, which was a big eye-opener and mindset shift for me). We teach the location of the speakers day one, so readers can sit close by or far away, depending on their preferred volume. I love seeing toes tapping and mouths lipsyching while kids read. As I loop the room, I get tons of whispered “I love this song!”, a lot of 🙌🙌, and a few incredulous “Ms. Fitz, is this a piano playing Taylor Swift??

The music makes my readers smile, tricks them into thinking I’m cool, and makes them think twice about their relationship to classical music – a triple win. It’s another little thing that brings us all together and makes our reading community stronger.

Do you play music in your space? What playlists do your readers love?

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