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
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.