Classroom tunes: How does music make us feel?

Graham Andre

Graham Andre has worked in education for over two decades, with roles ranging from school cleaner and secretary to teaching assistant and, most recently, class teacher. After several years of indecision and fear of paperwork, Graham finally bit the bullet, completing a part time degree in Education and Training Studies and became qualified through the GTP route. Graham has experience in teaching all year groups from Reception to Year 6, and is currently ‘progression team leader’ for Year 3 and 4 at Lanesend Primary School (Isle of Wight). He loves to share his creative Maths ideas and resources with educators.

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Originally published on 13th November Originally published on 13th November To celebrate the 2015/16 school year, we're republishing the most popular article of each month. Today: November's top read. We'd love to know what you think, and if you've used these ideas yourself in the classroom, let us know in the comments section!

I love music and regularly use it in my classroom (I have written a couple of Staff Room blogs about this). I love the impact it can have on your children and the mood of the class, want to soothe them, play some chilled classical music or Spanish guitar music, want them to get ready for learning then use Don’t Stop me Now for a wake up shake up.

I like to try and make Music lessons cross-curricular and get the children thinking. A recent example was a lesson called ‘How Does Music Make us Feel?’. I wanted to promote listening and appreciating different types of music, but to also think about how music can make us feel.

I handed out a sheet to my Year 3 children and introduced the lesson. “We will be listening to four pieces of music, each will be without lyrics, and I will not be telling you the name of the music.”


I gave out the sheet above as I carried on talking. “I want you to listen to each piece and circle how it makes you feel and some quick notes on what it makes you think of.”

The class was nice and quiet and there were 26 expectant faces as I started the first song - Popcorn by Hot Butter:

YouTube link

As the music started the children became more animated, they smiled, they jigged in their chairs, they looked like they were enjoying it. I encouraged children to write down what it made them think of and circle how it made them feel.

The music stopped, I lollisticked my first question; “What did it make you think of?”

Emily: “Very happy, smiles and laughing.”
Alfie: “Pacman.”
Thomas: “It sounded like something popping.” (Spot on, that man)

I scanned the papers on the tables and each child had circled ‘happy’, ‘surprised’ or ‘silly’. Pretty easy that one, onto piece number two - Tubular Bells, by Mike Oldfield.

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The sinister sound to the music and the erratic sounds had the required effect on the children, they listened and mumbled to their neighbours about being scared. Scared and sad featured on lots of the sheets.

Lewis: “A little boy in the dark, all alone looking for a friend.”
Seth: “Scooby Doo.”
Kyra: “From a horror film”

We moved on to piece three. This time, the Theme from Schindler's List by Itzhak Perlman:

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The room was totally different, for the almost 4 minutes running time the children were silent, listening intently and scribbling on their sheets. There were some very poignant and thoughtful replies to this piece.

Me: “That was a very different piece of music, how did that make you feel?”
Mia: “Violins, ballroom dancing, being left at school and worried about going away.”
Isabelle: “Being lonely somewhere.”
Michelle: “Elegant, slow moving – emotional story.”
Brandon: “Lost in the woods.”
Phoebe: “My Auntie Hilary.” - Auntie Hilary had died earlier in the year. I asked Phoebe why and she said “Because it is sad, it sounds like sad music.” I thanked Phoebe for sharing.

We moved on to piece four, Watership Down’s End Titles, the final piece before a last chance to think.

YouTube link

I chose this piece purposely, because it changes during the play time. This was mirrored In the children’s responses to it, with several feelings being circled.

Daniela: “People getting married and Alice in Wonderland.”
Cadence: “It makes me think of a film with a really happy ending, like Jungle Book.”
Alfie: “Like a long journey.”
Toby: “Carnival music.”
Ellie: “Birds, me thinking that I need to fly because some birds told me to, but I can’t.” It does have a soaring saxophone section in it.
Emily: “Someone walking through a forest and finding animals.”

I thanked the children then went through each piece again, telling them the names and films they may have been linked to. We talked about how accurate they were with their thinking and how the music was meant to make us feel – the composers did a great job.

My final question with this in mind was: “what piece would be best for a dinosaur film?” (‘Dinosaurs’ is our topic)

The answer from the children was? It depends what type of dinosaur film you are making, a happy one then use Popcorn, a scary one then Tubular Bells must be used, if your film is sad, such as all of the dinosaurs being wiped out by a meteorite then Schindler’s List is best, but if you have a happy, triumphant joyful dinosaur film then the Watership Down music suits it perfectly. To my mind job done – great job, kids.

Do you use music in your classroom? Share your experiences below.

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