Using Calming Music

We should use calming music when we start our classes with silent reading. How does the it work? Our normal heart rate is around 72 beats per minute, and is much faster in kids who have eaten sugar and drunk those caffeine and sugar laced monster drinks just to get themselves going in school.

The music in the calming music (found soon in downloadable form on this site) is mostly taken from the second movement of certain Baroque concertos. Those are written at 60 beats per minute. This slows the heart rate down to 60 bpm. When that happens, the brain waves, which in the active waking state occur at 22-24 cycles per second, slow down toward, but not all the way to, 14 cycles per second. For those familiar with this process of , it is called Suggestopedia.

This slowing down of the mind via the slowing of the heart rate via music and yogic breathing brings the calming energy. There is no doubt that teaching is a hazardous profession. Many teachers just plain burn out, and their health suffers, because they are in such a chaotic state of making thousands of decisions per day in the severely dysfunctional environments that we call American schools. Teacher burnout is rarely the fault of the teacher, or is so only to the extent that teacher accept a totally insane setting as normal, without taking conscious steps to change how they react to it.

So, taking the first ten minutes of every class to play the calming music is a good idea, for the betterment of everyone in the room. I have to admit that the reason I have not done this in the past, rarely doing the reading in spite of the obvious research about its benefits and the protestations of Diana Noonan, is because I want to get the story going. That is not a good reason to skip over one of the great strategies we have at our disposal, especially when it helps us and our kids in so many ways.

If I do the reading with the calming music in every class every day, will start our story in a much more peaceful way. Kids won’t have to jump on a moving train to get class started. The train (from the previous class and the hallway conversations) will be stopped in the station and it will pull out into the next story in a sane way.

Adding the calming music to the SSR start of class time brings greater simplicity and thus greater mental health to us.

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29 thoughts on “Using Calming Music”

  1. I have successfully used the quiet music of Astor Piazzolla and the quiet jazz of Bill Evans as interpreted by a French classical pianist whose name is Jean-Yves Thibaudet (?) If I have it on as the kids are coming in, they get really quiet as they are choosing something to read. It’s divine!

  2. Wow I would like all that calming music. I think the relationship of music to language is another important factor with the FVR. We know we teach tons of structures through using music. We can also allow the slow movement of the brain waves to help absorb their personal reading choices. I like this idea and look forward to downloading for my own FVR experience.
    Thanks Ben!

    1. What about Carlos Nakai. He is a native American flute player. It is calming and beautiful. Sorry, I don’y remember his tribe.

      1. Fine but if you want the brain wave changes it’s got to be the second movement of certain Baroque concertos only, at 60 beats per minute, sorry to be weird about that.

        I’ll try to get that link up on the new site real soon.

      2. I’ll bring that CD to Breckenridge. I am traveling sans computer I believe, but I hardly ever go without a jump drive.

        Nakai is wonderful though I think it is the 60 beats per minute that is the ticket.

  3. A few recommendations:
    Haydn, trios for flute, violin and cello

    Rosalyn Tureck’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier. A few faster tracks can be left out.

    Mozart, Concerti for Clarinet, Oboe, and Basoon. Directed by Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic. Deutsche Grammaphon. Cheap used CD’s of this are available, or as part of a recent box set with lots of relaxing Mozart.

  4. FVR question: I know that the F in FVR means “free.” I have read the Krashen research and I totally get the value and that the kids have to be able to choose.

    So what (if anything) can I do about kids who only choose picture dictionaries? I’m noticing that happening more and more. Certain kids picking these exclusively. They are engaged and excited, but I have to say I kind of cringed the other day when someone said: “my goal is to memorize all 1000 words in this book by the end of the year.” Maybe I shouldn’t cringe? It kind of feels like this sort of “reading” isn’t the same as reading sentences in a story? I guess I am just afraid they are going back to the list mentality. Maybe this is ok as long as everything else we do has a context? Advice?

    1. Let them do the dictionary. They picked it. Let them have a goal that they’ve chosen, even if it is different from yours as long as their goal does not interfere with your classroom management. They’ve picked a personal goal. Good. They are motivated to do something in the language. Why would you want to stop that?

      Personally I’ve been paying attention to words about weather so I can talk about it with my Elder when we Skype. Now I’ve discovered related words in the dictionary that don’t directly talk about weather, but use the word “sun” or “wind swallower” to describe a horned toad.

      I’ve got new questions to ask both my Elders–what is the story behind giving the horned toad that name? That wouldn’t come up ever (hasn’t in the 12 years I’ve actively worked collecting stories), but because I was looking up related words with wind as the root, now I have something new to ask about. And you know how we talk about women’s monthly cycles as being their moon cycle? Well in our language that PERIOD is called “sun sickness.” Now what’s that about? Did we mark time by moons or suns? Does it mean we went to dark lodges during the time of seperation from community? I have a feeling I am in for some new culture lessons due to my language questions. YES!

      FVR is about the learner’s choices. The learner is motivating themselves as a learner. If they want to learn more “list” vocabulary or read “comics,” great. It is about them directing their own learning process which in the end will be more meaningful to them than our most carefully crafted lesson plan.

      1. Now the second part of the question is about whether FVR is supposed to be completely individual or can 2 kids read together? I am using the Haydn 2nd movements. It is working great. We have a standard routine of FVR at the beginning, and there is a nice ease about beginning our time together quietly.

        I pretty much stay out of the picture in terms of directing or micromanaging. I go over to the book bins, browse, pick something to read, just like the students. I’m enjoying Tintin (which I have never read!) and in Spanish “Biografia de un Cimarron.” How awesome is it to get to read! Our space is really small and not exactly conducive to “relaxing with a book, so during FVR I let them spread out, sit or lie on the floor or even put their feet up on a chair or the table (only for these 10 mins.). Occasionally we are able to take a “field trip to the library and use the couches or the kids’ corner.

        Sometimes kids will read individually. Other times two of them will hunch over a book together. This seems fine until they can’t help themselves from interacting in a disruptive way. When that happens I make them read individually. Should they just be reading individually anyway or is it ok for 2 ppl to read together as long as they respect the silence?

        Just figured I’d get as many kinks as possible out of this system. It is probably the most successful thing happening this year.

    1. I agree with Kate and Ben. The way I explain it to my students is:
      “Free” means I’m not going to test them on it
      “Voluntary” means they can read whatever they want in the target language
      “Reading” means that they read, not talk or socialize*

      *If I see a student sharing something he is reading with another student for just a second, I won’t say anything because I think that’s great; when it goes beyond “look at this” to conversation, then I remind them that this is reading time.

      From time to time (but not often enough), I invite students to share with the class what they have been reading. Totally voluntary, and sometimes students will get others excited about a particular book. I have multiple copies of Michael Miller’s “Hilde und Günter” readers. One year these books were all the rage for FVR. My level 2 students read the level 1 reader, and level 3-4 students read the level 2 book. It all started because one student told everyone else how fun and easy they were to read.

      1. Thanks! I am going to look into the Michael Miller readers. I think there are Spanish ones.

        Oh, and I TOTALLY LOVED Nordseepirat!!! Just finished it this morning. Now I want to read it again all at once. Can’t wait for the Spanish version! I know it will be a huge hit for the action and adventure, and also for all those big questions about justice and life! Wowie! I assume you will also publish the English version? Any kid (or “kid with experience”) will love this story! Thank you Robert!

        1. Thank you, jen. I will probably also make the English version available, and I’ll have to see what I can do about adapting a Spanish version. Maybe I should do a poll:
          -do I just translate it and leave the adventure in the North Sea?
          -do I adapt it and find a different pirate for the key figure? Unfortunately, I don’t know any hispanic pirates with a similar story. The beheading legend is high interest – and I got to tell it twice, the second time with a twist.

          I know Michael has published “Charo y Lee” as a Spanish version of “Sabine und Michael”, but I don’t know if he has written any readers to go with it yet. His website is http://www.charoylee.com for the Spanish materials.

  5. Publish it as it is in English. Don’t look for a new pirate in a different sea. This is a story that transcends the language. It is great! I loved it. And I wouldn’t be able to read it any other way than English. With your permission I would love to read it aloud to my after school. We do read alouds several times a year. And I look for a book that reads well out loud through several age groups. This one does just that.

    1. Thanks for the advice and the compliment. Yes, you have my permission to read it to your after school.

      Just to make this official: while retaining copyright, I hereby give permission to members of Ben Slavic’s online Professional Learning Community to use “Nordseepirat”, aka in English as “North Sea Pirate”, with their classes, after-school and other language-acquisition groups. Permission includes making copies for “classroom” use. This permission remains in force until rescinded in writing.

      So you guys get to use this for free – everyone else pays. Just one of the benefits of belonging to Ben’s PLC. 🙂

      Please let me – and everyone else – know how it goes and what you do with it. Thanks!

  6. Hi everyone,

    I just finished proofreading the English version once again and found several places that needed improvement of one kind or another: typos, incomplete edits, better wording, etc. I also re-formatted the entire reader into a single document.

    If anyone would like for me to send the re-formatted text as a pdf, just send me your e-mail address, and I will forward it. Then you can print and photocopy it for personal classroom use.

    I would appreciate getting the following feedback from you:
    -any typos or other mistakes you find
    -how it “reads”: any places that just don’t flow
    -how you use it
    -what your students think
    -what level(s) are appropriate
    -what supporting information you could use in a teacher’s guide
    -what other footnotes you would like to see
    -any other comments

    Thanks!

  7. I totally agree that the plot of “Nordseepirat” should not be changed because the Stoertebeker legend is absolutely singular. No other pirate legend I know would be as compelling as this one. And Robert’s ending is ingenious!

  8. Message for Robert H

    I’m teaching English and would love to use a copy of North Sea Pirate in English… I have a class of 9 year olds it might be good for… if you are still looking for comments back to help you with the final editing, let me know.

    My email is Kathburke@hotmail.com

    Thanks

    Kath

    1. Robert is in Europe still – I think – but don’t we have a copy of the installments in English here somewhere as they were published through the winter?

  9. I love this!

    I have a large library of children’s Spanish books and I’m tossing around the idea of doing FVR every day (beginning of 90 minutes definitely wouldn’t hurt) for the first few weeks and hopefully do it the rest of the year!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Now to find some music to use…

  10. I sometimes just google, “Study music” or ‘Alpha waves music’ and play it from my c’ter while the kids are illustrating storyboard panels or exploring (however briefly) FVR books…
    There’s a ton of free playlists online. It sounds like massage music (like the kind they play if you’re lucky enough to get a back massage!)

  11. “found soon in downloadable form on this site”
    If you click on “Free Resources” or “TPRS Resources” before logging on you will see “Calming Music” in the second column.

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