Music is also capable of contributing to our physical and mental wellbeing: Music Therapy or Neurologic Music Therapy is a vast and varied field of research and practice with research to indicate that music has a part to play in the treatment of illnesses as varied as stroke, depression, Parkinson’s and Schizophrenia as well as ADHD and Autism in children. Considering the powerful potential of music to influence our students’ attitudes and moods it is surprising that schools do not experiment with it more in the classroom. Here is a simple way you can use music to give your students a positive start to their school day and to gain a deeper understanding of their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Music can arouse many emotions but it can be challenging for students of all ages to clearly articulate the associations they make with the music or the feelings that they are expressing. Colour can act as a simple way to externalise and analyse these feelings. Art Therapy is increasingly researched by neurobiologists and practised by psychologists because of its positive effects in the treatment of younger children (usually under the age of 10) who have experienced trauma or who struggle to regulate their emotions. In the classroom, you can combine colour and music to quickly and positively influence your students’ emotional state.
Five-minute Emotional Wellbeing Activity:
- Find five minutes at the start of each school day. If you are an elementary school teacher you should be able to manage this with ease. If you are a high-school teacher without a homeroom you may wish to consider coming to school ten minutes early and find a suitably intimate place to work with your students.
- Make sure each student has access to a full set of colouring pens or crayons with a broad spectrum of colour and hues. Ask them to buy a dedicated diary for this activity so that they can log their “feelings” throughout the course of the academic year.
- Because this activity can result in highly-charged emotions make sure that you have established a trusting classroom environment. See here and here for strategies on how to do this.
- Bring all of your students into a circle in the middle of the classroom. Have them lie on their stomachs with their heads pointing to the centre of the circle. This creates intimacy.
- Play a piece of music that you have carefully chosen in advance. Do not allow students to see an accompanying video as it can influence their artwork.
- Instruct students to draw whatever the music makes them feel.
- Without being too specific (allow plenty of student individuality and interpretation) ask students to be conscious of the colours that they are using – explain that blue may mean calm, red passionate etc.
- Once the song or music is over ask students “How did that make you feel?” Ask them to try and put their emotions in one word and write that word somewhere on their artwork.
- Reflect on the activity by having students analyse their work or, if there is a high level of trust in the room, analyse that of their peers. Have them refer to the colours, forms and shapes used.
- Experiment with different styles of music but be aware that students will react differently to songs and one that you may feel is meditative may be interpreted as depressing or upsetting by others. Especially at the outset, err on the side of caution and play music that is interesting but undoubtedly uplifting.
A Year 12 Student’s Reflection
To Build a Home
Le Jour D’avant
"Full of Life"