Teaching: Using Spotify in the Classroom

One of my favorite things to do is to soundtrack my reading.  For example, when reading a biography of Truman, I would listen to popular music from whatever time the chapter was set.  If it is a fiction book, I try to figure out what music matches the mood.  I know this is a nerdy thing to do, but check out the subtitle of this blog.

This led me to thinking of how use Spotify in the classroom.  I teach Computer Science so that practically limits me to Kraftwerk and one Flight of the Concords song.  However, I have certifications in English and Social Studies and this is where Spotify can truly enhance a classroom.

Reading poetry is hard for plenty of students. We instinctively want to end at the end of the line instead of punctuation, as we should. Then there is the language.  Yet, reading of poetry in the 40s and 50s found their way on plenty of vinyl.  Many of these recordings have been digitalized.  Listening to T. S. Eliot read the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” informs the reader how to read this particular work.  His pauses, his inflections, where he emphasizes and where he lowers his voice provide clues to initial readers as well as the experienced reader.

Even Shakespeare is on Spotify.  However, sometimes Spotify doesn’t list Shakespeare as an author, but an actor instead.  The quality of these recordings vary wildly, but again this will help students especially if it’s an uncut version where they can follow along with the text.  This is especially true for lower-level readers for they don’t have to stumble on hard to pronounce or unfamiliar words.  It goes without saying that the better the quality the easier it is for students to understand.

For social studies, music of the period will definitely help the student understand the period.  Music is often a reflection, or deflection, of the events that are happening in that period.  However, Spotify is also a treasure trove of historical speeches.  Searching for Harry S. Truman when reading Truman, helped flesh out the book more for me.

Listening to Eisenhower address the troops heading for Normandy while showing film footage or photographs will do more good for the students than any narration will.

Now, just pressing play in the classroom will not do much. Students have to interact with the information. With the history based selections, having students debate, write a newspaper article or base a political cartoon on the speech will allow the students to interact with the material. Most of these speeches can be found online and the students can follow along with the reading and the text.

Of course, Spotify will help with Fine Arts and Music appreciation classes.  There are foreign language courses on Spotify that help supplement lessons.

In other words, Spotify is just not for passive listening.

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