Brain Based Learning  

March 26, 2014
The first week of February was special at ESU 10. We were graced with the presence of Marcia Tate EdD, who is the former Executive Director of Professional Development for the DeKalb County School System, Decatur, Georgia. During her 30-year career with the district, she has been a classroom teacher, reading specialist, language arts coordinator, and staff development executive director. She was in Kearney sharing her knowledge and expertise in two separate workshops; Shouting Doesn’t Grow Dendrites, and Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites. Our hope is to apply her 20 strategies of engagement to classrooms and professional learning opportunities across our region.

Eric Jensen was mentioned by Dr. Tate several times in those two days. He is one of the leading translators of educational neuroscience in the world as well as being a highly-engaging presenter of teaching strategies to create brain compatible classrooms. One of the ideas that both Tate and Jensen agree on is using music in the classroom. There are a couple things he thinks you need to consider when deciding what music to play in your classroom to help with brain-based learning. While there are a boundless number of criteria, these would be a good start.

State. What emotional state are you trying to produce? Pay attention to what happens to your own body and mind as you listen to a song as well as to the beats per minute (BPM). Songs in the 35- 50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seatwork. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 and for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev it up. The state is also the feelings you want to have within your students. When students complete an assignment, project or even a simple task, I want upbeat celebration music. When we are doing a class stretching or reflective writing, I want slower, uncluttered, calming music. When we are about to start out on a big task, I want inspirational, upbeat, even marching music. In short, use music as a second teacher in the classroom to support the mood. (Jensen)

Age of Listener. What generation am I working with? Stay within your generation! The way to decide is ask this simple question: If they’re adults, what music did they listen to in high school and college? If they’re age 14 or less, what are the current soundtracks to movies that are hot?

Type of Music. Do I use music with words or instrumentals only? In general, use words only if it’s for transitions, games that require them or special occasions. Most of the time, instrumentals are better. If you use only one kind of music you’re missing out on some great alternatives.

Here are a few recommended music selections from Eric Jensen to try in your classroom:

Whistle While You Work, available as a collection of 18-mp3 files via download, is specially produced to activate the relaxed focused system. Serotonin may be released and it is a common neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasant and cheerful. Play this music in the background when you’d like to reduce stress, but encourage productivity. All of these specially produced memorable selections are 100% soothing and easy-to-listen to audio gems. You’ll get positive, enjoyable listening tracks that boost learning and productivity.

More Whistle While You Work, is the sequel to the set of files above. It is also a collection of 18 mp3 files via download. These are different (but in the same music family) tunes, and all are specially produced to activate the relaxed and focused system. Play this music in the background when you’d like to reduce stress, but encourage productivity. All of these specially-produced memorable selections are 100% relaxing and easy-to-listen to audio gems. You’ll get positive, enjoyable listening tracks that boost learning and productivity. Your students will ask for these catchy tunes again and again.

Greatest Energizer Tunes Ever! Do you have a classroom in need of an energy boost? This audio CD includes favorite classroom tunes that can revitalize a classroom. Its 19 up-tempo songs are paced between 120-165 BPM to raise adrenaline levels and energize classroom spirit!

Ultimate Music Variety CD, are you looking for ways to transition from one activity to another? This audio CD
offers a broad range of songs individually designed to calm, relax, and redirect students’ energy. Running Time: 53 Minutes.

Top Tunes for Teaching, 977 Song Titles & Practical Tools for Choosing the Right Music Every Time. Music is a powerful classroom tool that enhances cognition, improves memory, energizes sluggish learners, and makes lessons fun for students of all ages. This resource offers practical tips, suggestions, and lists of songs all personally tested by Eric Jensen during his own trainings and based on scientific research that supports music’s beneficial effects.

Wake Up the Young Brain, High-Energy Music For K-5 Learners
. This energizing music CD is scientifically paced at 120-165 BPM to activate the adrenergic (adrenaline) system. Its fun, upbeat tracks for younger students are perfect for transition times, games, marches, and lesson openings. Wake Up! the Brain will help you harness the natural energy of this age group and channel it into meaningful learning-rich activities. Your students will ask for these catchy, memorable tunes again and again.

All the products above can be accessed online at

-by Susan Evans, Professional Development Coordinator