Using our playlist-maker activity, we’ve made two lists of 11 songs to keep your classroom energized, engaged, and hard at work on their path to individual self-discovery. Here’s how they break down.
Playlist 1: Experiential Activity and Reflection
1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight – The Postal Service
Get Prepped – Connecting Music. Take a few minutes, close your eyes, do a bit of visualizing and stretch the neck out. Sure, you aren’t a NFL linebacker, but you’re still about to undertake a challenging and demanding (physically and mentally) feat in the classroom. This sone gives you a bit of mindfulness before it all begins.
2. Flow With It – St. Paul and The Broken Bones
Entrance Theme – Moving Music. You’ve got some exciting experiences planned for these kids and you need energy up without distraction. “Flow With It” gives you a little kick in the pants without starting an unstoppable classroom discussion about music taste.
3. Nunca Es Suficiente – Natalia Lafourcade
Bell Ringer – Learning Music. A somber but driving Italian tune, Natalia keeps it upbeat but still immerses your class deep into a culture outside of their own. It’s the perspective you need to start a lesson that focuses on empathy, cultural understanding, and communication. It’s also just a cute little tune.
4. 6 Consolations, S. 172 in D Flat Major – Franz Liszt
Instruction Background – Thinking Music. A piano ballad takes your class on a journey from Italy right into their own brains. Liszt manages to keep the somber and driving theme of the last tune, but in a way that helps create a foundation for thinking and doing some individual work.
5. Watermelon Sugar – Harry Styles
Getting Situated – Moving Music. Start to bring the energy up with a familiar but generally unoffensive track. Get the kids moving into their places for the experiential activity while continuing their reflective mood. This song inserts the energy you need to get kids excited before deeper reflection.
6. Nocturne No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 9 – Frederic Chopin
The Material – Learning Music. You’re giving your lesson and it’s time for everyone to focus, but you can’t lose the energy and momentum that music brings us. We’ll bring Chopin to the party to set a scene and keep the mood alive while you give out necessary instructions.
7. Codex – Radiohead
Group Work – Thinking Music. Kids are starting to embark on their experience and you need to get them a little tripped out to have an out-of-body experience. Well, no one does that better than Thom Yorke and the boys of Radiohead. Codex is the perfect companion to an experience.
8. Dearest Alfred – Khruangbin, Knxwledge
Group Reflection – Connecting Music. Bring up the energy a bit as kids begin to run out of steam. This lo-fi hiphop beat gets you swaying without all the distracting words. We’d suggest using lo-fi hiphop under a lot of your lessons for familiar energy without distraction.
9. Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
Back to Desks – Moving Music. Call it yacht rock, call it dad music, call it old school… just don’t call it a song that don’t get you moving. This song is the perfect one to serve as a soundtrack to kids moving around and transitioning back from the experience to traditional class layout.
10. Let’s Be Still – The Head and The Heart
Individual Work – Thinking Music. It’s time to sit quietly and have the “zoom out” moment that we all need to connect the material and the experience to our lives, to reflect on how we can apply it, and to really synthesize the new information into old and previously built schemas.
11. Don’t Say Nuthin’ – The Roots
Dismissal and Exit – Moving Music. This’ll get the class to bob their heads as they pack their bags and exit the room. They’ll think you’re hip without feeling like you’re pandering or trying to hard. Oh, and it just so happens to be a tun that gets you in the mindspace you need for the next class (and it secretly tells the kids to be quiet). It’s a win-win-win.
Playlist 2: Group Work and Individual Study
1. Capacity – Charly Bliss
Get Prepped – Connecting Music. A modern take on that emo music that helped us get through that awkward phase in college, Charly Bliss gives you a little energy to get jazzed about your impending class. Also, the lyrics hit home for anyone trying to do just a bit too much (looking at you).
2. AIn’t it Fun – Paramore
Entrance Theme – Moving Music. Some songs just have that undeniable energy that gets the foot tapping, the head bobbing, and puts a smile on everyone’s face. “Ain’t it Fun” isn’t the cheeriest of tunes, but it pours energy into your students and sets the mood for some group work.
3. Un Anno D’Amore – Mina
Bell Ringer – Learning Music. Any great group exercise involves a little empathy. Use this beautiful Italian song to ask your students what it might be about. Can they feel what she’s going through even with the language barrier? How? And how can they apply that nonverbal communication skill to their work together in the group?
4. Sonata No. 42 in D Minor – Domenico Cimarosa, Vikingur Olafsson
Instruction Background – Thinking Music. This beautiful piano ballad offers a little bit of peace and builds off the emotion of that Italian number. Use this song to keep your students feeling feelings and empathy, but not distracted during your initial instruction.
5. Runnin’ – The Pharcyde
Getting Situated – Moving Music. Just a taste of that old-school hip-hop will bring the energies back up and get kids up out of their desks and gathering into their groups for the forthcoming project. We keep the minor key and feel so as to not lose that emotion.
6. If You Could See Me Now – Chet Baker
The Material – Learning Music. Nope, you’re not in a smokey jazz club with a dirty martini in hand, you’re still in class, still working your magic. Chet will transport your kids to a calm but energetic setting and get them focused on work while avoiding hostility or anger.
7. In A Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington, John Coltrane
Group Work – Thinking Music. Geez, 2 of the greats right in a row. We move right into Duke Ellington to bring up the mood and energy just one notch and help kids power through the last bit of the group work without a problem.
8. No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers
Group Reflection – Connecting Music. Let’s move from working together to reflecting on the experience individually. This Avett Brothers classic is one of the most self-reflective tunes we’ve ever known. It starts to bring a new mood to class and helps students to focus on the positive.
9. Daylight – Matt and Kim
Back to Desks – Moving Music. You’ve been serenaded for 3 straight tunes… Ready to snap out of it? This song has all the hard angles and abrupt, staccato noises you need to jar the kids back awake and push them right into their individual work with energy.
10. Rivers and Roads – The Head and The Heart
Individual Work – Thinking Music. A bit of reflective music caps off a great day and gives kids a chance to reflect individually on the bigger implications of the work. It’s always smart to spend a minute at the end of class doing what we call a “zoom out” on the day, linking the material back to the real world.
11. Harness Your Hopes – Pavement
Dismissal and Exit – Moving Music. Hey, it’s time these kids got a little bit of culture, wouldn’t you say? Give them a taste of what alt music actually looked like when it was pure, real, and unadulterated by social media nonsense. Pavement is a great little tune to push them right out the door with a smile.