Subtle Manipulations

This is the first activity write-up for Wooly Week 2019, go read that post to find out what other amazing activities we tried in our class over the past two weeks.

At the beginning of Wooly Week no regular user (like myself) had any idea what the rest of the week would be like. All we knew was that we should play a particular instrumental track at the beginning of class for the first two days. I played it during all of the times that the students should be working quietly as well. Basically, I played it during any moment I wanted silent voices for the first two days. As you may suspect, this was the wordless version of a new song which would be released as a part of Wooly Week. Every future activity would revolve around this song in some way. Initially, I didn’t love it mainly because I don’t generally favor music without words. However, I will start doing this whenever I’m introducing a new Wooly song unit! Here are the things I loved:

  • If I kept the volume low, then the kids would work more quietly on whatever I wanted them to focus on. I didn’t notice that the music distracted them in any real way.
  • The kids eventually picked up on the fact that the music I played was being replayed, it wasn’t just random music. This piqued their curiosity, that was increased by the fact that I couldn’t answer any of their questions about it. (Of course, that novelty is only for this song, since I know all the others, and they have heard most of them too…)
  • They began predicting that our activities were leading us to a new song. Once they did that, it gave the other activities more meaning. I’m not sure they would have made that leap without the music.
  • The melody really set the tone of the classroom. Because it was jaunty, classes were more cheerful and productive (in an out-put sense) than normal… or at least it seemed that way.
  • Most of all: I loved that when we finally got to the lyrical version the students weren’t distracted in any way by the music. Once they finally got to the lyrics they were 100% attentive to the words of the song. It really provided a deeper, immediate grasp of the story line that I have seen from them in past units.

My take-away here: this activity is basically zero prep (assuming that you have sound technology in your classroom), and could work for any song that you (1) can find an instrumental version of and (2) plan on using in an instructional manner in your class. I have done two song-of-the-month activities during the year so far, and I bet that (as they are popular songs) there is a karaoke version around. I will definitely start looking for them more often, and hopefully, remember what a nice change it was to work with quiet music filling our learning space.

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