(Warning, the back story is lengthy. If you want to skip straight to the part that will make you smile, scroll down to the last paragraph.)
One of the things I learned while at ASB UnPlugged a couple of weeks ago was that what I had previously thought about background music and the brain is, in fact, incorrect. I went to Dr. Larry Rosen's session, "Teaching the Distracted Mind: Uncovering the 'Psychology of Technology' in the Classroom". I had been playing classical music, instrumental music, or music with words in languages none of my students speak, thus background music that they wouldn't be tempted to sing along with and thus be distracted. The new brain research actually shows that the only kind of background music that doesn't pull your brain's attention to it are things you know so well you can 'sing in your sleep'. This could be with words or not - you would then be able to sing the tune.
Once I know that what I have been doing doesn't actually help brains, in fact it might make it harder for them to work, then I must change. I talked with my students about what I had learned and how it would change what we did in class my first day back at school. The way I figure, the only way for everyone to have something playing that they can 'sing in their sleep' is for each student to have an individualized playlist.
We had a lengthy discussion about how it would work, appropriate content, volume, why only ear buds, and consequences if the privilege was abused. I let parents know about what I had learned and that their child really could bring in a device for use during school. The student's were thrilled. The parents were intrigued and curious to see how it might help. The principal called me into the office.
The next day, the big day, dawned and when it was writing time and they could listen to their music there were a total of two students who had taken me up on the offer. TWO. I guess being able to listen to music isn't as important to them as I thought.
Over the past week and a half I have never had more than three students with an ear bud hanging out. They know that I will waltz up and put the other ear bud in my ear, both out of curiosity and to keep them accountable on their content.
All of this is to set the stage for this. One of my boys who has challenges making good choices was listening to music. I snatched the other ear bud that was sitting on the table next to him and placed it in my ear. In the moment that it took me to do that he was frozen with what appeared to be dread. As the music registered in my brain as grin grew across my face. I assured him his secret was safe with me. Why his dread? This fifth grader was listening to "The Wheels On The Bus"! (Something he knows in his sleep.)