Using Production Music and Stock Photos to Enhance Classroom Learning

Bringing Peru to You: A 4th Grade Lesson

Production music is regularly purchased by educators to enhance their lessons and create a mood in the classroom. A break from the usual books and discussion routine can wake students up, and multimedia can give them a new way to connect to the subject matter.

The possibilities are endless. Transport your second graders to the middle ages by playing Medieval music while they build models of castles. Keep your 9th graders’ attention during your your PowerPoint presentation on genetics by using a looping video of a DNA helix as a moving background. Give your college history students a little taste of the horror of war during your lecture on the Civil War by playing sound effects of cannon fire.

Below are a couple 40-minute lessons on the geography of Peru for 4th graders, to show creative ways of using stock production music and images in your lessons. Feel free to use these in your own classroom. They could be included in a larger unit on the history, culture and geography of South America, or provide an interesting cultural diversion in Spanish classes. All the included media was found simply by doing a search for “Peru” at Productiontrax.com.

1) Have students close their eyes. Over a looped sound effect of Mountain Wind, tell them about the Andes, the mountains that define Pero and divide it into three climatic regions: the moderate costa (coast) on the Pacific Ocean, the colder sierra (highlands), including the Andes and the Altiplano plateau, and the tropical selva (jungle) to the east, including Lake Titicaca and the Amazon river tributaries. Show a detailed topographic map of Peru, as well as photograph of each region. Take questions about the climate and how it relates to the seasons where you live.

Give your students a few minutes to study the map, and then cover it, give your students blank outlines of a map of Peru, and ask them to add the topographic features and climate regions from memory. in Show a topographic map of Peru. While the students work, play Andean-themed music.

At the end of class, have the students create “travel brochures” for one of the three geographical regions, to explain why people would want to visit each section, and what they might find there.

2) In your second lesson, put on a looped rainforest sound bed, and discuss how the flooding of the Amazon basin affects the inhabitants of Peru, and why cities like Iquitos can’t be reached by automobile. What do inhabitants of the Amazon do when it floods? And why do they return? What kinds of animals would they expect to see there? Have photos of Peruvian animals ready to show students. See if students can connect the importance of boat travel in the Amazon basin to other river basins around the world, such as Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Show pictures of the marketplace in Cusco, and tell the class to imagine themselves as residents of Cusco who want to travel to Iquitos. Discuss the possible routes, and explain why automobile is not an option. Divide the class into small groups, have each group choose a route and decide what happens each day, and then have each student write daily journal entries from their imaginary travels.

When they arrive in Iquitos, after several days of imaginary travel, greet them with a native Peruvian feast! It’s unlikely you’ll be able to serve turtle soup or paiche (a native freshwater fish), but you can create authentic energy with mango, pineapple, and celebratory Peruvian music. If you can find instructions, you could even teach a Peruvian dance of celebration, such as the Pandilla, a simple couple dance performed at Mardi Gras, or the entertaining Quinsamana, in which dancers trade insults and compliments.

Using Production Music in the Classroom

Whether you teach elementary school or astrophysics, you probably want to inspire your students and make them excited about your subject. If used appropriately, production music can be inspirational, enjoyable, and even educational. Productiontrax.com is a great way to find appropriate and legal royalty free music for the classroom. Their enormous catalog includes music from all different time periods and parts of the world, and the searchable database makes it easy to find the perfect tune for your lesson.

One great use for music in the classroom is at the beginning or end of class. If students enter your class gradually over a period of time, playing music can keep the class entertained until class begins. One college professor let her students suggest songs to be played before class, and created PowerPoint slides for each with the song title and the artist. Soon her students started getting to class early to listen to the music and see if she’d play a song they submitted. The end of class is another wonderful time for music. Similar to the end credits in a movie, music can extend the impact of your presentation for a few extra minutes, and force the chaos and bustle of normal life to wait until students are outside of your classroom.

For an educational experience, finding production music that connects either historically or emotionally to your lesson can give your students another kind of connection to the subject. A history professor teaching the U.S. Civil War could find marching brass band music from the 1800’s. A writing professor introducing Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” could use British classical music. A math professor could use Arabic music while teaching algebra, and ancient Greek modes to accompany trigonometry lessons. A finance class on modern accounting could use upbeat, corporate-style music.

Quiet work periods in class are ideal for background music. In fact, many studies have shown that when students study with particular music in the background, they will perform better on a test if the same music is playing in the background than they will if they take the same test in silence. Some researchers have suggested from this that music can be used as an environmental memory cue to enhance learning. Finding music that matches the theme and tone of your lesson will make these quiet work periods resonate strongly with your students.

Licensing your production music from a music library guarantees you the right to use that music in your classroom. While playing a CD in class may not seem like a legal issue, it can actually get you and your institution in legal hot water. When you purchase a CD, the music on that CD is still owned by the copyright holder. You own the CD case, the liner paper, the plastic disc, and most important, the right to listen to the music “for personal use”, such as by yourself or with friends. Playing that CD for a large group such as a class, a business presentation, or a public event requires purchasing a public performance license from the composer’s performing rights organization, which can be both expensive and a hassle. The larger your school, the more likely it is for performing rights organizations to pay attention to whether you are respecting their artist’s rights. If this is an issue for your school, you can be secure that an educational license from Productiontrax gives you the right to perform your music in the classroom.