Sometimes writing is forced by habit to keep sharp, and at other times the pen flows forth from inspiration.
One way to increase student learning and decrease behavior incidents is to alter their perception and to lower their affective filter. By altering their subconscious perception, with slight modifications to their sensory inputs, one can achieve the increase in student learning without the distractions of creating a music play list. For example: a display of slow changing bright colors, white noise sounds such as rainfall and thunder or waves with birds, and alter the smell of the environment to something pleasant and clean smelling with a diffuser are three examples of how to alter subconscious perception, to relax the subject, and to optimize the ability to study and learn.
I came to this idea somewhat by happenstance, and partially through experience at work. I teach at a juvenile hall and there are limits on my ability to alter the mood of the students with normal techniques such as playing music, because there are rules in such places that must be followed, so I was forced to adapt. Additionally, music was not achieving my goal, because it created too much distraction, discussion, and requires a lot of energy to manage properly. I want to calm or soothe their anxiety, but the music they want to hear, even just instrumentals, is too fast paced and take too much time and energy away from teaching. If the school wanted to pipe in some music that could be turned on, that is monitored and filtered, and that I would not have to think about, then I’m all for that. I wanted a different way to achieve the same goal.
I began with white noise. I utilize a white noise designed for relaxation and learning, and this format changes to keep it interesting. Examples include rainfall with thunder, waves with seagulls, water running down a stream with the wind blowing… The use of white noise, rather than popular music, achieves the same goal of calming the mind and lowing the affective filter, without the distractions.
Art Integration taught me a great deal about making student thinking visible, and how the arts help motivate and inspire students in number of ways. The data was clear, arts integrated into a curriculum, increase student interest and student learning. The data was strong on this. I came to realize the importance of color, both for use in student work, but also as display for a dreary smelly dirty juvenile hall classroom. Color enhances the environment, and a slow changing wheel of bright colors that blend into one another,displayed on a projector, helps soothe and calm students.
Altering the smell of the environment with a diffuser and lemon or citrus helps give a little wake up for the students, but also alters their perception of their environment from one of a negative body odor smell, to a nice clean home like smell.
The combination of white noise, color display and usage, and refreshing the air increases the lowering of the affective filter, and allows for a greater percentage of incarcerated youth to successfully learn from their studies, and avoid getting into trouble.
I’m not sure if anyone else has made this precise argument, but my preliminary observations say that this works, way better than I had ever dreamed it would.
Please contact me if you have ideas or questions regarding my current practice and usage of this in my classroom and beyond.
I added a new twist to this experiment. Instead of just displaying a slow rotation of bright colors, I started using videos of drone footage of places around the world, and also video footage of wildlife from around the world. These videos are usually set to some kind of calming music such as classical guitar, piano, or just white noise new age music. This seems to help when students need to take a mental break from working, they can watch the videos. This often inspires questions about the natural world and helps grow a culture of curiosity to go along with other classroom best practices.