A Little Ambiance – Music Room Elements
In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen lots of posts on Facebook groups about room setup with some pretty amazing pictures of people’s elementary music rooms. I love looking through those pictures because it’s such a fantastic and simple way to see into someone’s teaching space. It helps you understand a little more about their process and catch a little glimpse of what they find important and love to teach.
I thought that this would be a great time to share a little bit about some things that I think are important in my classroom and maybe even share some pictures of my space. I’ve found that the music room is sort of a weird hybrid space. First, it’s an educational space and the setup needs to be geared for visual, aural, sensory learning. It should look something like what students find in their homeroom so that it’s not such a disconnect between places, making content delivery a little easier.
The music room also needs to be a safe space. People don’t take risks and improvise or open up and really express themselves if they don’t feel safe. For that reason I try and make the room as inviting as I can with homey elements that add some ambiance. I also think the room should be a fun space; somewhere where the kids want to go. I try and keep it fresh, current, and bright so that kids feel at home and excited. All that said, here are some of my favorite things in the Frances Willard music room and a little explanation as to why I have them!
A Place to Rest – My Great Grandma’s Chair
This chair was my great grandmother’s chair, then my parents’ chair, and now it resides in my music room. It’s super soft and cushy and rocks a little when you sit in it. It’s maybe the most comfortable place in the whole wide world… AND it’s in my room! I love having this chair in my music room because it is appealing to ALL people and adds some character and a homey quality.
Teachers love to sit here and this chair invites some of them to come in a few minutes early and catch the end of our music classes. I love that they feel like they can come in and observe and I love that this chair draws them in. It’s so important that they see what we’re doing and find it to be engaging and important!
Kids love to sit here when they’re feeling bad. If a kid comes in crying or accidentally runs into something while moving around the room or has any other tear-evoking situation, I always offer them this seat. “Would you want to go sit in the big comfy green chair? You can take this stuffed animal.” and bam, it’s a safe space for them to cool down and feel comfortable for a minute before returning to our learning.
This is a great place for storytelling. The whole idea of getting near a comfy chair and listening to a story just seems like something that happens at your grandparent’s house or in a cozy little library. The kids come close and I learn forward and the storytelling/storysinging comes naturally. I also love to hide props in/around/under the cushions (you can see that in the picture, I think) and saying something like “I wonder if my magic green chair has something for us” and then dig around and “find” something helpful. When I do that it feels a little like that kids show (I think it’s called the Big Comfy Couch) with the kid and the dog where she just sits on a huge oversized sofa the whole time.
Also, it’s great for naps during plan time…. just kidding.
Lamps and Lighting
I think that lamps and extra lighting is so important to make your classroom transform into a safe and relaxing space. I know a lot of people who use Holiday/Christmas/Twinkle lights in their room and I think those are great. In fact I cycle those lights through my room during the holidays and they add a little fun and pizzaz that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
I am a big fan of floor and table lamps in the room. They add some ambient lighting and warm light when classrooms often have such clinical/official lighting. When I student taught it was in a room with no windows or exterior views. The lamps made the room feel less like a closet and warmed the room. This kind of lighting is also so nice when we have to shut off the lights to use the digital projector. It’s nice to have some extra light that’s not just coming from the projector. Here’s an example of the sort of thing I have.
My lamps are positioned around the room near the corners of the room and throw some different light on the walls ceiling at fun angles. I shared this in a previous post, but a few years ago during after-Christmas sales I bought some electric outlet timers so that now my lamps turn on on their own at about 7:45 a.m. and shut themselves off at 4:15 p.m. It makes having the lights so much easier and also reminds me to go home when the day is over.
One more thing that I do during the holiday is change out my normal light bulbs for colored ones. During Halloween the lightbulbs in these lights shine an eerie green or throw a blacklight on the walls. During the December holidays they are green and red lights and during November I pull out my “bug bulbs” (which are just darker yellow) to warm up the room even more. It’s fun to change things up.
Sensory Stimulation — Olfactory Sense is Powerful
I learned from my cooperative teacher during student teaching that the scent in your classroom is so important. Our olfactory sense is really strong and research shows that our memory is more closely tied to olfactory sense than any other sensory element. Just think about those times when you smell something and a memory comes flooding back. Because the sense of smell is such a powerful thing I try to make the music room smell wonderful.
Some teachers like to light candles to change up the scent in the room, but I’ve found that it’s easier for me (and I worry less about fire) if I use a wax warmer. You can buy the fancy Scentsy brand wax to melt or you can just go to Walmart and buy their wax cubes. In fact, I’d suggest that if you’re going to a big box retailer that you go to Walmart and not Target (this is the only time I’ll ever say this) to get your wax cubes. The Target ones are twice the price and not nearly as potent as the cheap $2 scents you can get at Walmart. I’ve got a picture below of some of my favorite scents and what they look like so that you know exactly what to search for! If your principal doesn’t like the idea of the wax warmer or candle in your room, look into those scented oils and diffuser sticks. There are many ways to get the good smells in your room.
I use a new smell each week and the kids walk in, sniff, and sigh. They constantly comment about how good it smells and I think of that as an AMAZING sign. I want them to want to be in the music room! I usually tend towards cleaner smells and not the food smells. Get too close to the food smells and the kids get hungry (and you do too) and they get distracted by it. Also watch out for some smells (Cinnamon and some flower scents might be too strong or affect allergies). I have a huge room and one little brick from the scented wax packs work perfectly for the whole week. Try it out, you’ll be surprised by what a huge effect it has on you and your kids! If nothing else, it’s better than the terrible disinfectant smell that you probably have now (or the scent of 5th graders after recess).
To give you a few more ideas of how you can spruce up your music room I’ll share a few pictures of my classroom when I started teaching and now, four years later. Is it finished? Absolutely not! The space is always a work in progress as I figure out better ways to display information and make resources accessible for students. If you see anything in these photos that you like you might be able to find it free or in a paid product HERE on my TpT store. Leave a comment below or if you have questions about something you see on the walls or in the room! I’m happy to help you find great resources to use!