|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Band Music and Learning

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: My second-grader attends a small private school where the classrooms are separated by thin, uninsulated walls. Her classroom is approximately 50 feet from the band room, where music classes are held periodically during the day. The musical instruments can be clearly heard in her classroom. When I asked the teacher about the impact of this noise on the children's learning, he said that they have become accustomed to it and don't really hear it anymore. My daughter (an A/B student) says that it only bothers her when she is trying to remember (she means recall) something, and she's thinking hard.

Is this situation detrimental to my child's learning? Also, can the sporadic (start/stop) band music somehow affect her behavior or her mood?

A: Music, when used creatively in the classroom, has many beneficial effects on learning. While it may appear that the kids are used to the sounds coming from the adjacent band room, the interruptions are likely to have a negative effect on what's going on in the classroom. The intermittent, stop-and-start noises cause the listening centers of the brain to activate each time the sound begins, and this pulls attention away from the tasks at hand in the classroom. While some individuals (kids as well as adults) can function in noisy backgrounds, excessive noise clearly makes learning more difficult for some children.

It's clear that very loud noise levels in classrooms can impair children's speech perception, reading and spelling ability, behavior, attention, and academic performance. Most studies that examine the relationship between noise and learning focus on the impact of very loud noises (like those made by jet planes passing overhead or trains passing outside the school).

These noises have a devastating effect on reading, speech, and auditory comprehension; they cause irritability in students, teachers, and parents who live and work in those environments. Some studies show that lower-achieving students are more affected by such noises than better students, but that few students (or their teachers) are totally immune to the effects of noise. Other studies show that loud noises increase the production of stress hormones that have the effect of making kids less efficient learners. Memory, in particular, is affected by persistent loud noises.

However, even interruptions caused by noises that are not as loud as passing planes or trains can certainly have an impact on how well children process auditory information, and on their attention and ability to focus on the important sounds in the classroom, such as the teacher's voice. In general, the teachers of little kids need to talk louder so that the children can hear them effectively, since children need speech to be about 10 decibels louder than adults do to hear the sounds correctly. This is because young children have not learned enough language to "fill in the blanks" they experience when a teacher or classmate communicates to them in a noisy environment. Researchers say that it is only when children reach their teens that their ability to listen in a noisy environment is as good as adults'.

Children with hearing loss, or whose first language is not the language of the teacher, those with language-based learning disabilities, or those who have recurrent ear infections are particularly at risk for distortions in hearing caused by background noise. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD) are especially vulnerable to the effect of non-instructional noise.

School administrators and teachers need to be aware of the negative effects of environmental noise on learning. Attention should be paid to class schedules that minimize noisy interruptions. School architects need to consider acoustical design features, such as sound-absorbing wall and ceiling tiles, draperies, and carpeting that dampen non-instructional noise.

More on: Expert Advice

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!