Using Music in SRE lessons

Following on from a twitter discussion about the powerful effect of music and how this could be harnessed in health education,  the awesome and lovely @DrSchroe was kind enough to email me a list of suggestions around using music in SRE lessons.  I was so inspired by this I wanted to adapt it into a blogpost for you  (but Elizabeth deserves most of the credit for this post- all her fab suggestions are in italics! Thankyou so much!)

1.  Having music playing when students come in.  “Sounds so basic, but I’ve used music anywhere from just setting a welcoming environment, to having a song that’s a preview for the topic we’ll be discussing that day.  For example, I might have “She bop” by Cyndi Lauper or “I Touch Myself” by the Divynls playing if the topic is masturbation.  I do this with video clips, too.  Also, for students with the musical learning intelligence, it helps to focus them — we so overlook this intelligence when we educate, no matter what topic area it is!”.  

Music can be so effective as a mood setter. If I need the mood to be sombre and serious particularly if I am doing visualisations with the group around what it feels like to be LGBT or having a positive pregnancy or STI test then I might play something by Ludovico Einuadi- which is all instrumental. I especially like this one. Yann Tiersen is also good for these types of activities.  Remember though at the end of the activity it is important to also break a sombre mood created with a very upbeat song such as this or this.  I love the idea of using the song “I touch myself” to introduce the topic of masturbation with certain groups  and I might have to include that next time I teach it if appropriate for that group!  Other sex ed related songs you could think about using/discussing might be “every sperm is sacred”, or “let’s talk about sex”– do you any other suitable suggestions?  One I suggest you DEFINITELY DON’T USE use with young people (well unless you have a career ending death wish 😉 is Consolidated (featuring the Yeastie girls): You suck!

2.  Analyze the music, lyrics and video.  “One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of the times what is communicated through the video for a song is not what’s in the song itself.  The examples I’ll give you are outdated ones, but I’ll share them for context:  Madonna’s Express Yourself is a song about empowerment and strength, but the video is all about being trapped, chained, etc.  Another is “The Reason” by Hoobastank — it’s a beautiful song about someone trying to be a better person for his partner — yet the video image is about a jewelry heist.  Talking about what the visual and music communicate then leads into discussions about relationships, communication or whatever the topic is that you’ll be discussing.

One thing I caution people about, though, is to not set up the students by showing them an image or listening to a song and labeling what they’ve seen or heard as negative.  This is really hard for me, especially when I use rap lyrics.  Every part of me wants to say, “Isn’t this SO misogynistic?” but that would shut them down.  So I ask them questions about how they feel about/react to it, which they gets us into our lesson on gender roles, norms, etc.”

Again I love this idea (any other video suggestions dear readers?) and think certain current artists- (eg. Rihanna) have a lot of video content that is definitely worth exploring and discussing with young people, to try and help them gain skills in critically analyse some of the explicit messages in the videos.

3.  Require them to integrate music into projects. ” A lot of times, this is a given — but if they are using technology anyway, or making a voiceover, or a video or a blog, etc., ask them to integrate music.  Sometimes, this can be connected to the topic — such as, “find me a song that communicates to me what you think a healthy relationship is” — or, it can be, “If you were mapping the path of an egg going down a fallopian tube, what kind of theme music would we hear?”  Makes it more fun and engaging — and is surprisingly revealing on how they think/feel about a particular topic.”

One thing we’ve done successfully on a vulnerable girls project I support is ask the girls to bring a piece of music that really speaks to them and do a short presentation about what the music is and why it means so much.  This really increased the girls confidence in sharing stuff as a group. A strong team bond was built from this and the deeper work around sex and relationships was much more effective as a result.

Developing educational materials using music “creating raps, songs, asking the room to write a song, create rhythms, etc.  It’s so creative, and again, gets them to think about the often overlooked musical intelligence.”

I think teachers often shy away from using music in lessons but getting students to create their own stuff is brilliant, for world AIDS day one year we had some really impressive poems, songs and raps written about how what the students had learned and how they felt about the pandemic.  Really impressive.

All in all I hope that provides you with some ideas about how to incorporate music into your SRE lessons. If you have other ideas please do share them, we’d love to hear them!


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