Students, often arrive at class between 10 and 15 minutes prior to the scheduled class time. After plugging in their computers and confirming internet connections, that time is typically spent in surfing the web, checking e-mail or in conversation with other students about past or upcoming social events. The opportunity exists to make productive use of this transition time to enhance the learning process by filling the audio space (and sometimes the visual space as well) with songs. The beneficial use of music in transition time has been well recognized. In the law classroom, transition songs principally serves three purposes; songs grab attention, serve as a primer for brain function and contribute directly to learning of the subject matter.
Playing “Law Songs” (popular lyrical music with themes about law or lawyers) over the classroom A/V system carries the message that something new and different is happening. Playing songs during the transition time also helps prime the brain for learning. Music stimulates the brain’s neural pathways. Brain research indicates that music stimulates the brain in ways that the spoken word cannot. Like an athlete who jogs prior to an athletic performance in order to increase her heart rate to facilitate full heart performance during competition, students are better prepared to learn in class because their brains are already “up to speed” prior to the start of class. Finally, the songs themselves contribute to the curriculum. In some instances, the value may lie in simple reaffirmation of realistic images of law already prevalent in popular culture. In other instances, the song’s principal contribution may be to broaden preexisting impressions or open new lines of thought.
My only evidence that these methods work is anecdotal. First, as I look out over the classroom of gathering student while the music is playing, heads are nodding, toes are tapping, lips are mouthing lyrics - the students are transitioned away from their personal tasks and are engaging with what is happening in the room. Second, the end of semester course surveys always include a few comments along the lines of, "Please stop playing loud rock music at 8:00 AM." To me, that means that the pleading students' discomfort resulted from their brains being forced out of repose and into a state of engagement.
Over the next few months I will try to post at least one "Law Music Video" per week. Today's installment is Jackson Browne's Lawyers in Love. The lyrics are essentially nonsense. Browne has never offered any meaningful explanation or intended message and purportedly chuckled at those who attempted to divine one. I enjoy the provocative image created by the title and repeating chorus. Start this video four minutes before your class time and you will have an attentive audience when it ends. Enjoy!