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BGM in the University Classroom

The English Gym Blog by John Carle


Do you ever play background music in your university classes? I’ve been doing it for years and it can really make a positive difference in your lessons. Recently I did a survey of 188 students and one of the questions I asked was:


“What do you think of listening to background music in class?”

85% responded: It’s nice. I enjoy the music.

07% responded: It’s so-so

04% responded: It isn’t good. I don’t like listening to the music.

03% responded: I don’t know. We don’t listen to music in my class.

Certainly, survey results are not completely accurate, but it does give us a very good idea of how students feel. Perhaps 4% of the students did not like my Neil Diamond collection, but 85% loved it! My apologies. I’m just kidding. I don’t really have a Neil Diamond collection.


Below is an excerpt from the teachers’ section of The English Gym, page 12:


Notes on Background Music

Background music can change the atmosphere of a classroom. It may be a good idea to have some popular music playing in the background whenever the teacher isn’t talking. The website has some music tools for your convenience.

Background music is helpful when students are doing relatively quiet writing exercises. It is also especially helpful when students are engaged in speaking activities. They tend to speak a little louder and are much less self-conscious when music is playing. I would recommend turning the volume up a bit while the last pair of students are finishing up any speaking activities. Students generally don’t want to be aware that they are the only ones talking.

              If you need to get the classes’ attention, simply turn the volume off. The students will notice the difference and will realize that the teacher will begin talking. It’s very effective.


Here’s my take:

  1. Definitely play background music in your classes. It makes for a positive atmosphere in the classroom.
  2. Choose English songs that the students will like. Don’t just play your favorite Barry Manilow hits over and over again. The students will revolt!
  3. Keep the volume low enough so that students can still hear each other talk during speaking activities.


YouTube is a great source for music, but those ads can be really annoying. If you are using your own computer, install an AD BLOCKER to your browser. I use Adblock for Youtube™ on my Chrome browser. Oh, and don’t show the videos in class, it’s a big distractor! Simply have the audio on output with no video, or switch tabs to a different screen with the video still playing.


The English Gym website has a bunch of good playlists that are embedded, so you don’t need an Ad Blocker to listen to the music commercial free. You’ll have to go to the teachers’ site and navigate to the background music page. There are about 12 different playlists.



If you’d like to view the full survey results, click here:

The English Gym Survey (JC)


I hope you’ll decide to use BGM in your classrooms. It has made a big impact in mine.


Happy teaching!



Looking for a great textbook for low to intermediate, non-English majors in Japan?

Check out The English Gym, by Jon Charles.

More information can be found at:

ETJ (English Teachers Japan) Website, The English Gym

  • Four Skills, Focus on Speaking
  • Designed for Japanese Students
  • Excellent Support Website
  • Oral, Paper and Online Testing
  • Highly Motivating Activities

Teachers can also register and view the textbook online.


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