Engaging Adults Through Use of a Music-Based Learning

Engaging Adult Learners Through Use of a Music-Based Learning Activity

Engaging Adults Through Use of a Music-Based Learning

Engaging Adult Learners Through Use of a Music-Based Learning Activity

Brain-based research indicates that by incorporating music, fun, and novelty into adult learning environments, the opportunity to maximize the formation of memories and learner retention improves.

The following is a creative training activity that can help improve the chance that learning retention and transfer of learning will occur.

Activity Title: Getting Down with the Sound

Time Required: 50 Minutes

Purpose: To energize learners and tie into session content using music.

Objective(s):    Through the use of a fun music-based activity, the facilitator will be able to:

  1. Engage learners in a group activity;
  2. Reinforce learning content;
  3. Foster team collaboration.

Group Size:   Up to twenty-four (24)


  • Prior to the start of the session select a well-known song. This can be a current hit from the radio or other well-known verses (e.g. Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Somewhere over the Rainbow, or Don’t Worry, Be Happy);
  • Make copies of the words to each of the song chosen and give one to each group leader for use during the activity;
  • Provide each group with a flipchart easel, pad, and water-based flip chart markers to capture their song verses
  • When ready to begin the activity, creatively form equal-sized teams (e.g. if you have 24 learners, four-team of 6 learners);
  • Creatively select a group leader (spokesperson, facilitator, and timekeeper) and scribe (note taker) for each group;
  • Explain that each team is to create a song by modifying the words to a popular song (whatever you have selected);
  • Considering the fact that there may be learners from different cultures who may not be familiar with the selected song, you might want to have everyone in the room sing it before having them begin the activity, or play a recording of the song so that everyone knows what their goal is;
  • Once everyone is sure of the task, explain that they will have thirty (30) minutes to come up with a version of the selected song that incorporates as many of the session concepts as possible in the lyrics;
  • Tell leaders that they should monitor time and that scribes will be responsible for capturing lyrics on a sheet of paper as they are developed and later transfer them to a flip chart so the team can follow along as the song is sung;
  • To expedite things, you may want to show a flip chart or slide that has the activity guidelines bulleted so that learners can refer to them as they work;
  • At the fifteen (15) minute point and again at the two (2) minute remaining point, sound a noisemaker to attract attention and let learners know the time and answer any questions they have. At this point determine if additional time will be needed and adjust accordingly;
  • At thirty (30) minutes sound a noisemaker or play music to attract attention and regroup learners;
  • Have each group leader gather his or her group together and then lead them in their version of the song;
  • After each rendition, have everyone offer a round of applause.


Instead of selecting a song for groups, allow them to choose any song they desire and then have them proceed as outlined in the original activity.

Process Follow-up:

Ask: What do you think was the purpose of this activity?

Possible Answers:

  • Review and reinforce key session concepts;
  • Involve learners in the learning process;
  • Give a mental break;
  • Have a bit of fun;
  • Give an opportunity to work as a team.

Ask: How were music and verse used to reinforce learning during this activity?

Possible Answer:

By making the activity fun and encouraging each adult learner to work in groups, it provided an opportunity to recall and use the key concepts of the session, which aids learner retention and taps into brain-based learning concepts. It

Ask: What key concepts were reviewed through the use of your songs? (Answers will depend on what learners chose to include in their songs);

Answer any questions learners have about the activity or session concepts;

Have everyone give one more “encore” round of applause for their great performances.

Props/Tools Needed:

  • Flip chart paper;
  • Various colored water-based flip chart markers;
  • Masking tape to hang pages on the walls;
  • Copy of the selected song lyrics for each group;
  • Recording of the selected song (if you decide to play it);
  • CD player and CD with music (as needed).

Possible Topic Application:

Any session in which you want to review key concepts or where interpersonal communication, creativity, or teamwork are desired outcomes.

Why It Is Brain-Based:

  • Engages learners mentally and causes memory access as concepts are selected for use in songs;
  • Taps both left and right brain thinking;
  • Appeals to visual learners and auditory learners;
  • Involves several of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (e.g. Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Linguistic, and Interpersonal);
  • Adds sound and music;
  • It uses novelty and fun.

NOTE: Extracted from Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

For additional creative training resources that contain hundreds of ways to actively engage adult learners, apply adult learning techniques and incorporate brain-based learning strategies into your training environment, get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging And Effective Learning.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions

Music can assist in setting the tone for a training session and, if used correctly, can actually contribute to the theme. For example, in a class on Time Management, I recorded an hour of oldies songs that had the title or theme of time (e.g. Time Won’t Let Me by the Outsiders, Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers, and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce). I play the songs as learners arrive and during breaks, then, in my opening remarks comment about how time influences every aspect of our lives including our music.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Adult Training Author

In another session on motivation, I run in from the back of the room with the theme of the movie Rocky blaring away. Once in front of the class, I cut the music, and in animated fashion welcome everyone with a loud GOOD MORNING! ARE YOU READY TO LEARN SOME TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE YOUR WORKLIFE?

I then get everyone to stand up and then lead them through a fast-paced stretching or other fun activity. That leads to small group brainstorming activity into what gets people pumped up in today’s workplace. We review their ideas and move into the program content.

As a trainer or educator, you can add music to the background to break the awkward silence that sometimes exists as participants enter the room or return from breaks. You can also use such music to signal the end of one event and the beginning of another or as a transition from one activity to another.  This works because the abrupt silence that occurs when the music is turned off attracts attention. Non-verbally, you are signaling that something is about to happen or that it is time to begin.

Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer 

For background music, you are probably better off using nature sounds or instrumental selections instead of vocals. Also, select generic music that does not have words (e.g. instrumental, new age, or classical) so that participants do not subconsciously focus on the songs and sing along in their head or out loud.

To benefit most when using music in your sessions, some research suggests that you choose selections that have approximately 40 to 60 beats per minute if you want to slow the pace of training activities for individual work, visualization activities, or relaxation. This is because that pattern of sound will mimic the average person’s heart rate and will be in sync with their natural rhythm. If you want to stimulate creative thinking and assist in problem-solving, increase the tempo to 60 to 70 beats per minute. Finally, if you want to really energize participants and get them moving (e.g. during fast-paced activities, while exercising, or when moving them from one place to another) use music that has 70 to 140 beats per minute.

Read More This Topic!

There are a number of popular books on the subject of using music in learning events that you might find useful. Two titles that I recommend are Top Tunes for Teachers by Eric Jensen and Training with a Beat by Lenn Millbower

Like any other learning aid, if you play musical selections during individual and group activities in your training programs, make sure that the volume level is loud enough to be heard but low enough that it does not distract or interrupt concentration or conversation. Keep in mind that while some learners will enjoy the music and find it helpful, others might find it distracting and irritating. Do an in-class survey periodically to see how learners are doing during activities.

Ask them, what can you do to help them be more effective. Someone will likely tell you to turn the music off. If this occurs, you may survey all learners to see if that is the consensus and act accordingly. If you do leave it on, suggest that researchers have found that many people benefit from such stimulation.  The bottom line is that you have to decide on a case-by-case basis if the music is really needed and helpful.

Like any other material, technique, or strategy that you use when training adults, only use those which contribute to achieving your learning objectives. Do not use music simply because you like it.