I never really thought about it until much later, when I started teaching high school English with a different type of population and every time they started to work, they all took out their iPods and put in their earphones. I questioned their use and they all said that the teachers allowed it because it helped them focus. I couldn't believe it! Right in front of me were students who were just like me as a student and they all had some form of ADHD. I started to observe these students, analyzing their reaction to the music and connecting it to their ability to focus, so surprised that I could relate to their need to be focused on two different levels that I did a little research...not surprisingly, at that time, there wasn't a lot of information about why music works for kids with ADHD and I started to come up with my own theories.
Here is what I think and what I have gradually come to understand about why music works with kids who are studying:
There are two different levels of consciousness and people without ADHD only need one attended to. This means that people without ADHD find music playing while they are trying to focus on studying or completing homework distracting and irritating. However, people with ADHD have two levels of consciousness and in order for a person with ADHD to study effectively, their secondary, more unconscious level needs to be engaged so that their conscious can focus on their task.
This is where the music comes into play. Music can keep that secondary level of consciousness entertained so that the primary consciousness can actually learn. I have proof that this works- not only from my own experiences but because I have seen students need music to help them focus on the task ahead of them, turn up the volume on a song that even I can't stand listening to, and really buckle down to finish their task.
In my class, students are allowed to listen to music when they are reading, completing their individual classwork or homework, and studying. I do NOT let them listen to music while they are taking a test because even in college, teachers do not let students test while listening to music. I am trying to help them find something that works for them while also making them successful beyond high school.
Click here to listen to more than 6 hours of study-inducing music!!
As I was going through posts on Pinterest, I came across an amazing post about a 6 hour list of proven music mix that helps all those ADHD procrastinators get back into the groove of productivity and actually complete what they need to.
Click the links above to listen to some music that is proven to be an excellent mix between upbeat and easier sounding music. I would also encourage you to look at students who seem to gravitate to their music as someone who is not trying to deliberately disobey you and more as someone who might need to help their two levels of consciousness focus in order to be productive.