Help Your Students Learn More and Feel Happier… With Music!

Music in the Classroom“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
? Confucius, The Book of Rites

Did you know that your brain is actually wired to respond positively to music? Researchers at McGill University conducted a study that measured the chemical changes in your body when listening to music. They discovered that you produce larger amounts of the “feel good” hormones called endorphins when listening to music. And, higher endorphins are linked to a greater sense of emotional well-being. Bottom line – music makes you feel good.

But music has more than emotional benefits. It is also connected to stronger academic performance. Music has been linked to strengthening memorization – after all, can you imagine learning the alphabet without the ABC song? Songs can also be used to teach counting skills (“One, two, buckle my shoe…”), patterns (“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”), and literacy skills such as rhyme (I’m a Little Teapot” has words such stout, spout, shout that all rhyme)…

So, with all those benefits, you’ll want to add more music to your day. But when is the best time to do so?

When Can You Use Music?

The short answer is anytime, of course. But some parts of the day do lend themselves quite naturally to the use of music.

Community Building

When people sing together, they feel an increased sense of community and belonging. You can welcome your students with a song such as “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” to mark the beginning of your day together. You can choose music more specifically written to develop strong community feelings such as the Community Song. Or, you can use songs from around the world to share your students’ backgrounds. For many students, the songs you choose may be their first exposure to music from other cultures.

Transition Times

Transitions should be smooth, effortless and relatively quick, right? Music can definitely help you meet your goals! For example, when your students are lining up for lunch, coming to the whole group area or exiting it, or cleaning up the classroom, music will make the transition time more enjoyable and purposeful. Here’s a song you can sing before story time:

Tune: “If You’re Happy And You Know It”
If you’re ready for a story, come sit down.
If you’re ready for a story, come sit down.
Let’s all gather near, so everyone can hear.
If you’re ready for a story, come sit down.
Jean Warren

One added benefit of using songs during transition times is that the length of the song will also signal to the students how much time they have to complete the transition. When the song is over, they must be done with the task.

Songs to Teach or Reinforce Content

Music has been proven to help people focus and remember things by stimulating the brain’s short and long term memories. So help your students learn skills and strategies through music! There are songs for just about any skill you want to teach. Need to teach subject/predicate? “Mr. Morton is the Subject of my Sentence” is a great rap to do just that. Looking to explore context clues? Then the “Context Clues Song” will help your students learn it.

Look online for ideas for other songs that match the skills and strategies you are planning to teach. And don’t forget to print the lyrics so the students can create a folder of songs that they can read when they have free time or at home with their families.

Manage Energy Level

Research suggests that children perform high-concentration tasks better when music is playing in the background. Therefore, consider playing soft classical music when students are engaged in individual projects, for example, or when reading or writing independently.

On the other hand, listening to music, singing, or moving along to a song are excellent ways for your students to use up some of that extra energy they carry around. A song like “If You’re a Kid,” will allow your students an opportunity to get up and move so they can concentrate better afterwards.

How else do you use songs in your classroom? What are some of your favorite songs to use in the classroom?

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