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Curriculum Inspiration

A Soundtrack for Learning: Incorporating Music to Engage Students

Incorporating music into the classroom structure and activities can increase students’ interest, understanding, and connectivity.

When the sounds of music are emanating from a classroom, it is likely that passersby would expect they have stumbled upon a learning space dedicated to the study of music. In actuality, sounds and melodies don’t have to be exclusive to music curriculums. There are a wide variety of ways that teachers in all subject areas can use music to positively impact the learning environment and the activities that occur within it, and this can all be done with zero musical training.

Transitions/Routines

Whether a teacher hits a play button or sings a few bars, music can be an excellent transitional piece for managing a busy classroom. When students hear an auditory cue, they are prompted to take a necessary action, whether that be cleaning up, moving to a new station, switching partners, ending a conversation, etc. A musical line or two can bring students’ attention to a behavioral expectation. There are also a wide array of songs that students and teachers can hum or sing that offer instructions for a task like washing hands and/or establish a time allotment expectation. Thirty seconds may be hard for younger (and some older) students to conceptualize, but a thirty second sound clip can put that time limit into a more tangible snippet.

Perusing Mr. Vasicek’s Classroom Playlist can also offer some other great transitional and routine-establishing spots for music. His article offers music to start and end the day, tunes to transition from subject to subject, and some perfectly timed ditties to act as musical timers. Teachers and students could also work together to find songs of appropriate length and topic for adding some musical stylings to a variety of classroom management tasks.

Activities/Learning

While music can be used to bring students together for learning or signal a transition, it can also be used as a tool and resource for the actual learning that takes place in the classroom. There are numerous ways that music can play a part in a variety of curriculums. From diving into favorite verses to find figurative language to creating parodies to popular tunes for any subject or concept, music can bring a fresh sound and energy to some otherwise lackluster lessons and activities. While dissecting the songs or penning new lyrics can be entertaining, there are a multitude of other ways that cueing the music can cue up impactful educational experiences.

  • OK Go Sandbox– Wow, if an engaging way to open up discussion and activities centered around scientific and mathematical concepts is needed, this new resource is a must have. Many teachers have already stumbled upon the videos created by the band OK Go, but now the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota has partnered with Morton Salt to bring you a go-to resource for getting a behind-the-scenes look. There are videos, Q & As with the band, and a variety of challenges to explore the scientific and mathematical concepts featured in their engaging videos. These are great examples of performance art as well!
  • Schoolhouse Rock Series– These animated tunes made learning fun for past generations, and they can do the same today. Teachers can play the songs, review the lyrics, and/or show the videos. There are also education editions available with new songs, interactive features, and educators’ guides.
  • Songs for Teaching– The search for a song that can be used to enhance the study of just about anything and everything can be found at Songs for Teaching. Writing, physics, anti-bullying, and economics are just a few of the topics covered in songs that can be purchased for school/classroom usage.
  • Songs & SEL- Music can definitely play a positive role in Social & Emotional Learning. As an outlet, a connection, or a stabilizer, music can take on many roles. In Social and Emotional Learning Through Music, Bassalè explores the impact music had on his own life and how he has used it as a tool to bring comfort and build a connection with others. This same compassion and connectivity could be hugely beneficial in any classroom.

Music can be an auditory cue, an educational enhancement, an emotional outlet, and so much more. There is no exclusivity of usage when it comes to incorporating music into the classroom. Educators in every subject at every grade level can enhance their curriculums and their learning spaces by adding a soundtrack for the ins and outs of learning.

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