A couple of years ago one of my student’s parents called me at school to tell me a funny story about her son. She said Brent was home working on his math homework and started singing an addition song as he worked. His mom said, “I love that song! Did the music teacher teach you that?” She said Brent looked at her like she had grown another head and said, “No mom, Mrs. Foxwell taught me that!” She then thanked me for using music in the classroom, because Brent had been struggling with addition, but the song had really helped him understand the process of addition. She also said that the song is now stuck in her head too! (She hasn’t been the first parent to tell me that either.)
Students like Brent are exactly why I use music and believe that music is not only for music class! Music is a powerful tool that should be used daily in the classroom. There are many benefits to using music in the classroom and teachers can effectively use music to help set a positive tone or mood, aid with classroom management, and get important information and concepts into long-term memory.
- How to Use Music to Set the Tone for your Classroom Activity—Think about how you feel when a slow ballad comes on the radio or how about when a toe-tapping, dance-moves-waiting-to-bust-out pop song plays as you’re in an aisle at your favorite store? Music can greatly influence how we feel and it can be an easy, yet effective way for setting the tone for your classroom learning. So, if you’re looking for music to energize your students you’ll want to pick upbeat music for your activity. I use upbeat music for brain breaks, content songs (e.g. we have a fluency rap to remember how to be fluent readers), and to get kids ready for a themed day (e.g. I play Polar Express music when students are coming in for our Polar Express Day.) Slower music will have the opposite effect on your students as it has a powerful calming ability. I love using classical or instrumental music during our writing workshop time. It’s so soothing and my students know that they need to be writing the whole time the music plays.
- How to Utilize Music for Classroom Management—We sing throughout the entire school day in first grade. (Whether we’re lining up, coming to the carpet, or even during a science lesson—using songs, chants, and repetition is a fun and powerful tool. It can be used to effectively teach and remember classroom rules and routines, get student’s attention, and maximize time during transitions.) For example, I can get 20+ 6-year-olds in a circle on the carpet in less that 30 seconds with our circle song, or get all of their attention by singing a line of a song and they sing the next part while giving me their eyes and ears. Music is magical and is an absolute game changer for effective classroom management!
- How to Use Songs to Reinforce Important Concepts—I can still to this day sing every word of the 50 States song that I learned over 20 years ago in 5th We all can think of songs that we still remember from our childhood. Music triggers a different part of the brain than speech for memory retention, which is why I believe it is important to use music in every subject! We sing during reading (e.g. we have a Sequence of Events Rap,) we sing during writing (e.g. we have an Editing Song), we sing in math (e.g. the Hundreds Chart Shuffle is one of my kids’ favorites, plus it helps them remember how to use the hundreds chart for 1 more, 1 less, 10 more, and 10 less,) and we sing in the content subjects (e.g. we have a Parts of a Plant Song.) You do not have to be the best singer to sing with your students. Trust me, they won’t care! The best part is that there are many ways to incorporate songs into your classroom. You can write your own songs, find songs online, or even have your kids help write the songs. The most important thing is to start using music in your classroom!
About the author: Becca Foxwell is an energetic first grade teacher whose heart comes alive in the classroom! She is a TPT Teacher-Author, speaker and presenter, and 2016 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Foxwell is passionate about instilling a love of learning within the hearts of her students and believes that learning should be fun and engaging as we prepare our students for 21st century success! You can learn more about Mrs. Foxwell at: https://www.foxwellforest.com/ .