Music in the Classroom


I see the world in a beautiful spectrum of color.  Music to me is the soundtrack of my life, and thus – I can reflect fondly upon my experience with the integration of music in the classroom.  I am a self-taught guitar player of thirteen years that has found great satisfaction in creating lyrical lighthouses for my students.  Teachers that play music, sing, dance, and smile are the best teachers – in my opinion.  There is a beautiful amazement with student engagement.  The exercise of teaching, reaching, preaching, and leading can find itself to be exhausting is one sense, but the source of life in another.  In 2009, I began teaching in a rural community in the northeastern region of Georgia.  I quickly figured out that the toughest critic and audience you can have is your students.  A universal concept that I’ve recognized in my experience – is that music is the glue that holds us together.  Seriously!  I have never met a person who said, “Hi, I hate music.”  Everyone listens to something it seems.  A crowning achievement of my teaching experience is planning and executing a musical with my kids that leaves me teary-eyed still to this day.  My kids have always loved the feeling of acceptance, warmth, and joy – that comes with singing.  By my tenth-year teaching, I had concluded that my fountain of youth was my songs that I shared with my kids.  Seriously!  The secret of a rewarding career in education is finding a peace and enjoyment with the subtle passage of time that one experiences.  I feel as though I owe a tremendous debt to YouTube, StoryBots, School House Rock, and Flocabulary for providing color for my students and myself over the years.  I have long endorsed the integration of content areas in the pursuit of maximizing instructional time and manufacturing perpetual achievement.  In social studies, abstract concepts such as government were clarified by the frequent utilization of “The Three Ring Government” by School House Rock, and Flocabulary’s off-the-chain hook and take on government.  Dry content areas such as math can have its thirst satisfied with the implementation of music as a mechanism to learn and maintain multiplication facts.  Muddy waters in language arts, English, and reading evolved into crystal clear concepts – rich with meaning.  Science is such a practical, hands-on content area, but developing ownership of the content vocabulary, in my opinion, is an essential pillar of student growth and achievement – even retention for that matter.  Flocabulary made me cool.  My literacy blocks annoyed neighboring classrooms, because all of the fun was clearly being had in the “House of Horton Hustle.”  My kids gave me their tightly-possessed currency of credibility, or “street-cred” as I like to call it.  They could see it on my face – everyday, that the “lead learner” in the classroom was the teacher, which inevitably developed into a fountain of contagious engagement.  Our classrooms have extraordinarily, perfect diverse compositions – and every child learns in a different way – at their own pace.  Putting a smile on a kid’s face is half the battle sometimes in the marathon of a school day, and I have found that singing, smiling, beat-boxing, tapping, makes the learning process and life for that matter, a much more colorful, rewarding, and effectual experience.  How are you going to your instruction saucier, juicier, more palatable?  I would recommend finding, exploring, researching what seems to be God’s universal love language – MUSIC, and figure out how to change your game in your classroom. 
Here are my TOP FOUR ways to easily implement music in the classroom:
1. Flocabulary- Definitely worth the subscription if you have to pay yourself but even more worthwhile if you can convince your administration to purchase for your entire school!
2.  StoryBots- I can't say enough about this youtube channel! With over 31 million views on their planet song, you can't teach a solar system unit without them!
3. They Might Be Giants- Love this hidden little gem of a band and their ROY G. BIV song for the light & color unit! I have their CD, but youtube works just fine: 
4. Schoolhouse Rock- They've been around forever. This classic is a must have for any government unit, multiplication unit, or grammar lesson! 

For those of us who struggle in the musical inclination department (hand in the air here!), I chose to rely heavily on inspiration from others to invite music into my classroom. I couldn't carry a tune in the bucket, but at least they knew I cared about making learning more fun because I tried. Isn't that what we encourage our students to do-just try? I may not have been able to play guitar or create rap songs to vocabulary lists like my husband, but I could video his music to show them, help him write song lyrics to accompany topics that my students were struggling with, find engaging videos, and step out of my personal element (insecurity?) to be a little silly, engaging, and interact in a way with my students that was more carefree and fun. When I let my guard down and wasn't afraid to take a few minutes to genuinely have fun and interact with them, magic happened. Music opens doors! Music deepens community. During writer's workshop, Jack Johnson's Curious George album was our jam. About ten years ago, I read about using the tune of Frere Jacques to teach the 7 continents. I practiced it, made it my own, and still remember and use it to teach now! Many of my students never got the names of the continents, or their locations, until that song was introduced. My second graders also really struggled with time amounts (the fault of the curriculum we were forced to use at the time *grunt*) and I needed a way to make it stick. Again, I'm not very musically inclined, but I improvised one day. Hip! Hop! Around the Clock! 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year-hip, hop around the clock! This was well before Jack Hartmann's version was posted, by the way! It's amazing how something as simple as a little ditty can be used to teach concepts that will last a lifetime. 


ps. If you're like me and can't carry a tune, here's a video of the continents song! 

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