Michelle is a qualified teacher in Singapore with degrees and specializations in English, Literature and Music.
Music makes the world go round and certainly makes the classroom dance. Fellow teachers, your classes don't have to be 'meh' - bring them to life with child-appropriate songs either throughout the day, if possible, or at suitable times.
The Power of Music
Picture thousands of screaming fans at a Hip Hop or rock concert. Have you ever wondered why Beyonce or Jay Z have massive crowds at their performances?
The answer is clear - music, more than any other entity, has the power to move minds and, by extension, bodies. It is dynamic and cathartic. It has the power to create mindset shifts and the ability to bring people together.
Music creates nostalgia. I found myself humming the tune to "Who Are the People in My Neighborhood" from Sesame Street just a day or so ago and remembering a time, long ago, when I used the song to teach occupations to what is the equivalent of a First Grade class in Singapore. Humming a tune triggers fond memories that would not otherwise come to mind.
Also, few entities allow self-expression, like music. It is poetry set to melodies. The combination enables a person to state his thoughts poignant and subtly. It is why my Secondary One classes - the Seventh graders in the United States -- enjoyed the literature sessions when I introduced rap music as poetry.
Nothing creates emotional empathy better than music. We may find it hard to empathise with someone's bad day if we have not had the dubious pleasure of having been in similar situations. It is why you would walk into a meeting feeling grumpy after hearing a low number by Adele or walk into the very same meeting feeling pumped up after hearing Pharrel William's Happy. Music is an expressive medium through which we communicate.
Music comes to the rescue when we have no words left to say.
The ability to express ourselves does not come with the snap of the fingers; we all find some things difficult to bring across. Music allows us to reinforce what is difficult to understand
Music satisfies our desire for emotional connection. The need to bond emotionally with memories or ideas is why we keep repeating a song -what's expressed in it is missing from our lives, and we want to connect with it.
Reasons to Use Music in the Classroom
Should teachers use music in the classroom? The answer is a definite yes. Music has myriad benefits, from creating sound reasoning to stimulating creativity.
1. Logical Reasoning
Music helps a listener to develop sound logic. For example, I used the song Who Are the People in my Neighbourhood to teach the concept of occupations. You can use the song This is the Way to introduce children to the process of this, that or the other.
2. Setting the Atmosphere
Music sets the tone for your lesson. Teachers can use it to signal that a lesson is starting and calm a restless class. Another way to use music to create an atmosphere is to integrate it into presentations. Doing this arouses curiosity a d engages half-hearted pupils.
3. Improved Coordination
There is no better way to teach a restless toddler the proper use of his hands and feet than to play the "if You're Happy and You Know It" song and get them to dance to it. The song forces them to use their hands and feet in numerous ways (those are up to the teacher's imagination). Muscular coordination develops quickly.
4. Emotional Development
Music creates/ empathy. A child connects with feelings of happiness when he sings the If You're Happy and You Know It songs. Feelings of sadness arise with a song about the death of Tom Dooley.
5. Music Shapes Behaviour
Music shapes pupils' behaviours. If I wish to get my pupils to focus on a game during a lesson, I would almost certainly play high-energy music. The opposite would hold if I wanted my pupils to settle down for a test.
6. Music Brings Life to Learning
A run-of-the-mill language class is tedious, to say the least, and is borne out of necessity. Music livens up that monotony and keeps children engaged while learning. Use it to teach anything from mathematical concepts to poems which are essentially songs.
Ways to Use Music in the Classroom
We know that music does wonders for little children, but how would teachers make it work in a dynamic and chaotic classroom? Here is how experienced language arts teachers make music work for them.
1. Teaching Poetry
Being a music-trained literature teacher, I am very much in favour of using music to teach poetry. The Beatles When I'm 64, an iconic song-poem from the Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts album, teaches children what marriage is. Rap music is poetry: Tupac's A Rose that Grew From Concrete teaches the power of resilience.
2. Using Music to Set the Tone
Music, as mentioned in an earlier section, sets the tone for activities. Should a teacher want children to take a test, she would play calming music to help them settle down quickly. Should she want children to become engrossed in an exciting language game, she would play an energetic tune like ABC by Michael Jackson.
3. Signalling Transitions
A teacher can play music to tell students that it's time for a change of activity, e.g. from a floor-based game to desk-based group work. At a school level, music can signal the change of periods, e.g. from Mathematics to English.
Music allows a teacher to understand her students. A pupil's taste in music reveals his or her personality, making it easier for a teacher to prepare resources and materials.
5. History and Culture
Music is a vessel for history and culture. It is the best way to transmit cultural and historical knowledge. There's no better way to learn about one's culture than to learn the songs associated with it. Santa Lucia teaches children that a gondolier rows a gondola through Venices waters.
In all, music gives education life. Teachers, please embrace it and enhance your lessons with its vivacity and power.
1. Gosner, Sarah 6 Smart Ways to Bring the Power of Music into Your Classroom Edutopia https://www.edutopia.org/article/6-smart-ways-bring-power-music-your-classroom/
2. Berry, Elizabeth Musical Magic: Benefits of Music in the Classroom and 5 Strategies for Incorporating Music Science and Literacy https://scienceandliteracy.org/benefits-of-music-in-the-classroom/
10 ways to Use Music in the Classroom
© 2022 Michelle Liew