Music and movement are indispensable teaching tools. Young learners are naturally drawn to both. In addition, research shows children who are involved in music and movement do better in reading and math, are better able to focus and control their bodies, play better with others, and have higher self-esteem.
As educators, it is important to engage young students in music, movement, and other active learning activities, whether in circle time, during transitions, or as a spontaneous and everyday occurrence. Yet, too often, music is turned off when students enter the classroom, becomes an afterthought, or is used merely as a reward.
In this article, we’ll examine the importance of effectively integrating music and movement into the entire curriculum along with guidelines for getting the maximum impact from each and every song.
Teaching Concepts with Music
Music and movement together are a great way to introduce new concepts in math, reading, and other subject areas. However, many teachers are reluctant to include active learning in their day because they fear losing control of their class.
It’s true a room full of singing and moving little ones can be a handful. But preparing for a learning experience with music and movement can make the difference between a concept understood and mastered and just passing time until the bell rings.
Here are a few simple guidelines for adding music to a lesson—we’ll use math as our example:
- First, introduce the concept—such as sorting, counting, or recognizing coins—in a whole-group setting. Demonstrate the concept using manipulatives.
- Then, teach the song to the whole group.
- Next, practice the concept being taught in small groups where children can get hands-on experience with it.
- Review the concept by “singing” the song often—this will instill it into a student’s long-term memory.
- Children may forget the tune. If so, simply hum a few bars and it will all come back to them.
Expanding the Role of Music
Teaching important concepts is one way to use music. Here are three other ways:
- Capture and keep students’ attention. Simply playing music as students enter the classroom can dramatically change the atmosphere. Music can re-energize, calm, and re-focus students, and motivate them for the learning tasks ahead.
- Build a climate of collaboration. Music brings people together. It is a powerful tool for getting children to bond with each other and build a community experience. Play a classroom theme song or develop a music-themed ritual, such as hello or goodbye time, to quickly create a climate of cooperation.
- Unleash creativity. Young children often do not have the words to express themselves. Through music, they can release their inner feelings, emotions, and thoughts. In one study, children working on writing projects or journaling wrote twice as much with music than without.
Turn on the Music
Teachers will find many ideas they’ll feel comfortable with for teaching with music. They’ll also find some that don’t feel “right.” But adding even one music technique to the classroom will increase the richness of instruction. If that technique is multi-sensory, developmentally appropriate, and—most importantly—fun, that will be clear from the students’ enthusiasm and positive response.
For a deeper look at why and how to add music and movement to the classroom, check out SDE’s webinar Music, Movement, and Other Active Learning Techniques by veteran kindergarten educator and creator of numerous CDs Heidi Butkus.