Making Music Together: Hooray for Monday

December 14, 2020
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 


Last week’s post talked about why singing belongs in the classroom. Today’s post includes concrete ways you can make it happen. In this last week before winter break, it may be challenging to keep everyone engaged. Singing can help with that! Below are some ideas to bring singing into your online classroom, and some Covid-safe strategies for incorporating music into your classroom if you are teaching in person:

Invite students and their families to share recordings of folk songs, lullabies, and other songs that are part of their family traditions. If you’re online so it’s safe to do so, invite them to teach those songs to their classmates, and to you!

Invite students to make up songs that demonstrate an understanding of content. We often see multiplication raps or songs that teach procedures. These are not really examples of higher-level thinking, and simply serve to instill memorization. But a song that tells a story, or sends a message about a theme or bigger idea takes thought and creativity. Consider analysis of ballads and have students write one about a moment in the life of a historical figure or the interaction between characters in a novel.

Music often defines moments in our lives or can play a key role in our identity. Invite students to share their favorite music with one another, even making a playlist and explaining why each song has been included. Remember to share your own favorites, as students will like learning about what moves you too!

Playlists can also be great ways to explore key moments in a book, period of history, or scientific process or phenomenon. Ask students to imagine the songs that would play in a documentary or movie about this story or concept.

Just as music can set the mood on film, at a party, or in an exercise class, songs strategically placed in your instruction can change the experience for your learners. Simply writing or working independently to instrumental music can help some students to focus. Songs of varying intensity can slow down or speed up a process. Music with lyrics can invite discussion. A song to open and close a class creates bookends on an experience.

When it comes to music you don’t have to always be the DJ. Once students realize that you are using music as part of your instruction, don’t be surprised if they come to you with ideas about what more you can do. Invite them to introduce you to new artists, songs, and genres. Invite them to be experts in sharing what they know with others. Depending on your school’s expectations you may need to have conversations about what is and isn’t allowed in terms of lyrics, and that’s great. It could well launch you and your students into important learning opportunities around the lines between freedom of expression and hurtful or offensive speech; speech that provokes for the purpose of creating change and speech that offends; and more!

Whether you bring music into the classroom this week, into your own quiet spaces, or both, we encourage you to experiment with what it does to your own mood and productivity. Wishing you a joyful week, and some energizing tunes to keep you going. 

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