How I Use Music in My Classroom
Music and the classroom! They go together like milk and cookies, salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly (unless you’re in a nut free school, of course). You probably already know about the amazing benefits to using music in an educational environment. It all rings true even more so for early childhood and the first few years students are in school. But how do you actually make it happen? There is a lot to pack in to a school day. We must foster relationships, teach routines, find time for your curriculum and, of course, PLAY!
-This is a guest post by Heidi’s daughter, Kim Giron, who teaches TK (Transitional Kindergarten) in Southern California. 🥰
Music does not have to be another box to check off your list, it doesn’t need to be something else you have to squeeze in. Whether you are in a traditional classroom, hybrid or homeschool environment, music is a tool that can be used to benefit you in whatever way you see fit. If utilized in a manner that works for you, music can bring levity and joy to your classroom all while helping those little people strengthen important brain connections and reinforce key concepts.
The bell rings and all your little people come walking calmly and definitely not running like maniacs into the classroom. You know the drill, everyone needs something from you! A bandaid for that microscopic cut that was for sure bleeding ten seconds ago but looks okay now… an audience for a story all about spending the night at grandma’s house over the weekend…. a listening ear for the very important tattle information about a classmate who may just have 17 rollie pollies in his pocket… the office calling because someone had a lunchbox dropped off and now you need to figure out how to get up there and grab it before snack time. You name it, we’ve problem solved it. You can handle it like the pro you are, but what if you just put on a song?
My favorite song for exactly this scenario is Mister B’s “Watch the Letters Get Down” Reggae mix. Grab the bandaid, release the rollie pollies back to their natural habitat, jot a note down on a post-it to grab Sally’s lunch box all while nodding your head and hearing about how grandma made chocolate chip cookies yesterday but mommy said no cookies allowed for breakfast. PHEW! Thanks Mister B, now you’ve even had a chance to take a deep breath, double check the time for today’s fire drill and grab your read aloud for circle time.
You have just finished your first round of centers and are ready to rotate. You have a spilled sensory box and someone who is finishing up. Need a minute? Get everyone singing a sight word song. Sing it with me: “G-O, G-O, G-O, G-O I can spell a go go go go!” Here’s a pro tip: you don’t even need the actual music. All you have to do is sing the first few words and the next thing you know, your class is spinning in synchronized circles while practicing their skills and you can pick up the last few beads off the floor and help Ryan get his workspace cleaned up. Sing it twice if you need to! By the time your song is done, everyone has had a wiggle break and is ready to refocus and listen for instructions.
Centers are over and there are still a couple of minutes before it’s time to line up for recess. It’s not quite enough time for a full activity, but too much to let them sit before everyone gets antsy. I know, this might be a dream world we are describing. Extra time? What is that like? I can assure you, it may happen someday and when it does, you’ll be ready with a few options.
Option Number One
Your class is WILD today. You do a quick google search- yup, it’s a full moon. You know what you need today? NURSERY RHYMES! Your class has never seen them before? Even better. Just throw a video on and let it rip. Before you know it they’ll be exposed to rhyme, repetition, stories both new and familiar and you can dispose of the last three rollie pollies that never made it back outside this morning and have now been passed around to no less than four friends on the rug. They’ll be so excited and engaged, you’ll promise another video before lunch in exchange for excellent hallway behavior on your way to the playground.
Option Number Two
You are on your A-Game today. After all, you do have extra time remember? Kids are ready to rock and you are feeling like the best teacher to ever grace the hallways of that school. It’s time for some direct instruction. Enter “Musical Math Volume 1”. Think about those assessments that are looming sometime in the next couple of months… you know the kind. The ones your district requires, but that don’t fully line up with your report card. They sit in the back of your subconscious or at the bottom of your to-do list and never quite materialize into an actual lesson in front of real life students. Now is your moment. You’ve got this. Pick a concept and get the ball rolling! You really are the best teacher ever.
It’s a glorious and anticipated time of the day: PLAYTIME!!! You need a few minutes to set out toys or get a parent volunteer ready with a small group board game. Before the rush, throw on the Alphabet Action song. A whole three minutes and twenty-six seconds (one of our longest songs available) to get your room set up! Since you are the best teacher ever, that is more than enough time to prepare all of that AND reheat your coffee before you put on your referee hat and remind 9 students about turn taking and toy snatching. You dismiss them to make a choice for play and it is a grand time to be had for all. Far too soon, it is over and there is only one more thing to do before lunch. Cleaning up is always a big bummer, but have you tried it with our 1-100 song? Throw that bad boy on and see if we can work as a team to clean up the entire room before it is over. Now, this has only happened once or twice in my entire career but every single day they are excited to try and beat the song!
Congratulations, you are a rockstar and you made it to lunch time. You didn’t NEED the music to be amazing, but it sure does help doesn’t it? Let’s work smarter, not harder. What are your favorite ways to use music as a classroom tool?
Kim Giron teaches Transitional Kindergarten in Southern CA, and has eight years of experience in public school classrooms. She is married and has two beautiful little boys, which makes her mother, (“Miss Heidi” Butkus,) very happy!