Dyan Branstetter | September 2015

Foolproof Ways to Add Music to Your Classroom

When it comes to trying an arts-integrated approach to teaching, many teachers choose to begin by incorporating visual art. This is because it is less of a reach outside their comfort zone. Today, we’re discussing foolproof ways to add music to your classroom. Here are three easy music strategies that can be modified for any classroom — without needing any musical ability.

1. Setting the Stage

In my third-grade math class, we problem solve every day. There are some lessons in each chapter that are devoted to a specific problem-solving strategy. These lessons are structured differently; so we turn into a detective agency. We look at our complex word problems as private investigators. To set the tone for these lessons, I play the James Bond theme as the students enter and get organized for math. Without even saying a word, students know they need their case file folder for our problem-solving lesson and work session. After the lesson, I play the music on repeat quietly in the background during their detective work (aka independent work time). You would think they would get tired of the same song over and over, but they beg for it if I fail to press play. I enjoy a secret laugh about this, knowing that someday these students will watch a James Bond movie and wonder, “Why am I thinking about math?” ;)

2. Matching Theme to Music:

Another interactive way to add music to your classroom is allowing students to include music in a culminating presentation. Once students have finished creating a visual presentation using Prezi or a similar platform, I allow them to spend time at a listening station choosing music that matches their presentation. Since I work with 8 and 9-year-olds, this is a guided choice. I provide a stack of instrumental CDs, and once students find a track they think will match their piece, they import the song and upload it to play during their presentation. To hold students accountable for thinking about their choice, part of their assessment requires them to write a statement including why they chose this piece of music along with the title and artist/composer.

3. Just for Fun: Freeze Dance Friday!

Our student dismissal time spans 30 minutes. During this time, students must have their things packed up to be ready for the bus, so it’s hard to use it as a time to work on homework, and we need be quiet so that we can hear the bus announcements. Monday through Thursday, students are content to read, chat, or help to clean up to add music to your  classroom. On Fridays, we let loose with a Freeze Dance party that is just structured enough to get everyone on the correct bus, but different enough to celebrate the end of a rigorous week of work! Each year I choose a few songs that become our class soundtrack. It’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt, but in this case familiarity breeds some pretty rockin’ dance moves!

Most of the songs are current pop hits, although I occasionally sneak in a not-so-familiar song to stretch their musical taste, such as swing music, oldies, or music a soundtrack. It is fun to see the dance styles change from song to song, and it’s also a great way for students to find the beat of the music and recognize changes in tempo.

To play Freeze Dance, gather the students in one section of the room. The only rule: Move when the music is playing, freeze when it stops. If a student doesn’t freeze quickly enough, he or she is out and can then help judge or continue to dance outside of the game zone. This continues until we crown a winner of the round. Then, we invite everyone back in and choose a new song for round two. This is also a great brain break activity, however, I’ve designated it as a Friday afternoon event to keep them wanting more!

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.