Unit 2: Analyzing Music-Based Strategies



Shannon McShane (my portfolio)

Music Strategies in the Classroom (introduction to course)

Unit 1: How Does Music Enhance Learning?

You are currently in Unit 2

Unit 3: Implementing Music into Typical Classroom Routines

Welcome to Unit 2!


  • The participant will identify various strategies that implement music during instruction.
  • The participant will identify various strategies that implement music to influence the classroom environment and/or the classroom routine.
  • The participant will categorize select strategies into the following categories: for instruction; for transitions/routines; for environment. (Assessment)

Strategies During Instruction

Songs to Teach

Description: This is the most common method that teachers use when putting music into their instruction. This occurs mostly in younger grade levels. Using songs to teach academic language and vocabulary goes back to the idea that music stimulates different parts of the brain all at once. When you recognize a song, your brain is stimulated. When you hear a recognizable instrument, your brain is stimulated. The more your brain is stimulated, the more you learn!

  • But I'm a high school teacher! So what? Even if your students think that learning by song is childish, music can still help! The resources listed below have material for all age groups. What great about older students is that you can construct a learning project out of the ideas of project-based learning all centered around music as a learning tool!


Description: “Flocabulary is a web-based learning program for all grades and subjects that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement. Teachers in more than 60,000 schools have used Flocabulary’s standards-based videos, instructional activities and formative assessments to develop core literacy skills and supplemental instruction across the curriculum.”

Flocabulary is centered around a multisensory vocabulary program, The Word Up Project, that has shown to increase overall state test scores for middle school students. Although this program requires a subscription to receive full access to its entire content, Flocabulary still offers parts of lessons that can be used as supplemental aids across the subject areas!

Check it out here: https://www.flocabulary.com/


To access the FlocabularyYT channel on YouTube (just videos/music without lesson accompaniments), click here: https://www.youtube.com/user/FlocabularyYT'


Description: Of course, YouTube is a wonderful site to use as a tool when incorporating song into teaching. However, there are educational and entertainment videos (along with some inappropriate ones) to filter through when finding the song that will best fit your lesson and your students. As a teacher, you know your students best. Here are some channels to start with.

  • Elementary/Middle School:
  1. Have Fun Teaching https://www.youtube.com/user/havefunteaching
  2. Busy Beavers – Kids Learn ABCs 123s & More https://www.youtube.com/user/wearebusybeavers
  • Middle School / High School:
  1. Science Songs https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVrKzEE-XHLbBUngSrd-tqQ
  2. Mr. Lee Science Rap https://www.youtube.com/user/tfashady410
  3. School House Rock https://www.youtube.com/user/SchoolhouseRockTV1/featured

Tapping Rhythms to Words or Phrases

Description: This is another method to introduce unfamiliar words. This tool can be essential if the word may be difficult to pronounce at first. For example, the word “photosynthesis” may be difficult to the elementary school students first learning about it. As the teacher, you can tap or clap the rhythm of the word and have your students repeat it back to you! This models the natural flow and musical rhythm this word has when being pronounced. Breaking down syllables and including emphasis on the important syllables will encourage students to do the same! According to Harman in the article, Music and Movement- Instrumental in Language Development, “When the hands are activated, there is more effective learning, thus encouraging the hands on approach to learning. (Harman, p. 2). Incorporating hands on learning is also beneficial because it involved multiple senses, which increases learning: “The more senses involved in an activity, the better the success rate of the lesson” (Harman, p. 3).

Watch this video to learn the basics of this strategy.

Lyrics as poetry

Description: Reading, analyzing, and writing poetry is often a unit in an ELA curriculum. Why not look at lyrics? After all, lyrics are basically poetry that is accompanied by melody, harmony, and chord progressions (aka music!). Many lyrics of songs (especially country songs) have lines or phrases similar to poetry patterns.

Check out this popular song

Listen to the first verse and listen to the lyrics:

Hey where did we go,

Days when the rains came.

Down in the hollow,

Playin’ a new game,

Laughing and a running hey, hey

Skipping and a jumping

In the misty morning fog with

Our hearts a thumpin’ and you

My brown eyes girl,

You me brown eyed girl.

Notice a rhyming pattern?




Playlists to Teach Narrative

Description: “A narrative essay is a story written about a personal experience. Writing a narrative essay provides an opportunity to get to know and understand yourself better.” Writing narratives is also a common topic in ELA curriculum. To incorporate music, you can make a playlist as a form of introduction or supplementary tool. Students can be given this opportunity in a form of project-based learning. Students can select songs based on song title or their interpretation of lyrics. Put them in an order, and there you go!

Here’s an example of a narrative playlist by song title:

  • Once upon a time, there was a little girl. This little girl missed her family and wanted to play.

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? from Frozen

  • As she grew, she needed to support herself in order to make ends meet. She got a job as a waitress at the age of 15 and made her career.

She Used to Be Mine by Sara Bareilles from Waitress

  • She kept making mistakes, one after the other. But she persevered through.

Try Everything by Shakira

  • She fell in love with a man who wrote the most passionate hand-written letters. They got married and had a wonderful life together. Yet, they drifted apart, and he found another woman. At first she was heart-broken.

Burn by Lin Manuel-Mrianda from Hamilton

  • She found her independence, found her inner Beyonce and continued to rely on herself.

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) by Beyonce

Of course this example ends in a silly way, but keep in mind this is a great project for all grade levels! It sparks imagination, persistence, builds computer web surfing skills, builds reasoning skills, and many more! You can have your students write an explanation for why each song was relevant for their narrative story. This is also a great project to allow the students to express their own story.

Strategies for Transitions/Routines

Cuing Transition

Description:Using a song is a perfect to cue a transition from one activity to the next in a non-verbal way. This song also sets a time limit for how long the transition has to take. You as the teacher can decide to use the whole song or discuss with your students to what point in the song they should be ready for the next activity. This can really be used any time, but is most beneficial when there is a large transition. For example, have you ever heard this song before?

Cuing Routine

Description:Using a playlist of songs can be beneficial to help in transitions from one task to another without needing verbal cues. For example, during song 1, students will read independently. When the song ends, the students move onto the next task (for example, independent writing). A word of caution, however: the more a student listens to the same set of songs, the more students will recognize and maybe even sing or hum along. Therefore, make sure that the songs selected will not cause distractions from the actual assignment or task. A good way to help this is to lower the volume of the music until the transition is near; then increase the volume to gather the student’s attention that the song is about to end! Make sure that the songs are long enough for the assignment you want them to complete!

Strategies for Influencing Classroom Environment

There have been many studies about using music in the classroom causes distractions. Up until this point, we have been discussing ways that music can assist in instruction. However, this section discusses music and its benefits to influence the environment.

Radio as Background


Description: There have been many discussions about if music in the background is a distraction to students. Do lyrics make a difference? Do familiar songs distract more than unfamiliar? Does musical ability impact the level of distractibility? Some studies have said yes, music is a distraction; some have said no. Some studies say it doesn’t make any difference. All in all, it depends on your students. You know your students best. If music in the background helps, do it! If it causes distractions, don’t use it.

I have personally found success with instrumental (and unfamiliar) music kept at a low volume. I have seen students walk into my classroom about to cause distractions for themselves and others, but quickly change their behaviors when they hear music. I have found it helpful if a student is extra talkative as well; if this child enjoys music, they need to refrain from talking in order to hear the music.

Keep in mind the music you choose sets the mood! If you want kids to be calm, select calming music. If you want kids to write an exciting story, give them exciting music to be inspired by. Usually, if you choose a familiar pop playlist (like America’s Top 40), you set an informal setting. The type of music you play is incredibly influential in your classroom environment.

Resources for background music:


Of course, YouTube and Pandora have playlists that you can use. There is also iHeartRadio, Spotify, and 8Tracks.

Keep in mind that many of these playlists you are not able to preview before the songs play. This can get you into trouble if a song plays and it includes inappropriate lyrics or changes the mood you’re going for. If you’re a Type A teacher (as many of us are), your best bet would be to make a playlist of your own (on iTunes, YouTube, etc.) and use that as a way to change your classroom environment.

Music as Read Aloud Aid

Description: As mentioned in the previous section, music influences the environment and the mood in the classroom. Music is accompanied in movies when telling a story; why not use music when telling stories in class? During Halloween, I read a scary mystery story to my students and played scary/spooky music in the background. My students loved it! When students hear music in their environment that correlates to the story line, they are naturally more engaged. As teachers, many of us are great story tellers. Providing an extra story-telling environment will get the students excited about the story!



Ready for an assessment?

 [Click here to check your understanding!

Ready to move on? Unit 3: Implementing Music into Typical Classroom Routines


Flocabulary (2016). The Word Up Project: Proven to Increase Scores on State Tests. Retrieved from https://www.flocabulary.com/results-achievement-state-tests/.

Flocabulary (2016). It Starts with Engagements. It Leads to Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.flocabulary.com/.

Harman, M. (2007). Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development. Earlychildhood NEWS. Retrieved from https://blackboard.albany.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2386794-dt-content-rid-11197046_1/courses/2169-ETAP-523-7329/Harman%20-%20Music%20and%20Movement%20-%20Instrumental%20in%20Language%20Development.pdf.

iHeartMedia, Inc. (2016). iHeartRADIO. Retrieved from http://www.iheart.com/.

Spotify AB. (2016). Spotify. Retrieved from https://www.spotify.com/us/.

YouTube, beyonceVEVO. (2009). Beyonce – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m1EFMoRFvY. Pandora Media, Inc. (2016). Pandora. Retrieved from https://www.pandora.com/.

YouTube, Bryan j117 (2010). Brown Eyed Girl lyrics – Radio Edit. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG8Ect3Xn7w.

YouTube, Busy Beavers – Kids Learn ABCs 123s & More. (2007). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/wearebusybeavers.

YouTube, Disney SingAlongs. (2014). Do You Wanna Build a Snowman – Frozen – Sing-Along. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsUw1Oc4P54.

YouTube, DurhamDSB (2016). Helping you child clap or tap syllables in words. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-Q_IPq2_5s.

YouTube, FlocabularyYT (2008). Flocabulary, Educational Hip-Hop to Revolutionize the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/FlocabularyYT.

YouTube, Have Fun Teaching (2007). Have Fun Teaching- Worksheets, Activities, Songs, Videos & More! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/havefunteaching.

YouTube, TheLearningStation – Kids Songs and Nursery Rhymes (2007). The Learning Station, Healthy Music for a Child’s Heart, Body and Mind! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4Hdb26_xnPQsntwLazMqYw.

YouTube, LLC. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/.

YouTube, Mr. Lee Science Rap (2010). Science Rap Channel. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/tfashady410.

YouTube, Phillipa Soo – Topic. (2015). Burn. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CFOuGqBSEE.

YouTube, SaraBareilledVEVO. (2015). Sara Bareilles – She Used to be Mine. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53GIADHxVzM.

YouTube, Science Songs (2006). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVrKzEE-XHLbBUngSrd-tqQ.

YouTube, Shakira World. (2016). Shakira – Try Everything (Lyrics). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJVW42s3vrk.

8Tracks. (2006). Retrieved from http://8tracks.com/.