Tips for using music in the classroom and at home

Music sends feelings through my body and clicks the switch on the imagination.

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

I've been listening to music for most of my life and playing it for quite some time. Music sends feelings through my body and clicks the switch on the imagination. It conjures up images of people, scenes, and if the tune is really rockin', transports me to far away places. Music has such a positve effect on me that I play it as much as I can in my classroom for my students to enjoy as well. In fact, music has many benefits in an early childhood classroom, like increased brain development and improved fine and gross motor skills.

It can get exausting telling kids over and over again what it is you want them to do and I know you struggle with this same issue at home. Why can't they just do it the first time? Instead of becoming frustrated, try my music method: set your evening to a playlist on your MP3 player that allows your child to move seamlessly from one activity to the next.

In my classroom, our school day is set to several different playlists that trigers a reaction in each of my students. I have a playlist during writing time, workstation time, and nap time. Music makes my life as a teacher easier. It is one of my best friend's when it comes to helping me with classroom management and time mangement. It can be helpful to you parents at home as well if you follow my tips below.

When I want my students to clean up, we have a song for that. When I want my students to come and join me on the carpet, we have a song for that. When I want them to put their name and date on their paper, yep, you guessed it, we have a song for that.

Set your evening to music

Tip #1: Put a variety of music on your MP3 player for your kids listening enjoyment. 

Tip #2: Download classical music for while your child is doing his homework. Instrumental selections are great to have on in the background while your child focuses on his work. For other activities you can download children's songs that directly engage them with the lyrics.

Tip #3: Create several different playlists to for each activity. A playlist for homework time. A playlist for free time/playtime. A playlist for bath time. A playlist for getting ready for bed, putting on PJ's and brushing teeth. You may even decide to make a playlist for the morning to ease the chaos and rush of getting out the door for school.

Tip #4: Here's how to put together a playlist that transitions your child from one activity to the next. Put the songs in order how you want your child to hear them and make sure during the homework time section you put together a string of enough classical music selections for your child to finish their homework (20-30 minutes of instrumental songs is adequate for a kindergartner in the middle of the year) until the music changes to a clean up song. This is a great time management tool, playing music is like setting a timer only with more benefits. Since most kindergartners don't have a real concept of time and haven't learned to tell time yet, playing the music will let them know they need to keep working until they hear the clean up song. Put a system in place that if they finish their homework early they are to read books until that clean up song comes on. You may also need to add more classical music songs to the list if you notice that your child is consistently not finishing his homework.

There have been days when I have left my iPod at home and it amazing to see the difference in my students. Usually getting them to clean up their workstation takes two clean up songs (5 minutes). My students know that by the end of the clean up songs they are expected to be sitting with me on the carpet. Days without my iPod is a different story. I am ringing my bell, flicking on and off the lights, and calling their names to focus on finishing putting their things away. Without the music, there isn't that usual bounce in their step or sense of urgency to get things done quickly.