13 ways to connect music and lyrics to class

Teaching

Teaching | Tuesday, October 12, 2021

13 ways to connect music and lyrics to class

Songs can embed themselves deeply in our minds and our memories. Can you remember a specific song that immediately takes you back to a place and time in your past?

For me, these three have very vivid memories:

  • When I was moving into the dorms at Indiana State University my freshman year — a wide-eyed brand new college student — “Smooth” by Santana (featuring Rob Thomas) was on the radio almost every hour.
  • As a high school kid, right after getting my first car (a 1987 Plymouth Reliant K), I remember blasting “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind as I cruised past Indiana cornfields with the cool summer air coming through the windows. (The air conditioning in that car didn’t work!)
  • When my wife and I were fixing up a foreclosed house we bought, I remember scraping off old kitchen floor tiles and hanging cabinets with Brandon Heath’s “Your Love” playing in the background over and over.

(If you have one of your own, please post it in the comments below!)

It’s amazing how song lyrics dig themselves deep into our minds and stay there our whole lives. However, when we want to learn something and try to memorize it, it won’t stick as easy as a song will.

Music and lyrics can play powerful roles in the classroom. They can help students remember key content. They can encourage conversations. Plus, there’s great fun in creating music that relates to class content.

In a recent #DitchBook Twitter chat, we discussed the impact of music and lyrics in the classroom and tossed around ideas for incorporating them to engage students. Check out the ideas, along with tons of resources, below. Click here for a recap of the chat.

13 ways to connect music to the classroom

1. Write song lyrics

Shared by:  Todd Shriver and Kristin Daley Conti

In this  Google Applied Digital Skills  lesson students will write lyrics to a song using Google Docs.  As part of the part of the Celebrate Black History, Culture, & Identity collection, this lesson provides an opportunity for students to share aspects of their identity and culture in song lyrics.


Learn more about Google Applied Digital Skills in our post, 20+ interactive digital lessons for class tomorrow.

2. Create an annotated playlist

Shared by: Todd Shriver 

Create an Annotated Playlist is another Google Applied Digital Skills lesson where students will create a playlist about a school subject and annotate it with your thoughts on each song.


Learn more about Google Applied Digital Skills in our post, 20+ interactive digital lessons for class tomorrow.

3. Try musical timers

Shared by: Adam Juarez

Adam Juarez shared this Musical Timers Dashboard with tons of musical timers to use with your class. Each slide has a YouTube video with music along with a timer you can display. If you don't want your students to see the music videos just open the timer video and play the music in the background and mute your speakers when the timer goes off.

4. Use music for transitions

Shared byLaura Steinbrink

As Laura pointed out, music can be a great segue during transitions so that students know when to switch gears. Play a certain song for each subject so students make a connection between the song and the subject. 


If you teach elementary school you may already sing a song for transitions. This can be a great way to signal to our young learners that it's time to move to the next lesson. Check out Singing as a Tool to Facilitate Transitions by Edutopia for more ideas.

5. Grab a TeachRock.org lesson

Shared by: Todd Shriver

TeachRock.org is a free curriculum with the mission to help teachers keep the arts in school. Learn more about TeachRock.org in this video.


“Music connects us, even when we must be apart. TeachRock curriculum has always used music to foster connections between students and teachers, and we’re going to use that power now to help keep them engaged, emotionally healthy, and learning.”
– TeachRock Founder, Little Stevie Van Zandt

6. Embed music in Google Slides

Shared by: Brian Thayer and Krista Harmsworth

Google Slides has the option to embed music into your presentations and it is a great way for you to bring music into your classroom. You can embed music into any existing presentation or try out this free Google Slides theme for inserting audio from SlidesMania

7. Combine coding and music

Shared by: Karly Moura

Google CS First is a free online computer science curriculum and their Music and Sound unit is the perfect way to combine coding with music in the classroom. In this unit students play musical notes, create a music video, and build an interactive music display.

8. Conduct a blog opera

Shared byKristin Daley Conti

A ridiculously fun machine learning experiment by David Li, the blob opera lets you create, record and share your own opera song. Absolutely no music experience required!

Pair this with a tour of 11 dramatic stages around the world and you an opera inspired activity for tomorrow.

9. Learn about Music, Makers and Machines

Shared by: Todd Shriver

Google Arts and Culture has loads of lessons for the classroom and this one on Music, Makers & Machines
provides everything you need to teach a brief history of electronic music.

In this unit you can:

10. Add music to any subject with Flocabulary

Shared by: Tori Dennie

Flocabulary has hundreds of lessons, aligned to standards, which infuse the power and engagement of hip hop music into the curriculum. Flocabulary is not free but it does have a free trial which give you access to hundreds of videos and activities, plus Class Login for student access at home for 30 days. After that you can discuss the option of purchasing Flocabulary for your school or buy an individual license for $10 a month

11. Set up your own music studio with Soundtrap

Shared by: Cameron Ross

Soundtrap for Education empowers students and teachers to explore creative sound recording in all subjects, for all ages and ability levels by providing a simple and quick way to develop and record music collaboratively.

 

Watch this video, which gives a brief introduction to Soundtrap and information on how to take the next steps for implementation in your classroom. And be sure to sign up for the Soundtrap EDU Summit, a FREE online conference for educators with inspiring speakers who will empower you to bring the power of music and creation into your classroom.

Join the FREE Soundtrap EDU Summit

Soundtrap is hosting a free, online asynchronous summit that features inspiring speakers who will equip you with practical ideas to empower your students and, in turn, create the future world we envision. Register and during the week of the summit, you will receive an email each morning with a new video presentation

12. Schedule a Google Meet with musicians

Shared by: Todd Shriver

What if you could bring a famous musician into your classroom? That's exactly what Todd Shriver does! Check out the Tweet below to see who he has brought in to meet his kids over the years. Using Google Meet or Zoom or Teams or Flipgrid or... you can bring a celebrity musician to your class too! All you have to do is ask.


Check out 20 easy ways to collaborate globally with your class now for more ideas on how to get your class connected.

13. Create a classroom playlist  

Shared by: Alisha Foor

A simple yet effective way to bring music into your class is to create a classroom playlist based on your students' request. Not only do you get a chance to connect music to your classroom but you also get to learn a little bit more about each student as they share their requests.


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  • Pam B says:

    This is a topic that really resonates (pun intended) with me. I’d like to share three things.

    First, I recall Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind (to be free again)” being the very first song to come on the radio as I drove away from college for the summer – and this was over 35 years ago! I was transferring to a college the next year that would bring me closer in proximity to my husband-to-be. We have been married now for 34 years, and I still ride like the wind to get to where he is.

    Second, one of the best math teacher colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to work had her HS algebra students singing silly songs to learn the concepts. They grumbled, but they loved her for it. When she was awarded teacher of the year during an assembly, students in the audience stood up and started singing one of her songs, and the rest of the student body pretty much joined in. The power of music helped her be an effective math teacher, and it apparently made a lasting memory for a lot of students over the years.

    Third, I am a visual learner – something I didn’t know when I was in high school. I often listen to books on CD in the car, but it’s a bit of a stretch since I am not good with auditory inputs. Over the years, this has actually helped me better process info when I am in auditory-only settings (e.g., meetings). However, the connection to learning hit home in an unusual way. Sometimes, something would happen and I’d lose my place on the CD – for example if someone took it out and it started back at track 1. But the strange thing was this – as I would fast forward and listen to a snippet of conversation, I’d ‘see’ in my mind where I happened to be driving when I heard those words before. I would think to my self, “I heard that sentence when I was at intersection X” or “I heard this one when I was pulling into the driveway.” So my visual-learner brain made the connections it needed to process and store the auditory input. I had read that the brain learns by making connections, but this was an up-close and personal way to experience that for myself – very powerful and something I have never forgotten. The lesson for me is that by using a variety of inputs (visual, auditory, etc.), not only am I making sure to meet individuals’ learning needs, it also helps students who prefer other learning modes to make connections as well.

  • Corrine says:

    When we are having a day we need to get our energy up we get up and get moving with GoNoodle.com

  • Todd Goodwin says:

    Dear Matt,
    Thank you for some more great ideas.
    I use 101 Hand Motions and catchy slogans to teach US History.
    Visit Youtube: Mr. Goodwin Hands Across Time.
    I’m also adding songs from US HIstory to go with each chapter.

    Keep on singin’
    Todd Goodwin

  • Stacy Slomski says:

    I recently used two songs — Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Wayne, John 3:16” and Andrew McMahon’s “Cecilia and the Satellite” in my college freshman writing class (actually, advanced seniors in high school). We were working on word choice and meaning. Thus, we discussed the messages throughout both songs. I provided them with a template for each with the actual song lyrics in one column and then particular sections blanked out of the lyrics in another column. Their task was to choose a song and fill in the blanks with words that related to and revealed their own lives. Doing the second song was an extra credit option. They loved the whole copy-change concept — and yes, we discussed plagiarism and how to cite the original artist first. Several of the students did both songs!

  • Fawn says:

    I have had kids write parodies teaching grammar. It really does help them remember the parts of speech! They really love it when I do a pronoun rap to model the process for them!

  • […] was just reading an article about how bringing music and song lyrics into the classroom can impact the learning in your classroom.  The author even goes so far as to […]

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