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Music Moves My Classroom

By Tiffani Mugurussa on September 24, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Music has always been a part of my life and my classroom. Growing up, I remember singing along to Beatles songs on my dad’s 8-track player. As I got older, I sang in the school choir. Today, I use music daily to teach basic concepts in all subject areas. I also use it to get the kids' attention and to cue them to clean up or line up.

"Music is the universal language of mankind," according to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Peppy beats and catchy ditties get kids motivated. When I first started teaching, we used record players. With today’s technology, playing music in the classroom is a piece of cake. I use an iPod to store my music. I have it divided into separate categories: morning music, transitions, math, phonics, grammar, science, Americana, and social studies are just a few. It is easy for me to browse through the playlists to select the song I need.

A lot of research has been conducted on the educational benefits of using music in the classroom. Studies have shown that music improves memory, strengthens math and science skills, motivates students to learn, and makes learning fun. There are other reasons for and benefits of using music in the classroom: music allows for quick reviews; everyone can participate, including second language learners; and songs can signal transitions or grab students’ attention. Songs are also fabulous for helping students recall information. Have you ever had a song or tune stuck in your head? With the right songs, important information can stick in little learners' minds.

My day begins and ends with music, and music is sandwiched in between. Before my students arrive you will find me blasting my music and singing along to my favorite songs. In this post, you'll get a glimpse of my schedule and see how music plays a part.


Music in Our Daily Schedule

My students know what I expect them to do each morning as they enter the classroom. I play different songs as they arrive, put away their things, and meet me on the carpet. Often this music is coupled with a PowerPoint slide show of letters, numbers, and words. Some morning pieces I play are:

  • "We’re All in this Together" from High School Musical
  • "Twist and Shout"
  • "All Star" by Smash Mouth
  • "Celebrate"
  • "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" by John Williams
  • "You’ve Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story



Once the bell has rung, we begin our morning with a song from the Circle Time Sing-Along Flip Chart & CD. My students really love to sing "Happy to See You." As we go through our calendar routine we sing an assortment of songs.

Here are just a few of our favorites:


Whenever we line up, we sing two songs. The first is a song I made up to the tune of the "Barney Clean Up Song":

Line up, line up,

Everybody in your place

Line up, line up

With a smile on your face

Our second song is something I just made up one morning. At our school, students are to line up in a specific order. The teacher determines the order: most do it alphabetically. This helps teachers know if a student is missing or absent. I’m sure you can imagine how difficult this is for 4- and 5-year-olds. One day, while trying to get my kids in line, I began singing their names to the tune of "Ten Little Indians." It worked like a charm, and after a few times of singing it, they all knew exactly where to stand in line. Now every day when we line up, they sing along and everyone is right where they need to be.


Music for Learning

Music is a great way to introduce new concepts. There are a lot of resources that provide songs that are appropriate for the classroom. One of my favorite websites for music is Songs for Teaching. Some of my favorite children’s musical artists are Jack Hartmann, Debbie Clement, and Intelli-Tunes. These popular children's artists have created music for all curriculum areas. Below I've listed some of my favorite songs to use throughout the school year by subject area.

Language Arts Songs

  • "The Phonics Song"
  • "What’s That Sound?" from Intelli-Tunes
  • "Let’s Rhyme With the Animals" from Intelli-Tunes
  • "Sing and Spell the Sight Words" from Heidi Songs

Math Songs

  • "Counting 1 to 20" by Jack Hartmann
  • "Rock n’ Roll Days of the Week" by Jack Hartmann
  • "Do You Like to Count?" from Intelli-Tunes
  • "10’s Lift Off" Intelli-Tunes
  • "We’re Counting by Two" from Intelli-Tunes

Americana Songs

  • "Red, White and Blue" by Debbie Clement
  • "You’re a Grand Old Flag" from Celebrate America by Twin Sisters
  • "Star-Spangled Banner"
  • "America the Beautiful"


  • "Careful Cuts" by Cherry Carl
  • "Here’s What You Do Do and You Don’t Do When You Go to Use the Bathroom" by Jack Hartmann
  • "Cleanup Vacuum Cleaner" by Jack Hartmann


  • "Slippery Fish" 

You don’t have to be able to play an instrument or even carry a tune to use music in your classroom.  All you really need is a CD or MP3 player and a variety of songs. There are so many artists creating music specifically for teachers to use in their classrooms. Try introducing music a little at a time and see the instantaneous changes in your students. Another Scholastic contributor, Brent Vasicek, offers his favorite playlists and specific ways to use them in "Mr. Vasicek's Classroom Music Playlist." I’m always on the hunt for new music to use, so I hope you will share some of your favorites with me.

Comments (6)

Have you hear of Patty Shukla? She also does educational music for children that gets them moving and learning. Check her out at http://www.PattyShuklaKidsMusic.com or http://www.youtube.com/pattyshukla

Great stuff! I couldn't survive in the classroom without a collection of music.

Sally from Elementary Matters

love this!!! Music is so important.......great bank of songs Tiffani!!

Thanks Katie- I can't imagine not using music in my classroom.
Tiffani Mugurussa

Music definitely is a good activity and these are great ideas!
-Katie Jones

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