"Music is the universal language of mankind"

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



When looking back on ones education, many can recall examples in which music was used as a means of learning. If not for its success in enhancing memorization, preschoolers would not be taught to this day to first sing their ABC's, and chant their addition and multiplication tables, reciting unanimously that "1+1=2 and 2+2=4". Furthermore, if one turns on the television to a show aimed at children, they will find that the majority of educational programming today includes music as the powerful aid in teaching. From the shows that we grew up on such as Sharon, Louis and Bram and Sesame Street to the shows that our students watch such as Dorah the Explorer and The Wiggles, music is clearly the tool that has best benefited children for years. An easy experiment on the power that music can have on ones memory would be if one was asked to remember specific things a teacher said in high school or university. Now attempt to recite a song learned from a childhood show that you used to watch.

Do you find that the words to a song watched twenty or more years ago come to you more readily? Amazingly, we find that in using song, information can be stored longer and with stronger memory than can information absorbed by other means. Music has been found to not only enhance memorization, but can be a positive aid in promoting calmness or excitement in students in the classroom. Music can also be found in schools as a form of therapy, an aid in concentration and a positive tool to use when changing activities. It is a useful aid for teaching rhythm as a child is learning to read, is helpful for enhancing comprehension when learning various topics and is also a great way to improve student listening skills in the classroom.

Why is Music so Beneficial? A Look at Music Therapy and Music and Learning

According to physician, Myra, J. Staum[1] , Music therapy is "the unique application of music to enhance personal lives by creating positive changes in human behaviour." It is beneficial for "development in social/emotional, cognitive/learning, and perceptual-motor areas." The most important reason for its success is the fact that it is a "nonverbal form of communication...and provides motivation for practicing nonmusical skills." Whether a student is learning about literacy, mathematics or science, or perhaps a skill as specific as maintaining eye contact or changing activities, the highly beneficial, non-threatening stimulus of music allows for a smooth transition to knowledge. In an article entitled, "The Influence of Music on Core Learning"[2] , many researchers came to the same conclusion. In research studies, it was found that students who were in the music condition while studying language arts performed much higher, and were more motivated to stay on task, and in a separate study, music activities enhanced motivation and ability in reading skills. Interestingly, the use of song lyrics as reading materials evoked great enthusiasm in students, and was preferred over classic reading material. As we know as teachers and past students, if we do not have interest in something, it is a great deal more difficult to learn! Furthermore, music has an innate way of relaxing the listener. When presented in class, students may feel more at ease, being far more open to information. For more information on research studies advocating for the use of music in the classroom, further information can be found at:;col1

Below is a great video further explaining the benefits of using music as a means of communicating ideas within the classroom:

Which Population is Most Benefited By This Form of Education?

The interesting thing about the use of music as a tool in education, is that when used properly, it can be a beneficial tool for absolutely anyone. Music truly is a universal language, and as such, has the power to evoke emotions, comprehension, calmness or excitement, and at times, can be even more powerful in the delivery of an important message than words themselves. While music should be used as a tool in every classroom, in this section, we will look at two specific populations who may benefit most from this tool:

- ESL Students: Being that my native language is English, I do not have first hand experience with ESL. However, I did spend a summer in Riviere Du Loup in an immersed french program, where I struggled to learn the local language. If you were to ask me only two years later to tell you what I learned during my time in Quebec, I could not recite my verbs or provide proper grammar, but I could sing you an entire song in french! Each day, as a class, we listened to a popular french song that could be found on the radio at the time. We were then given the french lyrics, and together, we translated each song until it made sense to us. To this day I can still sing Trois Accords' "Saskatchewan", and even more impressive is that I would know exactly what I was saying! This is a testament to the power of music as a tool in learning a new language! A fantastic website to visit for lyrics and worksheets for ESL students is:

- Children with special needs: It can be argued that there is no tool more powerful when working with a child who has special needs than music. A few of the many struggles faced by special needs children, especially for those on the autism spectrum, include routine changes and maintaining eye contact. In my experience, these are a few activities that can be used in the classroom for children with special needs:

Music as a tool for activity change:
In our class, we had a song that we sing before we began a new activity. This let students know what to expect in their next activity. For children who do not comprehend verbal speech as easily as others, and benefit from a further cue, music works wonders. To give an example, before children went home in the afternoon, we would sing (to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb):

School is finished for today

For today
For today

School is finished for today

We'll see you all on (name the next day)

Music as a tool for eye contact:
Material: Roll a piece of construction board into a long tube.
In this activity, the goal is to maintain eye contact between child and teacher, keeping the child engaged with music. Peer through one end of the rolled up construction board-tube, and have the child peer through the other end at you. The use of the tube makes the songs that you sing even more effective, as they will echo to the child. Any song works during this activity, but in the past I have used some kind of rendition of "eye spy with my little eye". Have the child sing with you, while looking at you through the tube. It is amazing how well this generalizes to eye contact in other activities.

Other Great Activities:
To find other fantastic music activities designed for children with special needs, here is a great website to visit: - fantastic site!

Below is a great video illustrating the power of music as a sensory tool. Watch the way in which the students engage with the music!

In What Ways is Music Beneficial?

Chris Boyd Brewer[3] , an advocate for the integration of music in the classroom, suggests that music can be used to:

  • establishing a positive learning state
  • creating a desired atmosphere
  • building a sense of anticipation
  • energizing learning activities
  • changing brain wave states
  • focusing concentration
  • increasing attention
  • improving memory
  • facilitating multisensory learning experience
  • releasing tension
  • enhancing imagination
  • aligning groups
  • developing rapport
  • providing inspiration and motivation
  • adding an element of fun
  • accentuation theme-oriented units

Practical Application of Music in the Classroom

Songs for the Classroom:

When used properly, music can be one of the best ways to help students focus, absorb, comprehend and remember information. Moreover, it plays a role on classroom energy and creativity. Below is a list of music that Chris Boyd Brewer[4] has found to be most effective for multiple classroom settings and activities. Note that when using music as background noise during quiet seat work, it is always important to first ask students if they feel that they will benefit from the music or the quiet. Some children simply cannot concentrate with the added noise, while many others find that it becomes easier to stay on task and be efficient in their work when there is music playing in the background.

Music for Focus and Concentration: to be used as background music to increase attention levels, improve retention and memory, extend focused learning time and expand thinking skills while students study, read or write:

  • Relax with the Classics - The LIND Institute
  • Velvet Dreams - Daniel Kobialka
  • Celtic Fantasy - Daniel Kobialka
  • Music for Relaxation - Champan and Miles
  • Boroque Music to Empower Learning and Relaxation - The Barzak Institute
  • Mozart and Boroque Music - The Barzak Institute
  • Mozart Effect: Strengthening the Mind Enhance Focus with Energizing Mozart - Don Campbell
  • An Dun
  • Accelerating Learning - Steven Halpern

Music for Creativity and Reflection: to be used as background music during writing, problem-solving, project work or brainstorming.

  • Pianoforte - Eric Daub
  • Medicine Woman I or II - Medwyn Goodall
  • Oceans - Christopher Peacock
  • Mozart Effect: Daydream and Draw - Don Campbell
  • Fairy Ring - Mike Rowland
  • Living Music and Touch - Michael Jones

Welcoming Music: to be used as background music during entries, exits and breaks.

  • Dance of the Renaissance - Richard Searles
  • Emrald Castles - Richard Searles
  • 1988 Summer Olympics
  • Celtic Destiny - Bruce Mitchell
  • Sun Spirit - Deuter
  • The Four Seasons - Vivaldi
  • Boundaries - Scott Wilkie
  • Echoes of Incas - Ventana al Sol.

Active Learning Music: to be used as a sound break and for movement activities to increase productivity, energize students, provide a stimulating sound break to increase attention, make an excercise more fun and encourage movement activities.

  • Tunes for Trainers
  • Jazzy Tunes for Trainers
  • Earth Tribe Rhythms - Brent Lewis
  • Best of Ray Lynch - Ray Lynch
  • Funny 50's and Silly 60's
  • Hooked on Classics
  • Earth, Sea, and Sky
  • Best of World Dance Music

Useful Sites to Visit: - This site offers a plethora of information pertaining to music in the classroom, from supporting evidence, to lesson plans, this is a valuable site to visit.
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