Catherine Galie: Does Music Enhance Learning?

From Discovery Educator Catherine Galie:

How many times do you hear a teacher say, “Why don’t they get it,” “Why don’t they remember what we did yesterday,” or “They knew it last week, now they don’t.”   We as teachers often beat our heads against the wall trying to create lessons so the students will retain the information, which often doesn’t happen. Why not try adding music? Just ask someone to recite their ABC’s and they often begin to sing it. It is there as a permanent part of our memory. Music seems to help our brain retain the information. I am sure many of you learned some songs in grade school and maybe even high school to remember facts, places, times tables, etc. Now you get the picture.

As an elementary classroom music teacher, I am always looking for ways to help the students not only learn information, but retain it. Last year, as part of a grant to get a Classroom Performance System Unit (CPS), I developed a program linking music with grammar. I found some great songs from a book “ Grammar Grooves ” by Sara Jordan to work on basic grammar. The kids love the songs and can’t wait to do the lessons. We learn around 3 songs a lesson and then take some quizzes with the CPS to aid in the retention of the facts. It is amazing what they remember because of the words in the song.

Many times as I am passing a classroom that I am doing this project with and I will hear the teacher working on a grammar concept that we learned a song for. I poke my head in and begin singing some of the song, and they all join in. It is stuck in their memory, which is what I want to happen. Hopefully when they are taking an assessment relating to grammar, they can mentally remember the song and hopefully get the correct answer. Or when they are writing a story, those rules should be part of their memory that will help improve their grammar mechanics.   

So when you are stuck and what you are doing just isn’t working, try adding some music. If you are creative, make up your own. If not, go on the Internet and search and I am sure you will find something to use. You can even take a simple nursery rhyme and add new words. Go for it. Learning can be fun and hopefully the students will retain the information in the process.   

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3 Comments

  1. Susan Keck said:

    I was just talking about this over the weekend with a friend – it is amazing how we remember commercial jingles, even if they are really silly. Take the Oscar Mayer hot dog commercial – come on now, let’s all sing, “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner. That is what I always wanted to beee. . . ” Now, I certainly never had that wish, but I do remember the words and melody. So, I believe that music is a universal language that for some reason, we are naturally drawn to.
    When I taught high school English, the mention of poetry usually elicited groans, but when introduced through music – students were hooked! They could all relate. I could teach the purpose of figurative language, not just what it is, through music. Students need to understand the why just as much as they need to know the what of figurative language. And music was the doorway in!

  2. Erik Wittmer said:

    I have to agree that like many of us, my students seem to benifit from listening or putting skills into songs. Songs make it fun and it gets those hyperactive kids up and moving which is needed!

  3. Pat Ruffing said:

    Catherine,
    I wholeheartedly agree with you. As a foreign language teacher I don’t know what I would do without my collection of songs to teach colors, months, days of the week, etc. And it is something that appeals to all ages. I have made some up myself and taken others from CDs. I have also made slide shows with clipart images and words for students to sing along with. I have fond memories of learning poetry by singing it, as in “The Gingham Dog and The Calico Cat” by Edward Lear (sung the the tune of “Davy Crockett” no less!) And don’t forget “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” (One of my own kid’s favorites.) I think I need to make up a song for one of our English teachers who is frustrated teaching prepositions! Someone is selling the Grammar Grooves book with cd (vol. 1) for as low as 5.95 on amazon.com.

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