Remember all the times you have gotten a song stuck in your head and it’s driven you crazy?
The reverse is true for young children. If you really want them to remember something, put it to music!
I have found that using music to help children remember rules and skills can be a powerful educational tool. I encourage you try it at home, too.
Here are a few examples of how we use music in our 1st grade class every day:
We start each morning with our Pledge of Allegiance and an enthusiastic rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is our go-to song to transition from one activity to another. The key is for the children to “beat the song.” In other words, to get to the new activity in a quiet and organized way, before the song is over.
To practice phonics we sing a “Vowel Song” that puts the short and long vowel sounds to the tune of “Skip to My Lou.” I often hear my students quietly humming the song, to remember the correct vowel, while doing their independent work!
Our “Handwriting Without Tears” program has some great songs to help children remember letter formation. One of our favorites is “Descending Letters.” It reinforces how the following lowercase letters—“g, j, y, p, q”—should be printed below the line.
When we walk in our school hallways to library or other activities, we quietly sing our “Hallway” song. It starts, I like to walk, walk, walk quietly and quickly, getting softer each time until we reach our destination.
“What’s the difference between sharing and keeping?” That’s the opening line from the “Kindness” song on the CD Little Superman by Steve Roslonek. It promotes using words to solve differences and it’s one of our classroom favorites.
When my students hear “Clean It Up” from the Buzz Buzz CD by Laurie Berkner, they know it’s the end of our school day. They sing along with gusto as they put things away, get their backpacks, empty their mailboxes and line-up to go home.
Music is an integral part of our school day. Is it any wonder that when I’m driving home, I smile when I find myself humming “Ants on an apple, ahh, ahh, ahh…”
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.