Musical Experiences – Playing in the Classroom

Music is a powerful tool to use in your teaching. It gives students a chance to be creative, to play and find structure – all at once! Best yet is that it will help you to build community with your students.

It’s all about experiences – building experiences, sharing experiences, reflecting on them and learning from them. With music, you can create these experiences by playing, creating and listening to music.

This post, I would like to focus on how I encourage my fourth grade students to play music in the classroom. Playing music might include singing, playing instruments, chanting and doing finger plays. We are all naturally drawn to play music. Sometimes there may be nervousness to it or an anxiety to it, but there is a desire. Some ways you I try to include playing into my teaching are:

  • Start each day with a Patriotic song
  • Sing your way through the day just for fun!
  • Sing or play transitions from one activity to the next
  • Play or sing some eye openers or motivators to gives students breaks in their day
  • Take out the instruments and play with your students
  • Have students play using body percussion: clapping, slapping, stomping, etc.
  • Take out and use one drum.  (Click link for ideas…)

To build community through playing music, I love to bring out the percussion instruments and play in a drum circle!

Some of my former 2nd grade students play percussion instruments together!

Some of my former 2nd grade students play percussion instruments together!

The first time I did this this year, my students’ eyes widened. After discussing instrument protocol and other necessary things, instruments were in students hands and we started playing. I started with an ostinato and soon students found their own voice through the instruments. The shy girl shook her egg, and the boisterous boy clanged his cymbals, the normally soft-spoken little lady was giggling as she swirled her maracas. It was a beautiful thing! And I had given them a chance to be individualistic, creative and collaborative all at once.

Sure we made a lot of noise (we actually went into a different part of the school to do this) and sure a teacher walked by, peeked in and, noticing I wasn’t the music teacher, gave me a perplexed look (to which I shouted, “Come join us! I know you want to!”), but we weren’t just having fun – we were building community!

I would like to say that I have kept my promise to myself that I would do this every week, but that is not the case, sadly. BUT I try. We have done it maybe once a month. Even so, it has helped us as a class to focus on ourselves for a period of time, to PLAY, to get our creative juices flowing and to connect with one another. It is truly a wonderful thing!!

Next post – Musical Experiences – Creating Music!

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. MaryEllen Uhlarik says:

    Wow Elizabeth sounds like a great time for everyone in your community!!
    I take out the instruments in my Pre-K class and the kids eye widen and they always smile. I need to do it more! Just yesterday I was doing an assessment with one of my students and I started to notice he humming and singing our hello song that we sing every morning at meeting. He was struggling with the assessment but I certainly got his attention when I decided to use the same melody to ask the questions! He smiled at me…it was a great way to connect with him!!

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