Composing Songs in the Classroom

music leavesComposition is a great way for students to express themselves and work more deeply with the content in their curriculum.  Here, I have put together some great examples of songwriting with students using excerpts from previous posts.  I hope these examples inspire you to consider a form of songwriting in your classroom!

Composition that Expresses Identity and Connects Music to Poetry

The following was originally posted in the Teacher Art Retreat 2012 page.

Debbie Ambrose who is currently teaching in Exeter, New Hampshire shares her musical talents with the students in her school with composition.

One song, done while Debbie was teaching fourth grade was a culmination of a poetry unit she did with the other fourth grade class taught by Allie Bzdafka and some help from another talented colleague, Nate LaMontagne who played the guitar.  Together, they wrote a poem about being in fourth grade and then turned it into a song.  Lyrics

Composition as a Gift

Thank You Our Soldiers is another example of the work Debbie did with her fourth graders.  It was written to send with supplies to soldiers overseas.  They also sang it at their Memorial Day celebration a few years back.  Around that time, Debbie’s school had a soldier stationed in Iraq visit them.  The students sang the song to her and gave her a copy of the recording to bring back to Iraq.   Lyrics to Thank You Our Soldiers

More recently, Debbie composed a song with some second graders titled Give and Be Grateful.  It incorporated many CCCS literacy standards as well as touched upon public speaking and presentation skills. It was a lot of fun for the students and adults involved!  Here are the lyrics to Give and Be Grateful.

Songwriting that Connects to Content

The following excerpts come from a post Erosion Blues.

One year, my students and I had a great experience as we created a makeshift recording studio in our school and recorded an original piece of music: The Erosion Blues.

It was the culminating project for our unit on Land and Water which focuses on erosion. Students were to explain a type of erosion (water, wind or ice) and use some content vocabulary to show they know the meaning of the words.  While the music teacher taught the students the form of the 12 bar blues in music class, I was working with small groups of students to write lyrics that would fit a simple AAB form and include content knowledge.  The result was, well, a lot of fun!

LYRICS to the Erosion Blues
Erosion blues 1 by eliza_peterson
The following was originally published in a post Music and Literacy.

At another time, Debbie emailed me a song she composed with her fourth grade students to promote literacy in their school on March 2nd which marks Dr. Suess’s (Theodor Geizel’s) 107th birthday, when schools across the nation celebrate “Read Across America” day.

Maybe you can share and use it with your students this March!
Read Across America mp3 Gr 4 on eliza_peterson’s Sound Cloud

Here are the lyrics you can share with your students and use to sing along!

The songwriting works really well with the students. They love it and it’s a fun way for me to share my love with them, while teaching students about various things related to our curriculum.”  ~Debbie Ambrose

Songwriting is a Great Experience for Teachers Too!

No matter where and in what capacity Debbie teaches, music and songwriting play a large role.  She was even a focus presenter for our 2012 Teacher Art Retreat.  There, a group of 15 teachers composed their own song promoting Arts Integration, Let’s Create and Celebrate!  Listen.  I hope it inspires you!

A Fun Way to Integrate
Debbie has been able to touch the lives of many students with her musical talents through song composition.  Consider the many ways you can lead and encourage your students to create their own songs.  If you feel like you can take on such a project, find the time to do it!  It’s well worth the effort.  If leading the composition process seems intimidating, this could be the perfect time to collaborate with the music teacher or another teacher in your school.  Maybe there’s even a parent volunteer that possess the interest to help.
And don’t forget that sometimes, all you need to do is plant the seed of inspiration in your students’ heads.  Be open to offering the opportunity or challenge for students to create a song on their own that connects to the curriculum you are teaching or a theme that is important to them.  Sometimes all students need is the go ahead from you – that spark of inspiration to create something wonderful!


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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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