5 Ways Music Can Increase Student Engagement

November 27, 2017


By Shannon McClintock Miller


The more we sing together, together, together.
The more we sing together, the happier we’ll be.


I loved singing The More We Get Together when I was a little girl. I remember singing it at school, in the car, at home, and as we walked down the road to my grandma’s house. Then when I became a mom, I sang it to my three children. And when I became a teacher librarian, we sang it in our library too.  


As a mom and a teacher, I always thought we should add… The more we sing together, the more engaged we will be!


This is the magic that we see when music is part of our collections woven throughout our libraries, classrooms, communities, and homes.


By bringing music to our libraries, collections, and students, we can promote literacy skills, deepen learning, and increase student engagement in so many ways. In fact, music can be a vital element in the development of children’s literacy and emotional skills, especially in the younger years.  


Let’s look at 5 ways music can help to increase student engagement.


1. In the article “Learning Literacy Through Music,” Kelsey Tarbert states, “One area that a literacy program should emphasize is the development of auditory processes, and these are also stressed in a music program. Phoneme awareness, discrimination between similar auditory elements, speech signals, auditory memory and more. These auditory skills are an integral part of students’ literacy development, and they are all reinforced or enhanced within a music class.


As children begin to read and learn new things, music will help them learn and retain the information by acquiring and practicing these essential auditory skills. The lyrics and music set the stage for listening, learning, and a whole lot of meaningful fun along the way.  



Take a look at the Read, Sing, Learn: Homophones series from Cantata Learning.  This is such an important concept and one that music will help bring to life for our youngest learners.  


Listen very carefully. What do you hear?
Some little words can fool your ear!
Speak very carefully. What did you say?
Some little words you might not mean that way.


This series celebrates words that look and sound the same but have two different meanings.  Can’t you just picture how fun it will be for our students as they sing and clap to these familiar words in a brand new way?


2. As children are introduced to new materials, their vocabularies expand. When this information is put into musical context with rhythm and rhymes, children’s memories will retain the information.  Not only will they be learning how music is like poetry with these elements, but when paired with a catchy melody they will be learning so many new things in an effective and engaging way too.  



The Library Skills series from Cantata Learning is the perfect set for bringing important library skills to our students. There are new vocabulary words to learn such as fiction and nonfiction. Look how Fiction and Nonfiction can help them with these words and the meaning.  


Nonfiction means a book is true.
It’s filled with facts for you.
It might have dates and other stats:
cool things you never knew.


Fiction means it’s make-believe.
These books are meant for fun.
They entertain or tell a joke, a story, or a pun!


One suggestion is to use the ebook on a SMART Board or big screen with an overhead projector as students are checking out books. As they hear and sing about fiction and nonfiction, they will use and retain this information. By pairing this information with a catchy melody, they will always remember what fiction and nonfiction means.


3. When we use music to teach our students new skills and information at school, we are also arming them with words and tunes to carry home with them too.  I always loved it when my own children came home singing a song they learned at school. I remember my daughter Brianna singing a song as she memorized about the states and capitals and Hagan singing a little tune about nouns and verbs over and over on his way to bed.



Using a book such as Manners in the Library, will equip them with the skills they need for visiting the library at school, but will also be helpful as they visit public libraries with their families too.  


Collaborate, create and share.
Show the library that you care.
When we use good manners, it’s a safe place to be.
Explore the space. Let your mind be free.


With a quick scan of the QR code on the back of any Cantata Learning book, this special connection for children will carry through as they visit libraries everywhere forever.


4. Everywhere we go we hear and find music.  It is a universal language and one that embraces us from birth. As a social experience, music can bring comfort to children and reduce stress. While participating in musical experiences through singing, playing, and moving, they will gain confidence as they interact and work together to produce something beautiful and unique.  


With this sense of heightened sense of confidence and joy of learning, music can increase student engagement across the board in all subjects. Think about using it to inspire them in other aspects of the arts, such as drawing.  



Perhaps a child doesn’t feel confident about drawing and creating. By using the Sing and Draw series that focus on drawing skills and letter formation through lyrics and music, it will give students the confidence they need to not only sing with their classmates, but the directions will help them develop the skills they need to succeed at creating something with their hands too.   


We’re on an alphabet safari,
drawing the animals that we see.
We’re on an alphabet safari.

O is for Owl, hooting, “Hoo, hoo!”
Start by drawing the letter O.
For the ears, add two triangles,
Add a large one below.


Creativity and music work together in such an unique way and by bringing literacy into this partnership, we are giving our students such a terrific learning and creative experience.


5. Music helps children stay focused on the important topics that we are teaching them. It also helps us draw them in when perhaps we want them to refocus them too. We can use music to redirect students and get them excited about what they learning and reading.  


One topic that is very important to teach all of our students in digital citizenship. We want to make sure we keep their attention so they understand the importance and safety involved.  



With Staying Safe Online from the Library Skills series, we can do just that! The lyrics and music, along with the thought-provoking, colorful illustrations, adds a lot of interest to the topic as they sing…


Your name, your age, or where you live
is not info that you should give.
Keep special dates, and passwords too,
as secrets that are just for you.


As you can see, music will turn anything into a rich learning experience. It will add interest and life to your library, classroom and all of the learning, reading, creating, and moving going on around you and your students.  


And one that will bring great happiness and wonderful noise to your library, classroom, and outside of the four walls of your building too.