Using Music to Tune In On Social Emotional Learning

June 29, 2017

Cantata Learning is so excited to debut a very special fall new series, Library Skills, that explores essential learning skills, supports social emotional learning, and correlates with multiple standards including ISTE, Future Ready, and 21st Century Learning—thanks in part to guidance from Shannon McClintock Miller. 

In celebration of this series, we once again collaborated with Shannon on an informational advertisement in the July 2017 issue of School Library Journal. It explores social emotional learning and music, and we are pleased to share this wonderful piece with you here. It will also be available soon on our site as a downloadable PDF in our Resources section. Enjoy!


Using Music to TUNE In On Social Emotional Learning
by Shannon McClintock Miller with Cantata Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) is a hot topic these days. Most educators would agree that SEL is important, after all, it encompasses the skills we all need to master in order to succeed in life. CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) further asserts that self-regulation develops rapidly in the early years and is critical in predicting overall educational success. No argument there! When it comes to incorporating SEL into young childrens’ education, music can give educators a clear advantage, and it can be fun for everyone to use this easy, engaging, and meaningful teaching tool.

Practice Makes Perfect
Learning—and applying—the essential social emotional skills we all need actually takes a LOT of practice. Many adults are still developing them! Kids need ample opportunities to learn and practice these skills in order to master them. That’s why it’s so vital for educators to be aware of incorporating SEL into their classrooms and curriculum on a regular basis. Music is one of the best (and most fun!) ways to do this.

Music Is the Key
From our earliest days, we learn and grow with music as we learn songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the ABCs. Scientists believe these musical interactions facilitate some of the brain’s earliest neural connections, laying the foundation for positive social emotional learning. Beyond infancy, music in the classroom has the ability to fully activate (light up) the brain, which allows for more engaged learning. When children’s brains are fully engaged, they are able to focus more, comprehend more, and retain and recall more. Learning—whatever the topic—becomes much more meaningful and impactful when incorporating music.

How Cantata Learning Can Help
This is why Cantata Learning is so passionate about creating books that incorporate music. These books are beautifully illustrated nonfiction titles for early elementary children. The stories cover the gamut of PreK-3 curriculum topics, and can be especially useful in ELL and special needs classrooms. They are well researched and well written. They include reading tips for parents as well as critical thinking questions and free lesson plans with extension activities for educators. But truly the best part is that every story is a song! Cantata Learning titles include amazing musical tracks to accompany the stories. Using these titles in your classroom or library not only helps to support the curriculum and engage deeper learning, but it also seamlessly creates fun opportunities for practicing SEL skills.

Research frequently indicates that music is a supportive tool for learning SEL. Click To Tweet

Learning In Harmony
In the classroom, engaging in a musical activity with others affords many opportunities for practicing SEL, which researchers note helps to build greater group cohesion, cooperation, and prosocial behavior. To me, incorporating Cantata Learning titles into that learning time is a no-brainer. Here are just a few of the ways these music-inclusive books can support SEL learning:

• Practicing musical skills such as rhythm, rhyme, starting, stopping, and anticipating all help to exercise components of self-regulation.

• Listening to a story read or sung out loud can help early readers build linguistic fluency and confidence.

• The act of making music with someone else requires students to practice active listening. This sets them up for communicating ideas of their own and in turn responding to their peers’ ideas.

• Singing together fosters a positive, open atmosphere where children seek to learn new things, respect diversity, and build connections with others.

Learning Out Loud In the Library
Nowadays, the library is often a busy, fun, and sometimes noisy collective learning space. It’s full of MANY ways for children to access learning. But it’s also important to acknowledge that more access also means more responsibility. Whether it’s believing fake news, experiencing cyber bullying, sharing sensitive information, or worse, where there is the Internet, pitfalls abound. The good news is that protecting our kids isn’t impossible. With education that includes practical knowledge and social emotional learning practice, our kids can develop the self-regulation and wherewithal to make responsible decisions when they are online.

Stay safe online by being smart.
Think with your head and with your heart.
Think with your heart. Stay safe online.
Don’t share too much. Only post what’s kind.
— lyrics from Staying Safe Online

On That Note
Because we already know that music is such an effective way to help kids remember and recall, it made perfect sense to create a series with Cantata Learning that will help kids stay safe and succeed in the library. Each book presents an essential library skill, set to catchy music that will make learning in the library something kids want to do! I invite you to check out the series now by visiting and searching for Library Skills. You’ll even be able to listen to each song! And stay tuned—Cantata Learning will be sharing more soon on SEL and ways to encourage student success all year long.