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How Does Music Inspire You and Your Students? March 16, 2017

By Shannon McClintock Miller

I loved school.

I remember a lot of things about my favorite classrooms and teachers growing up. One of the things that stands out most are those who played and used music: singing nursery rhymes in kindergarten; learning the states and capitals in 4th grade; and feeling artistically moved by The Doors and The Beatles during my art classes in high school and college. Music was so inspiring to me as a student and a person.  

In fact, that’s the theme of this year’s Music In Our Schools Month: Music Inspires.

It is so simple and meaningful, and it’s also something all of us can do within our libraries, classrooms, and homes to make a difference for the children in our lives. As we celebrate Music In Our Schools Month, I want to share how the beautiful songs and stories from Cantata Learning can bring that inspiration.  

Here are 10 ways Cantata Learning inspires:

Cantata Learning inspires singing, movement, and reading through stories and songs.

Cantata Learning inspires as it sets the tone by lifting us up or calming us down.

Cantata Learning inspires learning.

Cantata Learning inspires children to be responsible.

Cantata Learning inspires children to pay attention and focus.

Cantata Learning helps us embrace our uniqueness as well as our differences.

Cantata Learning inspires happiness.

Cantata Learning inspires children to feel safe.

Cantata Learning inspires teachers as they are teaching.

Cantata Learning inspires parents as they use the books at home.

My friend, Tracy Ferguson, who is a 2nd grade teacher at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa, uses Cantata Learning everyday to inspire her students:

My students smile every time they read and sing along with a Cantata book. They engage the students to want to read with their peers. The books may begin with a simple and familiar nursery rhyme or fairy tale, but goes so much further. My Cantata library is creative, loud, and fun for everyone in my class!  It is inspiring to all! Love, Learn, and Lyrics!

Music inspires in so many ways. It turns our libraries and classrooms into a celebration of learning, inspiring all of us to be ourselves, to be creative, to be excited about our voices, and to be aware.

Celebrate with Cantata Learning!

As we celebrate Music In Our Schools Month, we’d love to hear how Cantata Learning and music inspires your students too. Please use the hashtag #LoudLibraries to share your ideas and we will share all of these stories and tips in a Storify at the end of the month.

We want our children to embrace and remember the experiences we bring to them as teacher librarians, educators, and parents. In thinking about this, focus on the theme for Music In Our Schools Month and remember…

Music Inspires.



“Why Play Music-Adults.” NAMM Foundation. https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2014-06-01-why-play-music-adults.

“Music In Our Schools Month.” NAfME. http://www.nafme.org/programs/miosm/

How Teaching with Music Benefits Student Learning March 9, 2017

Contributed by Elizabeth Draper, Music Director for Cantata Learning

Instead of asking ourselves “why should we have music in our classrooms,” wouldn’t it be better to ask ourselves “why not?” Why wouldn’t music be an active part of a student’s learning experience? Music benefits learning in many different ways. Throughout human history and in most cultures, music and learning have gone hand in hand. Music is an effective way to engage and manage a classroom, promote listening skills, and encourage creativity and self-expression. It promotes social development and an emotional bond with those you are creating music with. Creating and listening to music causes the release of dopamine in our brains. Learning through music is an effective way to bridge subjects and comprehend larger concepts.


So, why not sing our lessons? Why wouldn’t we use music as a learning tool in our classrooms and libraries?

When learning a subject through music and song, our brains are using both of its hemispheres. This creates holistic comprehension as well as easier long-term memorization and recall. An integration of lyrics and melody in song is achieved through the combined action of two discreet systems for auditory-tonal and auditory-verbal working memory, based on a bilateral activation of the temporal and frontal cortex and of the supplementary motor area (Graham F. Welch http://www.imerc.org/papers/voxed/oup05.pdf).

I’m sure I’m not alone, but I’ve found songs to be the most effective mnemonic device. Can you imagine learning your ABC’s or all 50 states and capitals without the handy tool of song? Why not use melody, rhythm, and rhyme to learn other even more complicated concepts such as odd numbers, letter blends, or even coding?

In my experience, I also find that using songs as a way to introduce a new idea or topic is an effective way to engage kids. It’s almost a way of “tricking” them into becoming excited about something they otherwise may have dismissed as something they had no interest in. They are more apt to keep an open mind.

Cantata Learning has an amazing assortment of songs and books to aid in teaching and learning about a wide range of subjects through song. Chocolate Chimpanzees, which teaches about the “ch” letter blend, is one of my favorites. This book fuses global rhythms and a clever story filled with characters all focused around the “ch” sound. There’s even a “charango playing cheetah.” The charango, of course, being a string instrument from Peru. Not only can you cover the “ch” letter blend, but this book can also open doors to further discussion about South America, string instruments, and other cultures.

Another example, Cantata Learning’s She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain, is a really lovely version of a timeless classic. This recording features the 5-string banjo. The banjo itself can open a whole discussion involving a variety of subject areas.

  • Geography – the banjo is originally an African instrument. This can open doors to any discussion about Africa.
  • American history – it was introduced to America by slaves and then found it’s way into American folk music as well as early jazz.
  • Science and STEM – What is it made of? How does it create sound? Can we create our own string instruments? How is it similar to and different from the violin, which is also in this song?

See what I mean? The possibilities for critical thinking, discussion, and activities are truly endless when you incorporate song and music!

So, why wouldn’t you want to offer students the opportunity to learn through music?

Music’s Role in Supporting Social Emotional Learning In Children March 9, 2017

By Shannon McClintock Miller

When I was little, my mom would put me and my sister to bed by singing, “M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse.Heather and I would happily march upstairs when we heard her start to sing, almost every night, and sometimes even with our batons in tow. Our mom was a kindergarten teacher and she used that song, and many others she had up her sleeve, to help us develop our Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL.  

What Is SEL?

In the article “Social and Emotional Learning in the Performing Arts Classroom,” Wendy Hart Higdon states, According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, Social and Emotional Learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

SEL is a very important topic in education and within our libraries, classrooms, and school communities. Our children need to learn these skills in order to be successful in school and throughout life. We hear it often and need to equip ourselves with the knowledge and tools to support all of our students in their Social and Emotional Learning.  

One of my favorite ways to teach and foster SEL is by using music, stories, and songs, just as my mom did with me. We can use these tools to help children embrace the five competencies of SEL—which include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision making—in a variety of ways.  

Tying In Music

The music, stories, and songs from Cantata Learning do just that! Let’s take a look at how they are perfect for supporting the competencies of Social and Emotional Learning.

The Happy Moose book cover

Children will learn how to cope with their emotions by singing along to the stories in the Me, My Friends, My Community series. The Songs About Emotions set includes The Scared Elephant, The Sad Squirrel, The Mad Monkey, and The Happy Moose. These titles will guide students in learning ways to cope with their feelings, how to be friends and being kind to one another. The animals characters make these topics even more approachable and fun for children to talk about. The Caring for our Planet set show children how to be a positive part of a community through positive, upbeat songs and fun illustrations.

The School Time Songs series support classroom and leadership skills such as lining up, cooperating, sharing, listening and cleaning up. These skills are essential in being part of a group, getting along with others, and making friends. I love how the playful illustrations support these essential skills, along with the beautiful diversity of characters throughout each book.

Eldonna Skahill, the elementary guidance counselor at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa, uses both of these series with her students and teachers. Here’s what she has to say:

I use music so often in my elementary guidance classes. Catchy little tunes have helped us learn the Seven Habits of Happy Kids and have encouraged us to “Stop and Think” before making decisions. The students readily respond to music, they retain the information better, and the actions that go along with the songs engage them physically. Using music is a way to appeal to different learning styles. I’ve had parents tell me about hearing the songs at home, being “taught” the songs by their child, and then singing them together!

That really says it all!  

Looking Ahead

Because Social and Emotional Learning is such an important and essential topic in education, Cantata Learning and Capstone are hosting a webinar in the fall where we will take a deeper look at how stories, songs, music, and movement work together to support our children in the library, at school, and at home. They have created wonderful resources to support our students in their SEL development and so many other parts of their lives and learning. As we kick of a new school year, this will be perfect timing for taking a look at all these great resources and tying them in to our teaching practices.

Until then, remember this catchy Cantata tune as you work with your students this week…

When you’re mad, and you want to scream and shout,
take deep breaths and breath it all out.
Find a quiet place. Count to ten.
You’ll be a happy Monkey again.

It’s an easy little reminder and something that could stay with them forever, just as M-I-C-K-E-Y has stayed with me too.  



Me, My Friends, My Community: Caring for our Planet set. (2017). By Vita Jimenez. Illustrated by George Ermos. Music by Mark Oblinger. Cantata Learning.

Me, My Friends, My Community: Songs about Emotions set. (2016). By Jenna Laffin. Illustrated by Brian Hartley. Music Arranged & Produced by Erik Koskinen and recorded at Real Phonic Studios. Cantata Learning.

School Time Songs set. (2016).  By Jonathan Peale. Illustrated by Tom Heard. Music Arranged & Produced by Musical Youth Productions. Cantata Learning.

Social and Emotional Learning in the Performing Arts Classroom. National Association for Music Education (NAfME). N.p., 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

WRAD Wrap Up – 2017 Edition March 1, 2017

It goes without saying that for us, a day to build community and foster a love of reading among students is just about the BEST THING EVER. We LOVE the opportunity that World Read Aloud Day provides to collaborate, learn out loud, and share ideas!

artwork by Tim Palin

This year for #WRAD17, we joined together as #CantataTeam with several of our wonderfully talented contributors to celebrate with classrooms across the country. Let’s take a look at what happened.

In Washington State, musician Mark Oblinger orchestrated a special Skype session with Craig Seasholes’ students at Dearborn Park International School. The group sang (and marched) The Ants Go Marching. They also enjoyed Little Red Riding Hood, as well as spent some time exploring The First Lady of Civil Rights: Rosa Parks. The class had a blast with Mark and the way his music really brought each of these unique stories to life!

In Iowa, illustrator Luke Flowers Skyped with the 2nd graders at VanMeter Elementary. They had a great time exploring our all-new Read, Sing, Learn series about Magic E, as well as some old favorites.

And in Connecticut, author Blake Hoena Skyped with the 2nd graders at Jennings Elementary. They read Technology Is All Around You and sang Shoo, Fly, Don’t Bother Me. We are so happy to have helped bring this pairing to fruition—the students at Jennings Elementary are true Blake Hoena and Cantata Learning fans!

Meanwhile, General Manager Katherine Coughlan-Hobson Skyped with students at Franklin Elementary in North Carolina. They had so much fun singing and learning the signs to Happy Birthday. They even spent some time exploring their own creativity by making homemade instruments!

Cantata Learning’s Publisher Patricia Stockland started her day off with a Skype session with Carole Stubeck’s first grade students in New Jersey. They read and sang a couple of Fairy Tale Tunes together: Little Red Riding Hood and The Gingerbread Man. If only every day could start out with so much joy and #LoudLibraries fun!

Shannon McClintock Miller also participated on #CantataTeam at VanMeter, sharing with the students there what it was like to become an author for the first time. Her Cantata Learning books will be available this fall!

We had SO MUCH FUN celebrating reading with each of these wonderful school communities! We want to say a huge THANK YOU to each of them, as well as to our amazing authors, illustrators, and musicians who participated.

Above meeting so many engaged school communities, it was so inspiring to witness the power of music and its ability to ignite learning on so many levels. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate again! Make sure you register your school for #WRAD2018. If you’d like to partner with us for a different event in your school or library, we’d love to hear from you!

3 Ways Music Can Support Future Ready Librarians February 21, 2017

by Shannon McClintock Miller

There is a buzz in the air and it is that of Future Ready Librarians.  This amazing group is part of Future Ready Schools, supported by the Alliance for Excellence in Education, showcasing the leadership of teacher librarians within schools, libraries, and education globally everyday. Future Ready Librarians lift up these positions to lead the physical and digital transformation of learning and libraries, which we all know will make a difference within the lives of our students and throughout education.  

As Future Ready Librarians, we look for tools and resources to support this initiative and transformation. It is our job to bring engaging experiences and amazing products to our libraries that will support the learning that we want to take place. Music is one of these tools, with the ability to bring so many special experiences and celebrations to our libraries.

Let’s look at three ways music can support Future Ready Librarians and the communities that we serve by tying it into the wedges of the Future Ready Librarians Framework.

Music builds instructional partnerships

Future Ready Librarians partner with educators to integrate and develop experiences which promote deeper learning. Music can do just that! By tying in songs and stories that teach essential literacy concepts, such as those in the Sing, Read, Learn series from Cantata Learning, teacher librarians are supporting students and teachers as they build reading fluency. These instructional partnerships are essential in supporting students and language arts standards.

Music cultivates community partnerships

Future Ready Librarians cultivate partnerships within the school and throughout the community to support and cultivate lifelong learners. Music can bring these partnerships to life! For example, by presenting books in the Cantata Learning series Me, My Friends, My Community: Caring for our Planet, students will be engaged and get excited about concepts such as recycling, Earth Day, and planting trees. Music is a fun way to tie all of the pieces of a community together through a common song and theme when making a difference in these larger community concepts and causes.

Music supports collaborative spaces

Future Ready Librarians create and support flexible spaces which support creativity, promote inquiry and collaboration, and foster a sense of community that contributes to all learners. Music can be part of this collaborative space! It will generate a community which sings, celebrates, moves, and creates together. Music gives all students a voice and a chance to learn in a unique and special way. By bringing in books such as those found in the Fairy Tales Tunes series from Cantata Learning, students can sing and give new life to classic fairy tale characters and stories. What a wonderful way to celebrate these classics and support an important part of the language arts standards and early learning.  

As Future Ready Librarians, we have the power to make a difference.  One key way we can partner in making this difference come to life is through the mode of music. We can’t wait to see how you will use music to support your Future Ready Library too!  



Fairy Tales Tunes. (2017). Cantata Learning.  

Future Ready Librarians Framework.  (2016). Alliance of Educational Excellence.

Me, My Friends, My Community: Caring for our Planet. (2017). Cantata Learning.

Sing, Read, Learn. (2017). Cantata Learning.