Friday, 27 July 2012


I'm thrilled to report that my daughter, TNT (The New Teacher) is LOVING teaching!

She's very fortunate to be experiencing work in various classes and schools, before heading off overseas to do some volunteer work for 3 months. For now, we're really enjoying sharing teaching ideas, resources, and the inevitable classroom stories and observations.

TNT shares my firm belief in the endless benefits of song-based learning (how could she not?) and enthuses about the positive impact and results, whenever she has incorporated songs into her own teaching day.

As a teacher myself, it delights me to see my own daughter, not only so enthusiastic about helping children to learn, but about helping them to ENJOY and be INVOLVED in their learning, through song, and arts integration in general. This bodes well for a new generation of teachers and learners! 

Image: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs

 Evidence abounds, that active participation in music can help children in a number of key curriculum learning areas – literacy and numeracy, social and team skills, problem solving and memory, just to name a few.

This particular post will be focusing on the use of song for literacy extension.

‘Through literacy you can begin to see the universe. Through music you can reach anybody. Between the two, there is you, unstoppable.’ ~ Grace Slick

The rhythmic nature of songs has particular appeal to children, making them particularly useful resources, when it comes to auditory learners.

Image: Facebook ~ Life's a Dance

Song lyrics not only tell a story, they can be can be rich in vocabulary and imagery, providing a perfect platform for building phenomic awareness and firm foundations for literacy, in the emerging reader.

Singing songs is invaluable for engaging and focuses children's attention, while contributing towards their imaginative and emotional development, and helping them to make meaning out of things that happen in our world.

Songs, chants, poems, and raps all improve memory of content facts and details and provide a hook for retrieving information easily later.

  • The use of rhyme builds connections and relationships between words and concepts thereby creating context and meaning. Students hear the cadence of the rhyming word patterns and word segments
  • The use of rhythm turns what is being heard (the beats/syllables), into a kinesthetic sensation – it becomes an experience that is felt all over the body.
  • The use of repetition helps to reinforce concepts and “stick” them in the memory bank!

Below, are a few very simple tips for achieving learning outcomes for literacy: 


  •        Play the song through a few times

  •        Deconstruct the lyrics, pondering on their possible meaning and message

  •        Listen for rhyming couplets/repetition of chorus/different instruments, etc.
  •        Identify parts of the song: Intro, Chorus, Verse, Bridge

Image: Life Quotes and Sayings

  • Silent reading of lyrics

  • Identify and discuss the key theme of the song – often summarized in Chorus
  • Comprehension Sheet
, comprising questions based on lyrical content

  • Students read lyrics aloud with expression, to get a feel for the rhythm of the language

  • Compare reading a poem/song to the way one would read other text types, e.g. Newspaper or story

  • Discuss the poetic elements of song

  • Students recount some of the key messages in the song

  • Students develop a word bank of key words, to be displayed and added to as a unit of work progresses
  • Research and write dictionary definitions of key words and use in sentences
  • Write a list of the Rhyming Couplet
  • Compose a cloze passage
  • Create own verses to add to the song

Image: Facebook ~ Guitars in the Classroom


  • Students discuss the use of punctuation in the song lyrics
  • Research the rules of punctuation and grammar in poetry, noting the way it differs from that    of 
other text types 

  • Discuss the use of grammar in the song to convey mood/meaning and create effect
  • Research the rules of punctuation and grammar in poetry, noting the way it differs from that of other text types.  For e.g. the use of capital letters at the beginning of each line.

Image: Photobucket

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 CASE STUDY: Teacher/Librarian, Cherie, finds song lyrics excellent for engaging her students and extending their Literacy. ‘My students used to ask me why we were singing in Library time, until I explained to them that we’re actually studying poetry.
There is a lot to be learned from reading and discussing the lyrics of curriculum-based songs, plus, we get a lot of enjoyment from singing the song together, reinforcing learning content.’

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In my next post, I will be demonstrating the ease with which song can be utilized, to integrate learning across other key areas of the curriculum.
Yours in Singing to Learn,
Nuala  ♫ 

Blog learning content: ©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff
KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson In Every Lyric' ®

Thursday, 19 July 2012


'In the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.’ ~ Plato  

                                                              (Image: Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs)        
My first-born daughter started school this year – as a TEACHER!

There was great excitement in our house, as we waved her off, and were thrilled to receive a text message from her at recess time, to say she LOVES her job and the other teachers are SO nice!

It seems like only yesterday, I made the same journey into my first classroom, as the actual teacher, brimming with excitement, enthusiasm and a passionate desire to help children learn.

I am still, if not more passionate about teaching, and feel so privileged to be able to pass on the benefit of my knowledge and experience to my very own child!

In my previous post, I shared my personal childhood experience of learning through song, and I will go to my grave (hopefully not for a long time yet!) espousing my firm belief in the importance and endless benefits of song-based learning.

This multi-sensory activity helps children to learn because it activates and exercises the WHOLE brain.

Singing is a very powerful medium for so many reasons. Songs can tell stories, convey important messages and information, espouse values, aid recall, create unity, and extend literacy, through rhyme, rhythm and vocabulary, and on and on.

The big plus for teachers, is that singing is FUN, so it’s almost guaranteed to attract disengaged students!

(Image: Facebook: Music Teacher's Helper)

The influence of song across the human lifespan is undeniable.

From an early age, children are introduced to nursery rhymes and other educational songs that assist with early language development and social skills. There are numerous songs teaching everything from the alphabet, number sequencing and animal names, to the weather, personal hygiene and months of the year.

As children grow older, songs infiltrate their daily lives via television shows, jingles, radio, films, interactive computer games and pop culture. 

As teenagers they listen passionately to “their” music on stereos and iPods, avidly following their music idols and aspiring to be legends in their own right.

I know that I’m not alone, when I say that rhythm helped me to learn and remember (even to this day) my Times Tables. I can only IMAGINE the difficulty of trying to order (let alone remember) the 26 letters of the English Alphabet, without the aid of rhythm and melody!

Music is the one truly universal language. It has no barriers of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

It is the language of today’s youth, and Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America went as far as to say,  “…The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” (I live in Australia but the same principle applies!)

Song is one of the most powerful resource tools we have at our disposal for helping children learn, making it such a shame that so many teachers balk at using it in the classroom, citing reasons such as lack of talent, confidence, time, etc.


The GOOD news is that we don’t need to be able to sing like Adele or Pavarotti (or indeed, be able to sing at all), to provide children with the many benefits of this learning medium. Nor is the time factor relevant, as the right song choice can actually cut learning time in HALF, and ensure retention of the content being taught.

There is no reason for music to be the reserve of the specialist music teacher (if there is one). Modern technology, i.e. the good old-fashioned CD player or smart board puts daily music integration for learning, within the reach of ALL educators!

Weaving relevant songs into lessons is not only fun, it can help to achieve learning outcomes across the curriculum.

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

  • Setting the mood for the day
  • Introducing and summarizing new units of work
  • Kick-starting discussion
  • Reinforcing learning content
  • Extending literacy
  • Assembly & performance pieces

  •      Be intentional about the use of songs in your classroom
  •      Select, a song that best suits your needs and use it to introduce lesson
  •      Older students often respond better to songs from the Rhythm and blues, hip-hop and dance genres
  •      Younger children like anything catchy and repetitive

  •      Play and listen to song - Repetition! Repetition! Repetition!
  •      Read through lyrics, then read along while song is played
  •      Unpack and discuss the lyrics, line by line
  •      Define new/difficult words
  •      Maximize participation by learning chorus first
  •      Sing the whole song
  •      Move to beat

  •      Play simple body/music percussion (clap, click, tap, stamp…)
  •      Allow students to bring in their own CDs

In my next post I will be sharing tips and suggestions for using songs to extend literacy and achieve outcomes for comprehension, talking, writing and grammar.

Until then, I'll leave you with these inspired word from Plato, who said:

Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.’ 

Yours in Singing to Learn,

Nuala  ♫ 

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During the Middle Ages, few workmen, could read or write, so they relied on songs, rhymes and chants, to help them to be organized to build the great cathedrals of the world. 

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