4 Ways to Use Amazing Songs To Make Your Lessons More Attractive

Some of my earliest memories of school include singing songs and using chants to remember what I was learning. (A is for Apple, A, A, A is still imprinted on my mind!). Songs are a wonderful way to help students understand and remember different learning topics - so where can we find them and how can we used them in the classroom?

 
4 Ways to Use Amazing Songs to Make Your Lessons More Attractive
 

Luckily for us, we live in the time of the internet and YouTube! This allows us almost instant access to some amazing educational songs which we can play right to our classes. One of my favourite bands for educational songs is They Might Be Giants. They have a couple of educational albums including Here Comes the ABCs and Here Comes the 123s, but the one I've used the most is Here Comes Science - I have a strange love for their Solid Liquid Gas song!

 
 

Schoolhouse Rock is a classic example of educational songs for a reason - even outside of the United States it's likely that you've heard at least some of their songs. These songs were originally created when an advertising executive realised that his son could remember all the lyrics to songs even though he was having trouble remembering multiplication tables. There's lots of songs available covering a range of topics - in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

 
 

There are also a really wide range of teacher and student created educational songs! Some educators and classes have been incredibly creative with how they've explored a topic and they've been kind enough to share their creations with the internet.

 
 

But how can we use educational songs in the classroom?

1. Introduce New Topics and Gain Interest

Songs can be a wonderful way to introduce a new topic to a class. It may be directly connected to the topic you're going to be covering (like the Solid Liquid Gas song when you're about to explore solids, liquids and gases) or it might be indirectly connected (like protest songs when you're covering the Vietnam War and reactions to it). Students can just listen to the song, watch a music video or examine the lyrics. They may note new vocabulary, discuss what they think they're going to learn, or make connections to topics they've already covered or knowledge they already have.

2. Reinforce Facts, Events or Processes

Once students have been introduced to new topics or ideas, songs can assist in reinforcing them. This can be particularly useful for things which need to be memorised, like mathematical facts or formulas or historical dates. It may also offer an alternative way of looking at a topic - something which can be very useful for some students who are having difficulty with the way the material has been covered. 

3. Prompt Questioning and Further Exploration

While songs can definitely tell a story or provide information, their structure and length - and the fact that many are written for entertainment - means that inevitably parts are left out. This is great for us as teachers though, because we can use songs to prompt further questioning and exploration - did George Washington and Alexander Hamilton really have a close working relationship like they did in Hamilton? Why did Constantinople become Istanbul? What is the story told in From Little Things Big Things Grow?

 
 

Students can brainstorm these questions while listening to the songs, annotate on the lyrics of the songs or use a display board to add questions to as they learn more about the song and the events or ideas it describes.

Looking for a song about a historical event? This Genius list includes a lot of them - though not all would be appropriate for the classroom, so check them out first.

4. Create Your Own Songs

Can't find a good song for the topic you're covering? Then write your own (or ask your students to write one for you!)

Creating a song for your students, or having your class work together or in small groups to write songs can help to refine the topic you're teaching and really concentrate on what's important. Students need to show a really good understanding of the topic to create effective songs and the process can be a great way of clarifying and assessing what they know. 

Lots of teacher and student created songs begin as parodies of well known songs - this can make life much easier because you're not having to come up with the music or the rhythm of the songs - you're just fitting words into an already created structure. Some students (and teachers!) however, may enjoy the creative freedom of coming up with a brand new song.

This step by step guide is a great place to start if you're considering writing your own educational songs.

 
Using songs in the classroom - blog post from Galarious Goods
 

Whether you're just listening, taking an in-depth look at educational songs as part of your teaching or planning on becoming the next Schoolhouse Rock, educational songs are a great way of adding interest and memorability to your lessons. It's definitely worth trying to fit them into a lesson where you can.

Want to use educational song in Australian Government assessment? The Year 6 Creating Laws in Australia Assessment resource includes an educational song writing assessment task - perfect for any class examining how laws are made.

 
 

4 High-Interest Ways to make Law-Making Lessons Fun

(While avoiding role-playing!)

This post is totally inspired by a question I saw a few weeks ago - how do you teach law-making in Australia in an interesting and engaging way? How do you make sure students really understand the law-making process? How do you avoid the knowledge and understanding test and find other ways to assess student understanding.

So often you see role-playing as the only option put forward. However, although it's fun to pretend to be the Prime Minister, it's not always practical for time or space considerations. Or you may not have enough students to play all the needed parts. And some of the role-playing scripts out there are decidedly uninspiring or require a lot of explaining to allows students to understand what's going on.

So my goal was to offer an alternative! Four different ways to explore and assess law-making which don't include role-playing! (You can still pretend to be Prime Minister though)

 
4 High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun - by Galarious Goods
 

Create or Play A Game

Passing a bill through Australian Parliaments looks like a fairly straight-forward process to start with. However, input from different interest groups or departments, media reports, backlash from the voters or disagreements in the party room can definitely throw hurdles in the way. This makes it perfect to turn into a game. 

Once students understand the basic processes of how a bill is prepared for parliament and passes through parliament, they can brainstorm possible hurdles (or helps) and consider how they might make a game board. A snakes and ladders or beginning to end style game could work very well, as could a quest like game. Or students could turn it into a human size game using hoops, large dice and A4 sized cards.

Need a Passing an Australian Bill Activity? Get yours here.

Teacher Created Option: You could create a game board, or a series of game boards or card games yourself and have them available for students to play as part of rotations or small group work.

 
Create or Play a Game - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun
 

Create a Social Media Campaign

Social media is increasingly becoming a way to share information with other people, with government departments using it to teach citizens about new laws, important public service messages and other advice they might need. It can be fun to use the structures of social media to explore ideas in the classroom, especially when students have to think about what would be attractive or what limitations they might face.

Students can share information about law-making by making videos (like YouTube), image based posts (like Instagram or Snapchat), short text posts (like Twitter) or a mixture (like Facebook). They can start with the basic information and think about how it can be summarised, what information is most important and what is the most effective way to share it. Students can plan entire social media campaigns, or focus on one element of law-making or one style of social media.

Teacher Created Option: Present the law-making information to your students in the form of social media. You might like to collect videos, images or posts which students can work through to gather information, or create your own. This can be a great process for students to think about what information is important and what isn't!

 
Social Media Campaign - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun
 

Turn it Into a Song

I think almost everyone has seen the video about how a bill becomes a law in the United States. But what about governments outside of the USA? Educational songs are surprisingly big on YouTube, with professional musicians, teachers and students creating songs to share what they know (as well as some pretty awesome videos.) So turn it over to your students and ask them to create their own songs which share all they know about the law-making process. 

Get an assessment piece like this with supporting materials at the Galarious Goods shop

Teacher Created Option: Embrace your inner Lin-Manuel Miranda and make government processes interesting with your own song. I don't guarantee you'll have a Broadway musical out of it, though . . . 

 
Turn it Into a Song - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun
 

Museum Display

Museums are well known for collecting images, text, artefacts and interactive elements to share information with viewers. Challenge your students to explore one or more aspects of the law-making process by creating their own museum display. Students will need to think about what kind of images, text and artefact they might need and how they could include an interactive element, or something like video or audio. 

Get an assessment piece like this with supporting materials at the Galarious Goods shop

Teacher Created Option: A museum display on a noticeboard or a spare table can be a great way to spark questions and thinking, especially at the beginning of the unit. Students can identify vocabulary they might need, as well as information they would like to explore further.

 
Museum Display - High Interest Ways to Make Law-Making Lessons Fun