These days, music isn’t just for music class. At least, it shouldn't be.Over the last decade music instruction has become a darling of neuro-cognitive research (even as access to musical arts remains under threat in many U.S. schools). It has been linked to improved mathematical reasoning, fine motor skills, memory, and overall academic performance. Musical experience has even been shown to “help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety”- important aspects of one’s social-emotional toolbox.
The benefits of music have been demonstrated across all ages and socio-economic groups. But the advantages may be especially important for middle schoolers. This is a period of great transition- not only with “the big move” from elementary school, but also with the changing physical and emotional self.
“One of the hardest things to go through [as a pre-teen or teen] relates to emotions and how to process them,” explains Capstone Music. “Being able to use music to help work through topics like family and peer pressures, academic expectations, friendship and social dynamics, and other even more difficult things can help a young mind grow and thrive.”
Ramping up our efforts to teach music during the middle school years can have lasting positive impacts like higher graduation rates, lower substance abuse risk, and greater social emotional wellbeing.
But capitalizing on the power of music instruction requires a whole-school approach. One that is nurtured by- but doesn’t stop at- the music classroom.
There are many ways to integrate music into the middle school learning day. Try creating a class playlist to build community, inspire learning, or center concentration. Perhaps have students explore song lyrics as part of a poetry analysis. Explore history via the popular music of the time. Or, have groups of students make up their own lyrics to a popular song that explain complex topics, like how to define and apply the Pythagorean Theorem.
Tech options like QuaverMusic can also help carry music instruction to other content areas. QuaverMusic is a cloud-based general music curriculum to support teachers and students in every learning environment. Quaver’s resources are all supported by a deep understanding of the power of music as a catalyst for learning.
In dedicated music classes, QuaverMusic engages students in playing instruments, singing, and moving, allowing students to build on concepts year after year.
It’s Quaver’s approach- which leans on music, humor, storytelling, and movement- that offers such strong crossover appeal for general content teachers.
“The connection to the emotional cortex of the brain is why music is so powerful and such an integral part of our teaching approach”, says Quaver. “That’s why our lessons use music to connect to grade-appropriate concepts in academic, social, and emotional arenas and provide ample opportunities for classroom teachers to connect their lessons to musical concepts as well.”
Maybe you choose to use music as your classroom timer. You might decide to teach fractions using music notes. Or you might engage students using interactive technology like QuaverMusic. Whatever your approach, make it a point to make room for a bit of music throughout the learning day.
After all, “the benefits of music education not only show how music can benefit children now, but how it goes hand-in-hand with their preparation for future endeavors,” says Jenny Silverstone for the New England Board of Higher Education. “When allowed to work in harmony with other subjects and areas of study, music helps children grow in self-esteem, build essential skills and prepare for bright futures.”