Music can be used as themain activity in the classroom todeliver subject content, as it is motivating and inspiring. Here are some practical ideas from Sarah Todd, an AST at Stanchester School near Yeovil.

One line of a familiar tune can spark many ideas. Music can be used at any point in the lesson; a thought-provoking starter or a tool to inspire a review. Try musical microphones.Pass a microphone around the class as music plays and when the music stops, the person with the mike has to tell everyone what they have learnt today.

Alternatively, music can be used as the main activity for a lesson. Use the ready, steady, cook approach: your ingredients are 10 key words from a set topic. You will then need a tune or tunes from a Karaoke CD and in 25-30 minutes students have to come up with the lyrics that show they understand the set topic. The 10 key words must be included.

Here is one example, with the topic of ‘River Deltas’. Barry Manilow’s Lola gave a possible first verse, including four keywords, and the students completed the task with a further 6 keywords:

‘The name was Delta

At the mouth of the river

Here the sediment was dropped

The distributaries did not stop…’

Many pupils chose alternate tunes and were much better than our own!!! Familiar and popular tunes appeal to students, from ‘Old Mac Donald’ to ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams. Here is our top twelve for teaching Geography, although the ideas below can by adapted for any lesson topic:

  1. YMCA by Village People – great for Coastal Erosion using CASH instead of YMCA (Corrasion, Attrition, Solution, Hydraulic Action). We use hand and body actions to create the C A S H.
  2. Oops Upside Your Head by The Gap Band – for describing the features of a meander, with the lyrics adjusted by the Geography team at Stanchester. We use similar actions to the original, moving our arms to the left and right – with a little wiggle down the middle for helicoidal flow!

Say inside it deposits, outside it erodes

Say inside it is slow, outside it is fast

Pay attention now

Say inside it deposits, outside it erodes

Say inside it is slow, outside it is fast

Now I want all you rivers and meanders

You river bends and ox bow lakes

I want you all to

Say inside forms a beach, outside a river cliff

Say inside forms a beach,

outside a river cliff

Pay attention now

Say inside forms a beach, outside a river cliff

Say inside forms a beach, outside a river cliff

Now I want all you rivers and meanders

You river bends and ox bow lakes

I want you all to

Say inside it deposits, outside it erodes

Say inside it deposits, outside it erodes

Say inside it is shallow, outside it is deep

Say inside it is shallow; outside it is deep.

I say flow, flow on with a helicoidal flow…I say flow, flow, with a helicoidal flow….

3. The Lion Sleeps Tonight performed by Lebo M and Tight Fit and written by George David Weiss, Hugo Peretti, and Luigi Creatore. Once again, the Stanchester team has adapted the lyrics. This has actions too – arms above heads for emergent trees, at shoulder level for the canopy, at chest level for under canopy, at knee level for shrub layer and, finally, at the floor for forest floor.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

Emergent trees are tops

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

Emergent trees are tops

(Chorus)Rainforest

Amazon

Amazon

Brazil

4. Wouldn’t it be nice by the Beach Boys can be used to show how tourism can help an LEDC develop.

Wouldn’t be nice to have some money?

Maybe tourism can help us grow

Develop a better way of living

In the kinda world where we belong

5.We are the champions by Queen. Great for team motivation!

6. Heal the World by Michael Jackson. We used this in its entirety during our unit on the Geography of Disease.

7. Where is the love? by the Black Eyed Peas. We use the introduction for lessons on global problems.

8. Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheap, Cheap by Middle of the Road. This was inspired by an article we read about using music in maths (Ref 1); the opening line “Where’s Your Mamma Gone?” metamorphosed into “Where’s Your Polygon?”. Pop music it may be, but it undeniably has a snappy, catchy tune, According to the maths article, this simple line was swiftly mastered by the 12-year-olds singing along with the CD and, on the title line of the song, with rigid hands scything horizontally in front of them, they chorused “Straighty Straighty Straight-ee”. We use it for “Where’s your migrant gone?”.

9. D.I.S.C.O by Ottawan is great for any 5-word topic e.g. River, Delta

10. Yellow Submarine by The Beatles. Our students chose this tune for a topic on refugees. The song produced by one group in Year 9 was brilliant…here is a clip:

We all live in a refugee tent, a refugee tent’

From Sudan and Afghanistan, we ran and ran…

11. Mama Mia by Abba (using Karaoke CD to accompany the class).

Mama mia, here I blow again,

I am an active volcano

Mama mia, I am sleeping again dormant forever?

Yes I have been erupting,

but now I am completely

Finished and I am totally extinct…

12. Bob the Builder. This tune appears to work for a multitude of topics.

An example from Year 8 lesson on Geology:

Igneous, formed by fire,

Igneous, it is hard

Sedimentary, it’s got layers,

Sedimentary, yes it has.

Metamorphic has been changed

Heat and Pressure does the job…’

Music makes you feel good. It is a lot of fun in the classroom. All you need is a good CD player, the right tracks and a bit of courage. Go on, appeal to their musical intelligences …it is a great way to learn!

Useful websites Audacity is free software that allows you to edit MP3 files, although you need to download LAME (free too!) for it to work. It is really simple. Use any search engine and type in ‘Audacity’.

www.apple.com/uk/itunes/store. To legally download up-to-date tracks at a reasonable cost.

At Lycos, you can download tracks (oldies) free.

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, September 2005.

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