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Tuning in to Teaching with Musical/Rhythmic Multiple Intelligence

Updated on July 29, 2014

Musical Multiple Intelligence

In 2011, I had the opportunity to teach my graduate studies classmates an instructional plan on how to incorporate the multiple intelligence of musical/rhythmic into a classroom. My presentation partner and I wanted to summarize the key points in the chapter, but also wanted to find interesting and engaging lessons in various curricula areas in which we could incorporate music. Although we both had ideas for how to incorporate music across the subject areas, we decided to divide our presentation where I would present math, science, and writing, and she would present reading, social studies, and Special Education. Incorporating lessons that we had done in our own classrooms, we brought these lessons to our colleagues’ attention. Within our presentation, I demonstrated how a language arts teacher could use music to inspire writing samples, how a math teacher could use music and rap to memorize mathematic facts and formulas, and how a science teacher could use music to enhance the learning of the students. These lessons were taught in a hands-on method, where each classmate had the time and opportunity to engage in the activity and present a sample of work.

Epitaph for Moonlight

The Presentation

The Starting Activity - Writing in Response:

  • Take out a piece of paper
  • While listening to a variety of musical samples, free write (for five minutes), changing mood as the music changes.
  • Write anything- draw a picture, write a poem, write a list, write a short story, as long as your pen/pencil is touching paper and reflecting upon what you are hearing…

The Musical Learning Process:

  • Create a musical environment using music as background to calm, energize, relax, reflect, focus attention, make transitions, and provide a positive atmosphere.
  • Studies show that background music can enhance reading comprehension, study skills, and cognitive development.
  • Music can be beneficial to use during independent work time and for test taking.

Benefits of Music in the Classroom:

  • Reduces stress
  • Makes tasks seem easier
  • May alter moods in a positive way
  • Makes learning repetitive facts fun and easier to memorize
  • Can often pair with movement for a kinesthetic learning experience
  • Promotes creativity
  • "Neuroscientists have examined the benefits of a concerted effort to study and practice music…and they have found that music lessons can produce profound and lasting changes that enhance the general ability to learn…Studies have shown that insidious instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature to tensor calculus. The musically adept are better able to concentrate on a biology lesson despite the racket in the classroom, or a few years later, to finish a call with a client when a colleague in the next cubicle starts screaming at an underling. They can attend to several things at once in the mental scratch pad called working memory, an essential skill in this era of multitasking. Discerning subtleties in pitch and timing can also help children or adults in learning a new language…Research of our brains on music leads to the conclusion that music education needs to be preserved."
  • The Editors, “Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind”; The Scientific American, October 26, 2010

Musical Discussions:

  • Use a wide variety of styles and solo, group, vocal, and instrumental
  • Work to actively listen
  • Discuss: Imagery, Feelings, Patterns and Repetitions, Enjoyable Aspects, What was the composer hoping to convey? When could the music be played? Does it sound like another song? Could you dance to it? Could you sleep to it? Could you study to it?

Musical Notations:

  • Can't read music? Make it up!
  • Example: “Epitaph for Moonlight” – composer Murray Schafer asked a group of middle school students to brainstorm words for moonlight. He composed the music in non-standard notation with minimal comments about chromatically moving by half-steps, and using pictorial representations for scoops, swirls, whispers, trills, and nonsense words sung, such as “Shalowah”.

Create Curriculum Songs:

  • Teacher written
  • Student written
  • Group effort
  • Search online

Music For Skill Building:

  • Musical Spelling – label the keys of the piano (A-Z), student learns to spell by playing the appropriate keys and remember the melody.
  • Enhance learning skills with background music
  • Teach reading musically- reading in rhythm or using songs, choral readings
  • Use popular music to enhance language skills and help ELL students
  • Music across the Curriculum to enhance all subjects

Jump Start Creativity With Music:

  • Use music to inspire
  • Write to music
  • Design/create (art) to music
  • Use music to enhance storytelling
  • Add music to a book trailer to show its mood and tone
  • Create a soundtrack to go with a book
  • Write a musical about a historical event or scientific discovery
  • Write a math rap
  • Create/Make a musical instrument and play as a class band


Fifty Nifty United States

Music in the Content Areas

Music In Reading and Grammar:

  • Vocabulary
  • Rhyming
  • Fluency
  • Intonation
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Comprehension
  • Activity: Aerobics A-Z, Stephen Traugh, 1992, Kiducation
  • Activity: Elements of Story Telling:
  • Youtube has tons of videos on grammar, figurative language, mood and tone. It is truly a treasure trove!

Music in Math:

  • Using songs and raps to enhance the math classroom
  • Teacher raps to or with class
  • Make your own music video
  • Students write their own rap from an existing rap (can be parody or other)
  • Students write their own original rap with specific math facts/ formulas included
  • Classroom performs together
  • Songs:
  • Perform with me: MATH MATH BABY

Math, math baby (repeat two times)

Alright, stop-write it down and listen

Math is back with its brand new division

Pencil, grab a hold of it tightly

Put it to the paper and write it down nicely

We got it down, yo, let’s go

Take your time—go slow

There’s no problem that we can’t handle

We’re so bright, like a flame on a candle

Area is pi r-squared

We’re so tight that the nerds are scared

Sum is the answer to addition

We’re so cool like a great mathematician

Add or subtract, you better get it right

Hey you guys—I’ve seen the light

Check my circumference—it’s so round

We ain’t ever gonna touch the ground!

Math, math baby (repeat)

(6th grade math class, 2008-2009, school website)

  • Sing with me: Two Little Songbirds (To the Tune of I See the Moon) Elementary Math (K-1)

Two little songbirds birds sitting on a wall. (Fingers horizontal, thumbs up)

One named Peter, the other named Paul. (Wiggle thumbs as named)

Fly away, Peter, fly away Paul. (Flutter hands behind back)

Come back Peter, come back Paul. (Bring hands back as before)

Music in Social Studies:

  • Sing "Fifty Nifty United States",
  • Learning About the Underground Railroad
  • Activity: A Man Named King, Greg Scelsa, 1989, Little House Music
  • Write a song or musical about a historical event
  • Watch a musical about a historical event 1776, Les Miserables, Unsinkable Molly Brown, Newsies, Titanic, Parade, Jersey Boys, Hairspray, The Civil War,

Music in Science:

  • Write a song to memorize facts
  • Sing the elements song from Animaniacs
  • Create your own music video

Write a Musical:

  • Since it is hard to compose music if you don’t know the proper notations and how to transcribe the notes on manuscript paper, here are some simple steps I use in my classroom.
  • 1. Start simple- write lyrics for an already existing melody.
  • A. Write a rap song
  • B. Write a parody to a Christmas carol
  • C. Write a blues song (Blues chords I I I I V V I I IV I I)
  • 2. Work with Dialogue.
  • Choose 3 songs from one singer/group (for example, the Beatles).
  • Write a plot outline around the songs.
  • Connect the songs through dialogue. Choreograph, block, learn lines, costume, design sets, and perform.
  • Within the curriculum, write a topical musical. Give students lists of facts or everything from a chapter of the text. Each student group gets a public domain song. Each group writes lyrics for their song with the facts they need to include. Any fact not included becomes a line of dialogue. Connect the songs into a plot line. Choreograph and block. Add Costume and sets. Rehearse and perform
  • Musical Ideas: In Literature- students choose music selections that would enhance the story/book they are currently reading.
  • In Social Studies- students write a historical musical/opera about a specific event
  • In Science- students write a song about the solar system. (Activity: each group received a packet of information on planets, meteors, comets, and the sun. They also received a song sheet of a popular melody. They had to write lyrics of important facts on their topic and present to the class. From there, they linked it into a short musical.)

Music in Other Areas:

  • The use of music works well with a variety of students and ability levels
  • Not only can it be used with students who are gifted, music has a profound effect on students with disabilities
  • Can be used to teach social skills
  • Can be used to teach diversity
  • Can be used to help bilingual students
  • Can be used as a reward.
  • Can even accompany a class while they test or work on an assignment.
  • Songs: Friends, Greg Scelsa, 1983, Little House Music
  • Songs: The World Is a Rainbow, Greg Scelsa, 1978, Little House Music
  • Resources:

Various Songs Found:

  • Rise up Singing – Amy Patterson and Peter Blood, 1992 (1,200 songs)
  • The Green Book of Songs by Subject: the Thematic Guide to Popular Music” – Jeff Green, 2002 (35,000 songs)
  • Sing a Song for Science –Kathleen Carroll, 1998
  • Count and Move, Steven Traugh, 1991, Kiducation
  • Piggy Bank, Greg Scelsa, 1979, Little House Music
  • B-A Bay, Steven Traugh, 1992, Kiducations

What is YOUR Multiple Intelligence?

See results

The Elements Song

Student Written: Baby Got Math

Teacher Written: Math Rap

My students HATE this, but then they end up singing it in the hallway

My students absolutely LOVE this for mood and tone

Teaching Similes and Metaphors


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    • profile image

      Tamara Moore 

      21 months ago

      I love watching musicals! I must have watched Mary Poppins about 12 times! :-)


    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      2 years ago from Sunny Florida

      @DaisysJourney wonderful Hub. I agree completely that bringing music into the classroom does help the learning process. I can still remember a little song my anatomy professor taught to years ago following a drop of blood through the body.

    • DaisysJourney profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      It might be easier for those of us who have musical intelligence as our multiple intelligence. I would be HORRID at teaching a spatial

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Grazi for mankig it nice and EZ.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Wait, I cannot fathom it being so stgthriaforward.


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