By Jacquelyn McDaniel, The Urban Educator (April 2017)

“Have Justin Beiber, Kanye West, and Lady Gaga unearthed a science to reel us in with their hooks; or are our brains’ memory systems simply easy prey for music?” (Emma Burns, 2011″)

smart shorts mulitplication coverSMART SHORTIES!

“Sevens”, a hip-hop multiplication song to the tune of Jim Jones rap “Ballin”.


Is there a “Jim Jones” in your classroom?25481d59f5a4c6857dda54a41d1a3825

It looks like it may be one in this class at CLAS. Check them out!

Culturally Relevant Teaching in Action?

Culturally Relevant Instruction Strategies such as using music to take away the fear of of standardized tests, is an excellent way to bridge the achievement gap between children of color and the dominant culture of power in America.

Fear is the greatest predictor of failure.

When students aren't confident in their ability to succeed, they become disengaged from learning content that will provide them with critical cognitive thinking skills necessary for achievement.

What is it about a melody that helps us memorize words and lyrics?


This can be explained by “earworms,” which are melodies that get stuck in your head.

Advertisers use this with catchy melodic jingles. If you find yourself walking around singing the Baby Back Ribs commercial, you are the victim of an earworm. (Keahey, 2008) The phenomenon has spanned the ages.   In 1882, Mark Twain wrote a short story of an annoying “jingling rhyme that became indelibly lodged in the author’s mind until he passed the curse along to another hapless victim (Kolver, 2003).  Rhythm and words, i.e. song and verse, have always been a very powerful memory aid, and this is supported by recent scientific research.

Why hasn’t music been viewed as a viable instruction technique?

Music helps us learn because it will– Music & Learningmusical intelligence 2

  • establish a positive learning state
  • create a desired atmosphere
  • build a sense of anticipation
  • energize learning activities
  • change brain wave states
  • focus concentration
  • increase attention
  • improve memory
  • facilitate a multisensory learning experience
  • release tension
  • enhance imagination
  • align groups
  • develop rapport
  • provide inspiration and motivation
  • add an element of fun
  • accentuate theme-oriented units

8 Ways to Integrate Music

How could you use music to instruct students in content that they deem irrelevant or challenging?



Advertisers explicitly understand how powerful music can be in getting the message across with brainwashing-like jingles and soundbites. By listening to these specially composed melodies with their rhythmic repetitions a few times, ineradicable the sound patterns are  burned into your auditory cortex.

Tap into Musical Intelligencemusical intelligenc

A large part of learning in general and language learning in particular is to do with the memorization of words, facts and other significant information. It’s a well known fact that we use only a fraction of our brain power and traditional book learning is now recognized as not suiting every learner. Music opens up and exploit more of the brain’s native power, and accelerates learning. Extensive research into the powers of music in the learning process, revealed that “music puts listeners into a state of relaxed alertness, the “alpha state”, the ideal state of consciousness for learning, and his tests were conclusive (Lozanov, 1970s).

earworm-doodle   Image result for auditory cortex  Researchers at Dartmouth College reported in the March 2005 issue of Nature Journal, that they had pinpointed the region of the brain where earworms ‘ or catchy tunes reside, the auditory cortex. They also found that the sounds and words that have actually been heard can be readily recalled from the auditory cortex where the brain can listen to them “virtually” again and again.

It seems may be a wonderful catalyst to the memorization of content.

Earworm-why is that song stuck in my head     Using earworms, catchy tunes, to learn content is a great example of culturally relevant education being embedded into instruction. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing: In the car, on your mp3 player, or while cleaning learning can take place at the same time. That’s how my daughter learned it. Instead of listening to the radio in the car on the way home. We’d listen to this. She’d also listen to it in the tub, on her mp3 player, or while cleaning her room. This was in 2nd grade. She is a teenager and  can still sing the entire song. Children are more intelligent than we give them credit. We just have to find ways to empower them so their intellect can shine.

Want to know a little more?

Williamson, V. J., Jilka, S. R., Fry, J., Finkel, S., Müllensiefen, D., & Stewart, L. (2012). How do “earworms” start? classifying the everyday circumstances of involuntary musical imagery. Psychology of Music, 40(3), 259-284.

Kraemer, D., Macrae, C., Green, A., & Kelley, W. (2005). Musical imagery: sound of silence activates auditory cortex.Nature434(7030), 158.

Beaman, C. P., & Williams, T. I. (2010). Earworms (‘song stuck syndrome’): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts.British Journal of Psychology, 101(4), 637-653.

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  so that you may…

Engage, Empower, and Emancipate!


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