New research on music that boosts social and emotional skills

Dr. Mac Psychologist/Singer/Songwriter

Hi everyone-

I'm new here but just wanted to share the following:

A research and intervention project has taken place in the Santa Barbara, CA schools to help children boost their social and emotional skills. Using the award-winning songs and activities of Ready to Rock Kids, 320 first and second grade children from sixteen classrooms in the Santa Barbara schools were involved. The children each received a CD of the songs, and in a subsequent condition, college students were trained to provide forty-minute lessons using the songs and activities on nine Friday afternoons.

The lessons included the following themes:

1. Friendship and Reaching Out
2. Respect and Caring
3. Celebrating Differences
4. Expressing and Managing Feelings
5. Communication and Conflict
6. Positive Thinking
7. Dealing with Fears
8. Best Effort
9. Manners and Review

Some of the most significant improvements found for both first and second graders were in “encouraging others to do their best,” as well as following rules in the group. There were also positive changes with confidence. First graders showed more dramatic changes than second graders, learning skills in approaching peers, using effective tools with teasing and bullying, understanding and using the Golden Rule, resolving conflicts by talking out feelings, staying on task, having a positive attitude, and applying concepts learned from Ready to Rock to every day situations. Parents were also enthusiastic about the project, loved the messages of the songs, reported that the kids listened frequently to the CDs, and that the project prompted meaningful and helpful family discussions.

Comments (7)

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Music educator and professional development trainer based in Hampshire, UK.

Creating Emotional Intelligence Opportunities in General Music

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There are many significant benefits that music education offers the development of SEL skills. My articles connecting mmusic and SEL can be read at

Michael Griffin

PlusTime NH

Lesson plans

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This sounds effective and fun. Do you know where I could find more information about which songs were used and the lesson plans attached to them?


Hi Katrina- If you are

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Hi Katrina-

If you are interested in the specific songs and activities, please email me at and I would be glad to forward them to you. You could also call me at 805-969-6041.

This is awesome! I'm so glad

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This is awesome! I'm so glad to discover it, and to see that Santa Barbara is involved. Music has a unique power, and this is a beneficial use of how schools can make effective changes in student behavior, without a lot of specialized training. Thank you for your creative efforts and for sharing.


Thank you so much for your

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Thank you so much for your interest. The songs and information is all on my website at If you would like the specific lesson plans we used in the research (for use in the classroom,) please email me at

High School Language Arts /AP teachers

background music in the classroom

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Do you know of further research in using background music in the classroom to improve SEL and learning in general? I teach hs language arts, and always have Baroque/chamber, piano, string, classical music of some sort playing in the background. I would like to be able to quote and support my use of this music with further research.

Thank you.

Director of Special Services, New Milford School District

Book music's impact on the brain/emotions

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Daniel J. Levitin's book, This Is Your Brain on Music, highlights the latest scientific reseach on how music impacts the brain. Related to SEL, he details how music positively impacts certain neuro-transmitters (dopamine and serotonin which directly impact emotions) in the brain. If you are interested in neuro-science and music I would recommend the book.

On another note, for those of you interested in neuro-science, a must read is John J. Ratey's: Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In short, it details how exercise impacts learning and mental health.

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