George Lucas Educational Foundation

New research on music that boosts social and emotional skills

New research on music that boosts social and emotional skills

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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 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.

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Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Dr. Mac - thanks for the info! It's great to hear that people are taking the connection between the arts and learning.

Of course, we from the "School House Rock" (SHR) generation have known the connection between music and learning for years - we're living proof! How many of us understood conjunctions, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, and nouns better due to SHR?! Stand up if you had a better understanding of how a Bill became a Law after watching SHR! Let's hear it for "Mother Necessity" and the "Shot Heard Around the World"!

In 7th grade, we had to recite the preamble to the constitution. Piece of cake for us! We all had known it since we were little kids thanks to SHR! The only condition: our teacher wouldn't let us sing it. Head bobbing was permitted, thank goodness!

Stephen Hurley's picture
Stephen Hurley
Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman

Thanks for the information Dr. Mac. I would love to know more about the types of lessons that the college students engaged in with the students. Did the program come with prewritten lessons, or did the college students write as well as teach the lessons?

Welcome to the group!


Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Now Playing>>
Band: CSNY
Record: DEja Vu

I'm interested as well. When a teacher in training steps into a real classroom it seems that they need a manual to teach. (Some never kick the habit) I'd like to see more lesson writing in college that focuses on the teacher as well as the student.(Practical over the Theory) What does the teacher bring to the lesson? What passions can they show? Transfer?

I heard Bruce Coville, Sci-Fi kids author, speak at a conference. His first words:" If anyone is crazy enough to let me run a school, the first question i would have for teacher candidates would be...What are you passionate about?" I think he got a standing O.


Stephen Hurley's picture
Stephen Hurley
Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman

And when you talk about passion, you also have to talk about suffering. So, what are you willing to suffer for in this profession? What will you go to the wall for?

I think that many teachers come to their teacher preparation program with a whole lot of passion, but I think we need to ask what happens to that passion as they move out into full time practice. For some, I suspect the fire is fuelled; for others, it is extinguished. Lots of stuff in between, as well...


India Hester's picture
India Hester
India Hester is a dedicated 4th grade teacher from Selma, Alabama.

I have introduced music within my classroom to motivate students to learn their multiplication fact. It worked wonderfully. I stumbled upon a CD with familiar rap song music. Instead of the actual rap song, children sang the multiplication facts to the music. My students absolutely enjoyed and learned. I passed this CD along to other teachers and received positive feedback from each one. Music is very useful and helpful in education.

Dr. Mac's picture
Dr. Mac

For the research that we did in the schools, we expanded upon the lessons that are in the activity books for Ready to Rock Kids. There are a couple of songs that are tailor made for each of the specific themes listed in my original post. Although I trained the college students to provide the lessons, teachers nationwide seem to be taking off with lessons of their own that fit with the songs...

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Here's some more recent information that may help you make your case to save/increase art/music education in the classroom:

"A recent study as described in Science Daily has concluded that music education helps kids learn how to deal with noisy classrooms and picking up on subtleties in spoken language. It helps the brain stem become more sensitive to sound stimuli. The article goes into much more detail about this phenomenon, so I recommend reading it. Just take a look at how the skills kids learn in music classes can connect with verbal communication.

* All that practice getting in tune with their neighbor and with various instrument sections across the room.

* Listening for and recreating rhythms, either in unison or in contrast with other rhythms.

* Understanding how everything coordinates together to make a sound much greater than the sum of the individual sounds."

Christine Termini Passarella's picture
Christine Termini Passarella
Founder of The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education

This is terrific. I have witnessed how music affects children profoundly. As more and more educators connect their work to research coming from neuroscience then music will be a natural tool to help make education as exquisite as it should be. Check out the book This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. Here is a brief audio of Dr. Levitin on NPR.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

I have lived/worked in NYC and LA. I have traveled to Paris and London. And, I have taken every moment and every penny to attend every museum and orchestra and film I could. I am very fortunate that I attended schools where art and music was taught daily. This WAS California, at a time gone with the wind......

I teach a Arts Appreciation Class to 8th graders. I intertwine all the arts I can possible squeeze into Language Arts 7/8. I show films to impact Genocide and Civil Rights.

I know what I do in the classroom has a life long and profound effect to each student. The music I play all day is forever imprinted in their memory. When I show and teach THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and the students want to play it over and over, I know from classroom experience that THE ARTS ARE THE GREATEST GIFT I CAN GIVE. Now THE PHANTOM will be in LA in OCT and I have reserved seats and my students are buying them!! These are not A students. These are tough city kids, who swore "who wants to see opera, that's dumb and boring." We pull our hair out to get them to do homework and to challenge them to go to the library.

I show them "La Strada" by Felina to teach Pathos. They get it. They are stunned. The punch is in their stomach. I let them sit silently in pain. The film teaches it all. I have them write the next day. They truly cannot speak. One boy says the best: "That's messed up."

When reading "Anne Frank" I show "Life is Beautiful." Traveling again to Italy my students cannot believe that they are able to laugh and cry. They see hate. They are angry. I do not have to teach bigotry. They get it. They write.
I show them Chaplin and other silent films. They complain. And, within 2 days they are hooked. Now, 4 months later they are telling other new students in the class "There is NO ONE LIKE CHAPLIN, YOU'LL SEE." I watched them laugh like crazy viewing THE MARX BROTHERS. They begged for more. What more of a gift for me, the teacher, than to watch a group of mostly dis-advantaged 13/14 year olds, laugh their heads off, and then after school come and give me a high five, cuz my class is the best class they ever took. But, remember, none of them wanted to see black and white silent films, or opera, and now next week it's the 60's MUSICALS......they will say NO to that.....even tho they trust me.

I read the research. I get up every morning because I love my students and I LOVE the arts. I know that I am up against the ignorance of many people who have never had the opportunity to experience the pathos, the laugh-til-you cry comedy, the Broadway live musical. I know that I have introduced the beauty of the History and the Art of Film to many children, and they will never be the same. The tragedy is, that this is not required here in Southern California, the HOME of Hollywood.

I do not suffer because I am passionate. My students get my passion because they are with me and they see my passion for the arts. The suffering is the people without the arts and who lack passion for life. I have learned they are seeking life in other ways and afraid of the arts. Most people do not know or even care what I do in my classroom.I live life passionately and to some I am vivacious and interesting. To others I am doing nothing but "showing movies and wasting time at museums with old paintings." Perception is reality.

Charlie Chaplin said it all in MODERN TIMES, in 1933, that we were going to all be robots. My 8th graders, some who may barely graduate from JHS, got that in a heartbeat. I encourage them to bury themselves in books, paintings, ALL music and ALL films, and work more in HS. After all, there really is a living to be made in the arts.

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