Our featured post today comes from one of fantastic Connectivity Conference presenters, Elizabeth Peterson.  

Music and literacy go hand in hand.

This may not seem apparent at first, but when you dig deeply, it’s amazing how many connections the two really have. Take the natural connection between lyrics and literacy.  Lyrics are the words in music and if you take lyrics of your favorite songs and recite them, you have poetry.  Most lyrics also often tell a story.  In many cases a song is a form of storytelling.

You may also quickly see the connection between music sound tracks and story lines or plots.  Often we can tell just by the music in a movie when something scary is about to happen.  The music enriches the drama on the screen and we wait in anticipation for something to happen.  In contrast, a feel good movie will have feel good music.  You may not even notice it is there, but the music is setting the atmosphere for the story line.

There is a great potential for teachers to use the motivating power music has to help students practice and understand reading and writing concepts and strategies.  Here are a few we will be discussing at the Music and Litercay webinar I will be conducting during the Connectivity virtual conference.

Read-Alouds and Listen-Alouds

The key to using music to help teach literacy is in drawing from what students already know and love–in this case, listening to music–and pointing out parallels between the two. A great way to bring this connection to the forefront of your students’ minds is to share listen-alouds just as you would read-alouds.

Read-alouds are used to share experiences, model good reading strategies, and build community. Music can be used the same way. When you share active listening experiences with your students, you are doing something special with your class, and as you listen, you can also model good skills that transfer to literacy.


Encourage students to close their eyes and describe what they imagine when they listen to music. Then draw their attention to how this parallels with reading. They may see abstract lines and colors, they may see a story unfold, or they may visualize the video that goes with that particular song. Visualization is a huge key to comprehension. And, practicing this skill with music can be a fun way to practice it.

The BME Rule

In my room I have a sign that says, “The BME Rule – Every Good Piece of Writing is Following It!” I refer to this rule throughout the year as we write, as we read, and as we listen to music. “Every good piece of writing (and music) has a beginning, middle and end,” I state. We listen to music and listen for the B, M, and E. Then, we transfer these concepts into our writing and reading. Doing this helps the concept stick. We even spend an entire week’s worth of listening time listening to the beginnings of pieces of music to understand how composers grab the listener’s attention, just as authors try to grab the reader’s attention at the beginning of a story.

Composition and Writing

These two processes are so similar!  What better way to explore the writing process than with music?!  Musical creation, or composition, is nearly identical to the writing process that we teach our students.  Composers go through the same stages of writing music as authors do with writing: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing.  You can bring these ideas to students’ attention. Or, better yet, provide the opportunity to go through the process by composing their own music.

Sometimes making students aware of these parallels can be powerful. It’s like showing them they have control over their own learning experiences while discovering how they use these skills and strategies with music. Providing these opportunities for your students can help them to understand what literacy is all about – enjoying a story, thinking about a story, and learning with and through a story, just as they do with music. When the students apply these literary concepts to music, things can become more clear.

I am excited to share more about these and other ways music can help your students with literacy.  For more on how to implement active listening experiences into your teaching, please check out this teacher resource book: Inspired by Listening 


Elizabeth Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com, where she blogs regularly on arts integration and other educational topics. Elizabeth is the author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented in her own teaching. She teaches workshops and offers courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and is looking forward to The Inspired Classroom’s annual Teacher Art Retreat where creative teachers will come together for some inspiring professional development.