Fifth Grade Grooves: How Music Brought Joy to Our Classroom this January


I love music. I spent most of the 80s by my boombox with my finger set on the record button ready to push down when a favorite song came on. Maybe it’s the hours playing, and rewinding that tape so I could jot down lyrics, but put on an 80s song and chances are, you’ll catch me singing along.

Music has the power to lift me into a joyful state so when I declared “JOY” as my one little word for 2022, I decided to see whether music could lift the energy in my classroom as well. And boy did we need an energy boost from the deep freeze that was this January! So, on the coldest mornings, I welcomed students to our classroom with the reggae beats of Bob Marley. The fact that most of my students have never set foot on a tropical island didn’t matter. The rhythm magically warmed our spirits.

Fifth Grade Grooves

Bringing Bob to the classroom was just the beginning. On the first Friday in January, I announced that we would play a game called “Flop or Bop”. Here’s how it works: I play a short section of a song and the class votes on whether it is a “flop or a bop”. I played songs I knew students would like and snuck in several from my boombox days. If the majority declared it a bop, I added it to our Spotify playlist entitled “Fifth Grade Grooves”. The students had a blast! Even my students who struggle with positivity were different that day. They were lighter, complained less and even cracked a smile.

In addition to songs vetted through flop or bop, I left a clipboard in the room where students could suggest songs for the playlist. I took the list home to listen to them before adding them to the list. These songs kept me company as I made dinner that night. I teared up as “Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old” by Luke Bryan came on. I am not a country music fan but thinking of the student who let her guard down and suggested it warmed my heart and made me feel more connected to her.

On Monday morning, I came in with our playlist. Here is a sample of some of our favorites:

Coconut by Harry Nilsson
Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
We Are The Champions by Queen
Let’s Groove, by Earth, Wind and Fire
Twist and Shout by the Beatles
Down Under by Men at Work

And the list grows…

Moments for Music

We continue to begin and end our days with music. Sometimes we play our playlist during independent work time and other times we turn to it for a much needed break and energy lift.

Last Friday during dismissal, I felt beat. With a weekend of writing report cards ahead of me, piles of assessment data spread out on my desk and a classroom that needed cleaning, I was filled with the sense of overwhelm that is all too common for teachers these days. So, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my iPhone and pressed play. As each bus was called, students left our room to the beat of our playlist. We all ended the week on a high note.