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Music and Movement in the Classroom

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2092 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 Music and movement are important parts of development in children.  Curtis, Parlakian, and Lerner tell us that movement gives children the necessary opportunities to learn about themselves, the environment they live in and interact with, and all of the people they come in contact with each day. (1982, 2010) This study is designed to reveal the advantages of integrating music and movement into the classroom community.  Does music foster academic growth in the classroom?  Does movement enhance a child’s ability to learn and retain information? Is a classroom climate positively affected when movement and music are a part of the curriculum?  We will be discussing articles that include brain research and research about movement, music, and the combination of the two.

Music, Learning, and the Brain:

  Weinberger’s study came to the conclusion that music is like calisthenics for the brain.  It not only strengthens a student’s musical skills, but it also fortifies the synapses between the actual brain cells. As these connections between the neurons increase in strength, so does the capacity of the brain itself.  (1998)  This shows that music is critical to brain development and growth.   Many brain systems depend on synaptic strength, such as, the sensory and perceptual systems, the cognitive system, fine and gross motor, the motivational system, and learning memory.  Sousa says that during the years when the brain is growing and developing, neural connections are being made at a rapid rate.  Much of what young children do as they play—signing, drawing, dancing—are natural forms of art.  These activities involve all the senses and wire the brain in a way that makes it more effective when retaining and understanding information.  (2011)  According to Gardner (1993) the musical intelligence is the most primitive intelligence to surface.

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  By incorporating music into daily instruction, teachers are able to meet the needs of students with diverse backgrounds.  Many of the articles spoke of music being “universal” and that all children, from all walks of life could easily and affectively participate.  Humpal & Wolf state that music is joyful and predictable, as well as nonjudgmental and noncompetitive (2003).  Therefore, music is one of the very few classroom aspects that puts all students on an equal playing field.

 According to Jones, who studied the effects of music on students, moods and performance improved, on-task performance increased, anxiety levels were lowered, and behavioral incidents decreased (2010).    Weinberger tells about a specific research project in which Hurwitz and colleagues (1975) studied whether music and training enriched reading performance in 1st graders.  For 40 minutes a daily for seven months, the experimental group learned how to listen to folk songs and to distinguish melodic and rhythmic elements.  The control group, similar in age, IQ, and socioeconomic status, received no special treatment.  After receiving instruction in music listening, the experimental group displayed considerably higher reading scores than did the control group, the former scoring in the 88th percentile and the latter scoring in the 72nd percentile.  The differences in scores did not result from enhanced reading instruction because the same teacher taught both groups (1998).  This research proves that music has a positive effect on the brain and on learning and making connections.

Movement, Learning, and the Brain:

Izumi-Taylor, Morris, Meredith, and Hicks clearly recognize that children learn by doing.  They encourage teachers to find different ways to incorporate physical activity into all of the content areas of the curriculum.  (2012) Sousa highlights the importance of movement and dancing and the effect each have on the development of gross motor skills.  He finds that a student who is participating in these activities will likely have an enhanced state of emotional well-being (2011).  Sousa’s landmark study also found that regular physical activity surges the growth of capillaries in the brain, thus expediting blood transport.  It also increases the volume of oxygen in the blood, which significantly enhances cognitive performance.  Not only does the movement increase mental function, but it uses up some kinesthetic energy so students can settle down and focus on their academic work. (2011)   In playful learning, children are involved, relaxed, and challenged states of mind highly favorable for maximum learning (LEGO Learning Institute, 2013).  It is clear, from the different articles and readings, that movement also plays a distinct role in learning and brain development.

 Play has long been acknowledged as a primary way children learn.  Vygotsky (1978) explains that play gives a child most of his or her early opportunities for achievements that will become their rudimentary level of tangible accomplishment.  According to developmentally appropriate practices, play is the most important factor in any early childhood curriculum.  Through play, children develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills; children express themselves physically, represent feelings, and obtain and learn essential concepts and skills (Bredekamp & Copple, 1995).  Play and movement are also central pieces to a successful learning environment.  Children of all ages should be able to move and play freely throughout the day while learning.

 Many teachers try and stifle a child’s movements, making them sedentary during the day; this also stifles their creativity and their desire to learn.  Some educators believe that incorporating movement and play into learning can help to strengthen educational policies that emphasize efficient coverage of the curriculum. (Mardell, Wilson, Ryan, Ertel, Krechevsky, & Baker, 2016).   A shift in pedagogy is needed to see the importance of movement and playful learning in the classroom.  Rivkin believes that when teachers begin to see movement as a rudimentary need of children and work to help them by incorporating movement rather than to deter them from moving, it nurtures an accommodating atmosphere both in and out of the classroom making it easier for children to be themselves. (2006)

The Effects on Classroom Climate:

 Izumi-Taylor, Morris, Meredith, & Hicks (2012) say that music naturally enriches a curriculum and environment by providing energy, life, joy, and playfulness.  Children are happiest in the classroom when they are moving, singing, and learning by doing.  This is parallel to what all of the research says.  While music and movement are good for the brain, they are also good for the soul.  Jones (2010) says that movement to music advances children’s mindfulness of their bodies and what they can do.  It can also aid them in developing feelings of self-confidence and fine motor skills.  Isenberg and Jalongo  (2001) see the importance of a classroom that incorporates daily physical activities when they say that children’s initial experiences with movement activities inspire their later knowledge, concept development, abilities, and outlooks, so selecting proper teaching strategies is critical.

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 Weinberger (1998) says that music is at a disadvantage because it is so much fun.  He also asks, can anything so pleasurable really be vital in education?  His answer is, unquestionably yes.  Music offers vast occasions for communication and expression, for creativity and paired learning—plus, it’s good for the brain and can increase learning and cognitive development.  Students are more likely to be engaged and to feel that their classroom has a positive learning environment if they are happy while in school. 


 Music and movement have many connections to brain development and to learning.  Children innately move to and use music in their daily lives.  The articles seemed to all agree that music and movement should have a place in each classroom.  It is also important to recognize that the way the music and movement are integrated can look different at each level and from teacher to teacher. 

 Not as much research was found on the effects of music and movement on the classroom climate. However, most all of the articles agree that music and movement are good for children and for their psycho-emotional growth, but we found little research that directly dealt with this aspect of the study.  We feel that this is due to the fact that it is hard to measure classroom climate.  What one may feel is a positive or fun environment, another may not.  This is more of an opinion vs. fact.

 A high quality early childhood educational curriculum will integrate music and movement into everyday activities. (Izumi-Taylor, Morris, Meredith, & Hicks, 2012)   In order for this pedagogy of music and movement to become central in one’s own educational philosophy, teachers, children, and school leaders must collaborate to envision and understand what it means to teach and learn with music and movement at the heart of a student’s experiences in education.     


  • Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (Eds.). (1995). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  • Curtis, S. (1982). The joy of movement. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books.
  • Humpal, M., & Wolf, J. (2003). Music in the inclusive environment. Young Children, 58(2), 103-107.
  • Hurwitz, I., Wolff, P.H,. Bortnick, B, D., & Kokas, K. (1975). Nonmusical effects of the Kodaly music curriculum in primary grade children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 8, 45-51.
  • Isenberg, J., & Jalongo, M.R. (2001). Creative expression and play in early childhood (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
  • Izumi-Taylor, S., Morris, V. G., Meredith, C. D., & Hicks, C. (2012). Music and Movement for               Young Children’s Healthy Development. Dimensions of Early Childhood,40(2), 33-40. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  • Jones, J. (2010, March/April). The role of music in your classroom. Exchange, 90-92.
  • LEGO Learning Institute (2013). The future play: Defining the role and value of play in the 21st century.
  • Mardell, B., Wilson, D., Ryan, J., Ertel, K., Krechevsky, M., & Baker, M. (2016, July). Towards               a Pedagogy of Play. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from http://pz.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Towards a Pedagogy of Play.pdf
  • Parlakian, R., & Lerner, C. (2010). Beyond twinkle, twinkle: Using music with infants and toddlers. Young Children, 65(2), 14-19.
  • Rivkin, M. S. (2006). Moving and Learning Together. Early Childhood Today,20(6), 32-38. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  • Sousa, D. (2011, January 25). How the Arts Develop the Young Brain: Neuroscience Research Is Revealing the Impressive Impact of Arts Instruction on Students’ Cognitive, Social and               Emotional Develepment. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from http://www.education.com/print/arts-develop-young-brain-neuroscience
  • Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Weinberger, N. M. (1998). The Music in our Minds. Educational Leadership, 36-40.


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