Sometimes teachers want to play music in their classrooms to give their students a happy, laid-back atmosphere that they can sing, dance, and move around in. As a teacher myself, I enjoy playing music on Fridays to celebrate the end of the school week. I let my students listen as they work on worksheets, and we also take time to get out of our seats and move around to the beat. It is a lot of fun, and my students really look forward to it.
By seeing how successful playing music in my classroom has been, I wanted to take the time to encourage teachers across the world to adopt a similar technique into their classrooms. I think our students deserve time to unwind and let loose every once in a while. Therefore, I have decided to share some of the school appropriate songs for students that I have found. It can be difficult to find songs that do not have cursing or inappropriate words in them, so my goal is to help others out by sharing some of the songs that are on my classroom playlist.
After reading this article, you will officially know:
- Several songs that are school appropriate to use in your classroom →
- The benefits of listening to music →
- And what should not be in children’s songs →
In this section, I will make a list of school appropriate songs that I think should be on every teacher and educator’s playlist around the globe. These songs are a lot of fun, have great beats, and will help motivate your students while also giving them time to move around. If you click on each song, you will be redirected to a video where you can hear the actual song and lyrics. Give them a listen before moving them to your playlist to make sure that they are what you are looking for.
Keep in mind when looking at this list that these are not your usual nursery rhyme songs. Nursery rhyme songs are great for younger students, but every child enjoys listening to music that has beat and is sung by real artists. Give it a try; I guarantee you will not regret it!
1. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley & The Wailers
The source of Marley’s inspiration for the lyrics of “Three Little Birds” remains disputed. They are partly inspired by birds that Marley was fond of that used to fly and sit next to his home.
2. Better When I’m Dancin’ by Meghan Trainor
The song is about confidence and releasing your insecurities on the dance floor, and has been described as a “classic confidence-boosting tune”.
3. Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper
DJ Casper originally wrote “The Cha-Cha Slide” as a step aerobics routine for his nephew, who was working at the time as a personal trainer at a fitness club. Perry wrote and recorded his performance of the original version of the song, titled “Casper Slide Part 1” in January 1998.
The song was inspired by the Chicago stepping movement.
4. Born This Way by Lady Gaga
The music of Born This Way stems from the synth-pop and dance-pop styles of her previous material while incorporating different forms of instrumentation from that on her previous releases, such as electronic rock and techno.
5. I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” is a song recorded by American singer Whitney Houston for her second studio album. It was released as the lead single from the album.
6. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is a song by American singer Justin Timberlake. It was released on May 6, 2016, for it to be the lead single for the soundtrack to the film Trolls, for which Timberlake voiced the character “Branch”.
7. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin‘” is a song by American rock band Journey.
8. Counting Stars by One Republic
“Counting Stars” is a folk pop and pop rock song with a disco beat.
9. Jump by Van Halen
It is Van Halen’s most successful single, reaching number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
10. Permission to Dance by BTS
“Permission to Dance” is a song by South Korean boy band BTS. It was released through Big Hit Music and Sony Music on July 9, 2021, as a stand-alone single.
11. Happy by Pharrell Williams
“Happy” was the most successful song of 2014, with 13.9 million units (sales plus equivalent streams) worldwide.
12. Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
The song is based on an experience lead singer Nicholas Petricca had at a Los Angeles nightclub. His girlfriend invited him to dance, inspiring the title. Petricca envisioned the song as an anthem for letting go of frustration and having fun.
13. Respect by Aretha Franklin
“Respect” is a song written and originally recorded by American soul singer Otis Redding. It was released in 1965 as a single from his third album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul and became a crossover hit for Redding.
13. Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
“Don’t Stop Me Now” is a song by the British rock band Queen featured on their 1978 album Jazz that was released as a single in 1979. Written by lead singer Freddie Mercury.
14. Kick, Push by Lupe Fiasco
“Kick, Push” is the first single released from Lupe Fiasco’s debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. It was written by Lupe Fiasco and Soundtrakk, who also produced the song. It describes a love story between a male and a female misfit skateboarders.
15. Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus
“Old Town Road” is the debut single of American rapper Lil Nas X, first released independently in December 2018. After gaining popularity, the single was re-released by Columbia Records . Lil Nas X also recorded a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus.
16. Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
Lyrically, the song is about growing up and moving on in life.
“It describes how I got into the business, verbatim. I did grow up in a small town, I wanted to get out, I felt like there was something… not better for me, but something different for me. I didn’t feel like I fit in at school. Whether you are a DJ, or if you work with computers, or if you’re a teacher, everyone has that point where they feel, ‘I’m bored and this isn’t what I wanted to do with my life”- Kelly Clarkson.
17. Mean by Taylor Swift
In an interview with E! News, Swift said that “Mean” is a response to people who criticize whatever she does. She said, “there’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism, and then there’s just being mean. And there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person.”
18. Firework by Katy Perry
It is a dance-pop self-empowerment anthem with inspirational lyrics.
19. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
“Fight Song” is a song recorded by American singer and songwriter Rachel Platten, released on February 19, 2015. The song peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
20. Count on Me by Bruno Mars
“Count On Me” is a song by American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans . It was released as a radio single in Australia and served as the overall sixth single from Doo-Wops & Hooligans.
21. Fireflies by Owl City
Adam Young wrote “Fireflies” after being inspired by a camping trip he took up to a “totally rustic and kind of remote lake in northern Minnesota”.
He emulated the experience of seeing a meteor shower that gave him “a cool idea of shooting stars being fireflies”.
22. I Like to Move It by Will I Am
“I Like to Move It” is a song by American solo project Reel 2 Real , featuring ragga vocals by Trinidad and Tobago rapper The Mad Stuntman.
23. Ok Ok by Hoko
24. The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti and Spearhead
The inspiration for the title ‘The Sound Of Sunshine’ came from when Franti was on tour in 2009 and ruptured his appendix.
Pete Lewis: “Because the doctors weren’t sure what was wrong with me, seven days actually passed before they were able to diagnose it was my appendix – by which time I’d just completely fallen over and was DYING! So, after they eventually did the surgery on me, while I did feel a huge amount of gratitude to be alive, at the same time every moment of the day I was CRYING! Like someone would walk in the room who I hadn’t seen for a while, and I’d just look at them and CRY! And when they’d go ‘What are you crying about?’, I’d be like ‘I don’t KNOW! I’m just really glad to be here, to be alive and to SEE you!’… It was like I was seeing everything with new EYES. Every day I’d go to the window to see if the sun was shining – and if it WAS, I’d have this feeling of OPTIMISM! Like ‘WOW! I’m gonna beat this infection and I’m gonna get BETTER!’… And so for this album I wanted to put that feeling into words and into MUSIC.”
25. Brand New Day by Lindsey Ray and Tim Myers
26. Colors by Black Pumas
The titular colors are once again meant to allude to life’s diversity in general.
27. Heat Waves by Glass Animals
“Heat Waves” “is about loss and longing, and ultimately realising you are unable to save something.
28. Pompeii by Bastille
“Pompeii” is a song by British pop rock band Bastille. It is the fourth single from their debut studio album Bad Blood. “Pompeii” became the band’s breakthrough hit.
29. Safe and Sound by Capital Cities
“Safe and Sound” is a song by American indie pop duo Capital Cities, written and produced by band members Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian.
30. ME! by Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie
“With a pop song, we have an ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads, and I just want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves, not worse.”- Taylor Swift.
31. Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson
“Be OK” is the first single from Ingrid Michaelson’s third studio album, Be OK. The song was used in the films The House Bunny and The Decoy Bride.
32. Levitating by Dua Lipa and Da Baby
“Levitating” is a song by English singer Dua Lipa from her second studio album, Future Nostalgia . The song was written by Lipa, Clarence Coffee Jr., Sarah Hudson, and Koz.
33. My Universe by Coldplay and BTS
“My Universe” is an English and Korean song by British rock band Coldplay and South Korean pop group BTS.
34. Meant to Be by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line
“Meant to Be” is a song recorded by American singer Bebe Rexha featuring American country music duo Florida Georgia Line.
35. Africa by Toto
The initial idea and lyrics for the song came from David Paich. In 2015, Paich explained that the song is about a man’s love of a continent, Africa, rather than just a personal romance. He based the lyrics on a late night documentary with depictions of African plight and suffering.
36. Save Your Tears by The Weekend and Ariana Grande
“Save Your Tears” is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter the Weeknd from his fourth studio album. Globally “Save Your Tears” peaked at number one in 18 countries, while going top 10 in 33 others.
37. A-Punk by Vampire Weekend
“A-Punk” is a single by indie rock band Vampire Weekend, released on February 28, 2008 as the second single from their 2008 self-titled debut album. The band made their network television debut by performing “A-Punk” on the Late Show with David Letterman.
38. Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
“Something Just Like This” is a song by American electronic music duo The Chainsmokers and British rock band Coldplay.
39. This is What You Came for by Calvin Harris and Rihanna
“This Is What You Came For” is a song by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and Barbadian singer Rihanna. The single debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart. It peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100.
40. Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane
“Life Is a Highway” is a song by Canadian musician Tom Cochrane from his second studio album, Mad Mad World. The song became a number-one hit in Cochrane’s native Canada in late 1991.
41. Riptide by Vance Joy
“Riptide” is a song by Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy. In an interview, Joy said the title of the song came from a motel of the same name he used to go to with his family when he was a child.
42. Try Everything by Shakira
“Try Everything” is a song recorded by Colombian singer Shakira for the 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Zootopia, and written by Sia, Tor Hermansen, and Mikkel Eriksen.
43. Some Nights by Fun
“Some Nights” is a song by American indie pop band Fun. “I’m always thinking about, ‘Who am I and why did I do something like that?’ And I think then it harkens back to my family, and I have such a strong tie to them and it’s always therapeutic to sing about them.” Ruess came up with the song and album title while on tour in Scotland; he wrote the song based on the title. Lyrically, the song is about “just being someone different on any given night.”
44. Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a song by English pop rock band Tears for Fears. It was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley, and Chris Hughes.
45. The River of Dreams by Billy Joel
River of Dreams is the twelfth studio album by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel.
46. Canned Heat by Jamiroquai
“Canned Heat” is the second single from British funk and acid jazz band Jamiroquai’s fourth studio album, Synkronized.
47. Treat People with Kindness by Harry Styles
“Treat People with Kindness” is a song by British singer and songwriter Harry Styles, recorded for his second album Fine Line.
48. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
“Free Fallin‘” is the opening track from American musician Tom Petty’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever. The song was written by Petty and his writing partner for the album, Jeff Lynne.
49. What Do I Know? By Ed Sheeran
“What Do I Know?” is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
50. September by Earth, Wind, and Fire
“September” is a song by the American band Earth, Wind & Fire released as a single in 1978 on ARC/Columbia Records.
51. Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
“Feel It Still” is a song by American rock band Portugal. The Man. The song became the band’s first to top.
52. MMMBop by Hanson
“MMMBop” is a song written and performed by the American pop rock band Hanson.
53. Good Feeling by Flo Rida
“Good Feeling” is a song by American rapper Flo Rida from his 2012 EP of the same name, also appearing on his fourth studio album, Wild Ones.
54. Cheap Thrills by Sia and Sean Paul
“Cheap Thrills” is a song by Australian singer and songwriter Sia from her seventh studio album, This Is Acting.
55. Miss You Much by Janet Jackson
“Miss You Much” is a song by American singer Janet Jackson.
56. Black Horse and The Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall
57. Kill ‘Em with Kindness by Selena Gomez
“Kill Em with Kindness” is a song recorded by American singer Selena Gomez. According to Gomez, one of the main inspirations behind the song was the body-shaming.
58. Lights by Ellie Goulding
“Lights” is a song by English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding from Bright Lights , the reissue of her debut studio album, Lights. Written by Goulding, Richard Stannard and Ash Howes, the song was inspired by Goulding’s childhood fear of the dark.
59. Dance Monkey by Tones and I
“Dance Monkey” is a song by Australian singer Tones and I, released on 10 May 2019 as the second single (first in the US) from Tones and I’s debut EP The Kids Are Coming. The song was produced and mixed by Konstantin Kersting.
60. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is a song written, recorded and performed by American musician Robert Hazard.
If you would like to hear an already-made playlist of appropriate songs for kids, check out Redlist – Top Mixes’ YouTube video. These songs are fun and are not your typical nursery rhyme songs. They are appropriate and bound to get your students dancing!
While you are playing music for your students to enjoy, an interactive whiteboard would allow them to do activities with their classmates in front of the classroom. These devices are perfect for different types of learners and encourage students to interact with each other. To learn more, consider reading my other article. In this article, I go over the 10 best interactive whiteboards available that will make music time even better.
Here’s another playlist for your classroom.
When I was a classroom teacher music was an essential component of my classroom culture. I may not be in the classroom this year, but I decided to curate a fresh playlist of my favorite school appropriate songs. Enjoy! RT and @ the homies. https://t.co/KQtCw9qgyS pic.twitter.com/FNUFSTTOF9
— Kisha Howell, EdD (she/her) (@Kishahowell3) September 13, 2021
I want to start with the fact that scientists have found so many positive benefits when it comes to listening to music. Therefore, we should give children the opportunity to receive these benefits as well. Every single day in the classroom should not consist of tests or lectures. In fact, children do not learn well in a classroom with only exams, bookwork, or presentations. There needs to be fun and exciting activities implemented into the curriculum, where students can get up and move around. Before I explain what should not be in children’s songs, I will tell you about a few of the benefits that come from listening to music.
1. Music Makes People Happy/Happier
There have been several studies that confirm music making people happy/happier. The reason this happens is because your brain releases a chemical called dopamine while listening to music. When dopamine is released, humans feel joy, excitement, and happiness. Neuroscientists believe that all it takes is 15 minutes of music to change the mood of someone who is feeling down.
2. Music Enhances Exercise and Running Performance
When your students are exercising, playing music will enhance their performance. This is something for P.E. and gym teachers to keep in mind. Play songs that are inspiring and watch your students run faster.
3. Music Can Lower Stress Levels Which Improves Health
Stress is caused by the hormone called cortisol. When this hormone is released, individuals become very stressed. However, music can lower the level of cortisol that is released. People who play instruments or sing tend to be less stressed than others. As a matter of fact, their immune systems are often boosted by music.
4. Music Reduces Depression
It is no secret that many people around the world suffer from depression. There was a study conducted where people listened to music before going to sleep at night, and this significantly decreased their depression. Researchers vouch that classical music usually brings people up, while techno and heavy metal brings people down. Keep this in mind when selecting songs for your classroom.
5. Music Strengthens Learning and Memory (This Is a Big One!)
Researchers have found that music helps individuals recall information and learn better. However, the results also showed that “musicians learn better with neutral music but test better when pleasurable music is playing, and non-musicians learn better with positive music but test better with neutral music.”
6. Music Can Relax People
Music relaxing people has been found to be true because it is a common technique used to relax patients before or after surgery. Instead of prescribing relaxing medicines, doctors will sometimes try to play music that soothes the patient while resting in bed.
7. Music Increases Verbal Intelligence (Another Big One!)
A study was conducted at York University, where 90 percent of children between ages 4 and 6 had increases in their verbal intelligence. This was all due to one month of music lessons. By learning music, the young children were able to understand words and their meanings better. It has also been found that children who took music lessons typically perform better on verbal memory tests than those who have no musical training.
8. Music Raises IQ and Academic Performance (How Awesome Is This?)
Research has shown that music lessons lead to higher IQ and academic performance among children. There was a study conducted where 6-year-old children took singing and keyboard lessons for around nine months. Their IQ and academic performance results were increased significantly. Children who were enrolled in singing lessons did the best.
After becoming aware of the benefits that music can have on people, I will explain what should not be in children’s songs. This is a big dilemma between parents as some believe that children listening to whatever they want causes no harm, and others believe that children’s music should be censored. As a teacher, you will want to tread lightly on this thin line and try to find songs with lyrics that do not contain certain things. It is best to play music that any child can listen to in your classroom. Below, I will list a few things that I believe you should make sure are not in the songs on your classroom playlist.
Most students have heard curse words, but you do not want your music to turn into a laughing game in class. Young students are usually not mature enough to handle listening to curse words and most likely will feel like they have a free pass to sing the curse words. I recommend straying away from any cursing language in your songs’ lyrics in the classroom.
2. Sexual Content
Sexual content is a big NO when it comes to playing music in the classroom. The reason for this is because it is not your job to discuss sex with the students. You also do not want them to hear the sexual content and start singing it or asking what it means. Most students are not mature enough to hear sexual or explicit language and may start laughing.
3. Violent Content
Violent content is also not recommended in songs. The goal is to uplift your students, decrease their stress levels, and make them happy. If they are hearing songs about killing, fighting, or shooting, they most likely will become angry or sad. This could also cause a lot of questions or encourage violence in your classroom.
4. Drug and Alcohol References
A lot of songs contain references to drugs and alcohol. Therefore, you must make sure that neither are mentioned in the songs you want to play in the classroom. As a teacher, you do not want to encourage your students to drink or do drugs, so you should not play songs that sing about these things.
When it comes to your entire classroom, you should be aware that students mature at different levels and times. Therefore, some students are more mature than others and may be OK to listen to certain things. However, with an entire classroom, it is best to choose neutral music that everyone can enjoy. It is the children’s parents’ decision whether they want to allow their students to listen to whatever they want, but it should remain on their time when they are not in your classroom. In your classroom, everyone should be able to handle every lyric choice you select with no issues. This will make it fun for all students!
Another playlist I recommend playing in your classroom is Stephanie Ball’s school appropriate songs on YouTube. These songs will motivate and encourage your students while also giving them the time to unwind and move around. Each song on this list is appropriate and fun!
Allowing your students to go back and review notes while listening to music is a great way to help refresh their memories. The perfect device that will record your lectures and give your students access to them in the future is a camera for recording lectures. For more information about this tool, take a look at my other article by clicking here.
Document cameras are also one of my top recommended essentials in the classroom. The reason I stand behind these products is because they can be used virtually and in-person as well as magnify any object needed. These gadgets are amazing when you need your entire class to be able to see one object on the screen. If you are in the market for a document camera, I suggest reading my other article first in which you can find here.
- Classroom Games and Activities for General Music
- 10 Tips For Teaching Music to Kids More Effectively
- Key issues and challenges
I hope this article helped you find several school appropriate songs that you plan to use in your classroom. I have researched hundreds of songs to find the right ones that I feel like fit my classroom and students. Therefore, I am confident that you will at least find a few from my list to begin playing for your students. Another fun activity to go along with playing music is to have your students describe the song, what it means to them, and how it makes them feel. Good luck and happy teaching!