Center for
Lifelong Music Making
Teachers Speak Out for Kids

Thousands of Minnesota children are failing to learn to read and perform math well enough to succeed in school and beyond (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments). The achievement gap in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is still as large as it was when data was first collected in 1992.  Not only have new curriculums failed to close the gap, they are resulting in disengaged, unmotivated students and unhappy, over-stressed teachers. More time has been allocated to reading and math by taking it away from eating, talking, moving and singing.

This is a serious mistake. Singing is a natural, primary source for learning that activates more areas of the brain than any other activity. Singing folksongs, playing games and moving attract and enliven children, cross-train their brains to enable them to build vocabulary, fluency, and automacity and retention of skiils and concepts. Children’s “play” is actually their “work”. 

Some MPS kids are beating the odds because their classroom teachers have taken the courses, Want to Teach Reading and Math? Try Singing! and A Song a Day.  Their students are singing down the halls, on the busses and at home.  Not only are they posting higher achievement in reading and math, teachers report that their students are happier, and that they are happier, too:

My kids…are still loving school and the singing is a big part of it.  Their fluency has gone up.

When I applied singing…with my students it was as if a bomb of enthusiasm had struck the class (high school teacher).

...the learning was looked upon by the children as ‘playing a game’.  It was considered ‘fun’ and not ‘work’.

Elizabeth Olson, PhD, a retired MPS music teacher, and Ann Kay began teaching courses for MPS teachers in 2004. Some of them have conducted research examining the effects of daily singing and affirming parallel concepts among reading, math and music on math and reading achievement. There have been many positive results.  Lincoln Elementary kindergartens, some of the lowest in the district in letter sound acquisition in the fall, outscored all other Minneapolis schools in winter 2006 and again in 2007. 


Lincoln was #1 in the increase in phonemic awareness from fall to winter…of ALL the Minneapolis schools.  Coincidence?  I think not!  I think singing!!!!!


A Wenonah third grade class that sang fifteen minutes a day dramatically outscored another third grade class on timed multiplication tests. Second graders increased reading fluency.  Hard-of-hearing students gained in language acquisition. Developmentally-delayed babies through three-year-olds increased non-verbal gestures.


…they were much more focused, happier, calmer, more receptive to the next activity and to each other, and their learning was deeper.


Our English Language Learners have done well in district assessments and I contribute part of that to all the singing we do in our classrooms.

Many teachers have been so enlivened by singing that they want to continue for their own health and well being. 

…in all the classes I have taken over my 26-year career, this class is the only class to which I have ever looked forward (HS foreign language teacher).


Putting more music back into my life was like therapy after a trying day and like a celebration of a good one.


Although I started out each class tired, by the end of the session, I was rejuvenated and excited to try something new when I went to school the next day.


… I bet there is scientific research to prove that singing keeps you young.  I sure hope so because I can’t afford to retire until I’m 67!  At the very least, singing will continue to keep me excited and motivated to teach.


A few years ago, England allocated approximately $660 million (USD) to initiate more music making nationwide and to get all primary children singing daily (Sing Up!)   

When a U.S. company accidentally discovered that children using Singing Coach software to improve their singing made dramatic gains in reading, they developed TUNEin to Reading.  Struggling readers gain an average of one year of reading achievement in 13-/2 hours over nine weeks. 

Singing and moving transform the experience of being alive.  Engaging the mind, body and spirit creates happy, lively, high-achieving classroom communities where no child is left behind.