This paper will provide a literature review on the benefits of utilizing music within a classroom for the purposes of promoting a change in student behavior from negative to positive, and why music serves as a necessary modifier for the teacher in the student classroom.
Keywords: literature review, music in the classroom, behavior modification

Literature Review: Classroom Effects of a Commercially Available Video Music-and-Movement Program
Classroom management works to ensure that order is maintained within the classroom, making not only teaching easier, but the learning process easier for students as well (Poliniak, 2011). There are many different tactics that may be utilized for this purpose, though one of the more recent tactics that is coming into acceptance is the use of music and movement within the classroom for the purposes of increasing attention spans, decreasing negative behavior, and working to increase concentration levels within students.

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While the majority of studies that have been done on the use of music and movement within the classroom for this purpose are done in order to determine the effects of such practices on students with disabilities, the benefits of these studies may still be applied to the traditional classroom setting (Hallam & Price, 1998; Pelham, et al., 2011; Baker & Jones, 2006; Rief, 2004; Orton, 1999). In each instance of a study that was done on the benefits of utilizing music, movement, or music and movement within the classroom setting for the purposes of decreasing negative behaviors in students with disabilities, all studies showed positive results, decreases in negative behaviors, and increases in overall classroom management and overall student participation (Orton, 1999; Rief, 2004; Baker & Jones, 2006; Pelham, et al., 2011; Hallam & Price, 1998).

The body of literature on the subject is small, but creative movement and dance within the classroom has shown increases in “student understanding of content, (and) improved classroom behavior” within all students, regardless of classification, at the elementary levels (Skoning, 2008, p. 1). While students who have been identified as kinesthetic learners show the greatest amount of improvement as a result of the inclusion of music and movement within the classroom setting, all students showed increased benefits as a result of the utilization of such tactics (Skoning, 2008).

The implementation of music and movement as a part of the classroom setting showed increases in the positive behaviors of all classroom students, with those who exhibited the most disruptive behaviors turning around completely, showing the least disruptive actions with the inclusion of music (Hallam & Price, 1998). The question of whether or not the music should remain on throughout the duration of the lesson showed mixed results, with studies showing both that mathematics performance was improved for all students and that literature performance was improved while mathematical performance was decreased (Hallam & Price, 1998; Bloor, 2009).

While it is clear that additional research would need to be completed in order to determine whether or not the music would remain on throughout the entirety of the classroom period, it is clear that music and movement at the start of the class, or following a transitory period, would be beneficial in reducing negative behaviors within the classroom, improving student focus, and ensuring a greater ease of classroom management. “Historically, there have been many claims regarding the beneficial effects of music on behavior and development, but there has been little empirical work to verify them” (Hallam & Price, 1998, p. 88). It is clear that the body of research has grown, if only minutely, throughout the years, but the research is sound; the utilization of a brief period at the start of the classroom period wherein students are able to engage through music and movement will work to decrease the disruptive behaviors, creating a more positive classroom attitude, and working to provide benefits to the students, increasing their capacity for learning.

  • Baker, F., & Jones, C. (2006). The effect of music therapy services on classroom behaviours of newly arrived refugee students in Australia—a pilot study. Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4), 249-260. doi:10.1080/13632750601022170
  • Bloor, A. J. (2009). The rhythm’s gonna get ya’ – background music in primary classrooms and its effect on behaviour and attainment. Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 14(4), 261-274. doi:10.1080/13632750903303070
  • Hallam, S., & Price, J. (1998). Can the use of background music improve the behaviour and academic performance of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties?. British Journal Of Special Education, 25(2), 88.
  • Orton, J. J. (1999). Modern dance in the high school: a tool for enhancing daily classroom skills and affective behavior in five students with multi-disabilities.
  • Pelham, W., Waschbusch, D., Hoza, B., Gnagy, E., Greiner, A., Sams, S., & … Carter, R. (2011). Music and Video as Distractors for Boys with ADHD in the Classroom: Comparison with Controls, Individual Differences, and Medication Effects. Journal Of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39(8), 1085-1098. doi:10.1007/s10802-011-9529-z
  • POLINIAK, S. (2011). Ain’t Misbehavin’. Teaching Music, 18(5), 36-43.
    Rief, S. (2004). PROACTIVE STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTING AND MANAGING CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS IN THE CLASSROOM (K-8). Conference Papers — Children & Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder, N.PAG.
  • Skoning, S. N. (2008). Movement and Dance in the Inclusive Classroom. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 4(6), 1-11.