How To Use Music To Make Routines More Fun And Effective

Routines are the lifeblood of a well-run classroom.

But it’s important they’re viewed in a positive light. Because if you cue the start of a routine and your students sigh and roll their eyes, or grudgingly go through the motions, then misbehavior will surely follow.

No, your students don’t have to love routines, but there should be an energy and bounce to their step. There should be a productive whirl of movement, of intent and purpose, of a job well done.

Much of this feeling comes from the way you teach routines. Highly detailed modeling, expressly defined steps, and consistent accountability go a long way toward making them brisk and efficient.

Your attitude, too, is important. A forceful or militaristic approach leads to boredom and dissatisfaction. The constant starting and stopping, the stern reminders, the hard stares and impatient body language . . . these teacher behaviors cause more problems than they solve.

In order to experience the wonderful benefits of routines—which include saving hours of learning time and making your teaching life easier and less stressful—there must be a spirit of cooperation and liveliness among your students.

Many years ago, my friend Rick Morris of New Management shared with me a simple way to cultivate this spirit through music. The way it works is that instead of providing a verbal signal to initiate a routine, you would simply turn on a piece of music.

You’d click a link in iTunes or aim your remote at a boom box, and like magic your students would launch into action, putting away their work and lining up for lunch, for example, exactly as they were taught.

But what’s so cool about this strategy is that the music both cues the start of the routine and sees to its conclusion. In other words, you choose the length of music to fit the particular routine. It acts as a timing device, moving students along as they hustle to complete their responsibilities before the song ends.

There is some planning involved in selecting the right music to match a routine, and you’ll want to practice with your class before putting it in play, but once they’ve got it, they’ve got it.

When using this strategy for the first time, it’s a good idea to start small. Choose a simple routine like lining up to leave the room and match it with a 60-second song.

A great resource is, where you can find thousands of free songs from every television show imaginable. They’re fun, students love and recognize them, and most have a length that pairs well with classroom routines.

The moment your students hear the first bars of Yu-Gi-Oh or Doctor Who, morale will lift, motivational engines will shift into gear . . .

And your routines will become less routine.

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6 Responses to How To Use Music To Make Routines More Fun And Effective

  1. Trish March 23, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks much for the great info and links to them. I can’t stand hearing myself *talk, talk, talk*, so using a different kind of cue well be a welcome addition to the classroom. (When I have a classroom.) Right now I just need to grin and bear hearing my teacher call the kids (and nag and cajole and count and…..) to the carpet, only to have them 1) finish what they’re doing and then 2) mosey to the carpet in their own sweet time, when and if they’re ready. I know how this happened ; I won’t make the same mistake. Appreciate you so much for helping me prepare.

    • Michael Linsin March 23, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      You’re welcome, Trish!


  2. Nicole March 24, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    I found your website because of Rick Morris. I’m so glad I did. Your website and his ideas for management have both changed my teaching.

    • Michael Linsin March 24, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      Great to hear, Nicole!


  3. mehdi April 7, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    hello michael . i am a teacher from iran . very glad to see your web and use some of them in my researchs . please go to my weblog to have my articles . of course i have writethem in farsi and you need to translate in american . thank you and goodbye

  4. Ellen Wernert May 18, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    I use music in my classroom for clean up time. Do you remember the barnie song, Clean up Clean Up everbody clean up….I would use it in my HS classes and the students thought it was so funny but as they sung the song they would start cleaning up like a switch went off. I have not used more popular songs in my classroom to cue students, however I will start searching for my next clean up song.