Music as Non Verbal Cues in the Classroom

Do you grab kids attention without having to speak?

music_teacher_poster-r58d48b53b63c41418316df56c0b436b3_w2j_8byvr_324As music teachers our voice is our instrument, we need to care for it and therefore we need to be diligent in finding ways we can communicate using non verbal cues to conserve the use of our voice. Not only this, but it lightens the mood in our classroom and creates positive behaviour cues.

before I get to the use of music here are a few VISUAL CUES I’ve found helpful:

  • hand in the air and count down from five using your fingers (my students know if they do not have their attention on me by the end they get a warning)
  • hands on heads
  • using actions – pat head, roll hands


Have you tried RHYTHM PATTERNS to grab attention?

  • clap a rhythm and the students repeat it
  • use an action song – without singing it e.g. Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • as students come back from grabbing instruments teacher plays rhythms & students copy until all students are seated every so often changing the rhythm or playing the side of the instrument or even stopping and placing mallets or instruments on head or shoulders and eventually on the floor in front of them to indicate it’s time to listen


My Favourite – use a MUSIC TRACK as a cue for a specific task

Sit Down Songs

To come back from a group activity play a song it could be any song that you have told the kids to listen for and when they hear it they need to be sitting on the floor by the end of the song or extract. For example:

  • maybe the latest popular song like Katie Perry’s “Roar”
  • The theme song for the lesson you are teaching – “12 Bar Blues”
  • A ‘sit down’ song  you establish for the school term. Some examples could be:
  1. Stand Up, Sit Down” from Roar Like A Lion by Patty Shukla
  2. Stand Up, Sit Down” from Action Songs: Wiggle and Shake by Tumble Tots

Pack Up Songs

Havin fun with Bert & ErnieAt the end of my music lesson I have a pack up song: “Put It Away” from Havin’ Fun With Ernie & Bert – a 1972 children’s classic. It goes for 2min20sec and the kids love it – and are always finished packing up by the end & sitting down singing along. Unfortunately this song is extremely hard to get hold of and I picked it up on Ebay as a cassette. It is not available to download in mp3 so I converted it from cassette to mp3.

some other songs you could use instead are:

  1. Clean Up, Pack Away” from Let’s Learn by Debbie Doo
  2. Pack Up Time” from Cave Baby by The Mudcakes

How to cut an extract from a song

I use a free software called Audacity:

Audacity is available for both Windows & Mac it is a fantastic tool which I use all the time to edit songs.


It’s features include

  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.

learn more about it:

You could also use other programs like Garage Band on Macs & Apple devices.

Have some fun creating non verbal cues for you students and see how it brightens your classroom.



Teach to transform!


2 thoughts on “Music as Non Verbal Cues in the Classroom

    1. I used to use Easiteach with all my file embedded. I now use PowerPoint and embed all my files into the slide for the activity so that I am not switching between programs.

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