Helping all students feel welcome, part 2

28 February, 2017

In my last blog post, I discussed how there will always be students who, for one reason or another, might not feel welcome in our classrooms, but that we as music educators can ensure that students feel more welcome and accepted.

In today's post, I'm discussing more ways that students can be made to feel welcome: through songs with a message, and through children's literature.

Helping all students feel welcome in the music room: Songs and picture books to help cultural and social awareness

Singing songs with a great message
If you can find a song that truly has a great message, go for it! Students will really connect to meaningful lyrics, especially students who are feeling fearful and uncertain. My friend Lessia Bonn at I am Bullyproof Music has a beautiful song called "Same Love," with a great message for these times. Here is a video of the song:

After listening to the song, you could have students discuss what the song is about, asking questions like "What does 'same love' mean?" "What does 'light up the dark' mean?" "What are the different 'whys'?" You could get into a pretty deep conversation here! Granted, this could get tricky, but I think as long as you listen to students, and show no preference for one party or one religion, students could really dig deep into the lyrics.

Click here to purchase the mp3. The kids really love her music, and the more I hear it, the more I want to listen!
Reading stories about other cultures
Cello f Mr. O

This is such a touching story. In this book, Mr. O seems like a grumpy old man in war-torn Sarajevo, but through the story, the children begin to understand Mr. O better. Every Wednesday, when the relief truck visits, Mr. O takes a chair and his cello out to the middle of the town to play his cello. This story could be paired with a cello piece like any of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites, and can teach students much about the refugees, acceptance, and the power of music.

The Harmonica
This is a heartbreaking story, about a Jewish boy in Poland, during World War II, whose parents buy him a harmonica. The harmonica offers he and the other people at the camp solace, but it also entertains the Nazis. This is certainly a complex tale, which touches upon kindness and cruelty in a very confusing time in history. This could definitely lead to a very thoughtful discussion with your upper elementary students, and could bring acceptance of other cultures to the forefront in your classroom.
I hope these ideas, as well as the folk song and decor offered in the last blog post, have been helpful as you try to make all students feel welcome in your music room. Have any more suggestions? Please feel free to comment below. Happy teaching!


  1. Wow- I was so happy to find this post! As a member of a community that has been marginalized for a long time and a piano teacher of younger students, I am always trying to be aware of how inclusive my teaching is while trying to be age-appropriate. It's so great to hear that others are doing this too! One of the things my academy did was have all students learn the song Brave (Sara Bareilles) to play in ensembles. I loved that it had a positive message which presented some good opportunities for talking about standing up for yourself/others. Thanks for sharing!

    Marshall Cuffe
    Piano Instructor/Ambassador

  2. That's a great idea, Marshall! Thanks for sharing!


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