Building Self-Esteem and Cultural Awareness Through Music

There are many ways music and social emotional learning (SEL) work together. Teaching students about music and performance promotes important social and emotional skills that will stick with them throughout their lives. Students learn to celebrate diversity, practice mastering emotions, and develop leadership skills.

In past posts, we’ve touched on how to integrate SEL into core academic subjects. SEL fits just as well into music class. Being a former music teacher myself, I wanted to share some ways to promote SEL through music.

Celebrating Diversity Through Music

Music can be a fun way for students to explore other cultures and customs. By learning about different musical traditions, students learn to accept differences in others and celebrate diversity.

Learn More: The Smithsonian Folk Ways Recordings website is a wonderful resource that includes lesson plans for a range of age groups. Have fun exploring music from around the world.

Performing for Others

We’ve all felt nervous before a performance — your palms get sweaty, your breathing becomes irregular, and you feel a pit in your stomach. Performing in front of others is a good opportunity for students to practice a range of social and emotional skills. Besides learning to control pre-performance emotions, students also learn how to cope when a performance doesn’t go perfectly.

Learn More: Wendy Hart Higdon is a music teacher who helps students work through anxiety before performing. In this post, Hart Higdon does a nice job explaining the emotions students commonly feel and strategies for overcoming them. Use her tips to incorporate SEL into your own instruction.

Learning Leadership Skills

Music can be a good way for students to develop and practice leadership skills. Performing can push students to learn, collaborate, and grow. It also requires teamwork, effective communication, self-awareness, problem-solving, and cooperation — all important traits of a good leader.

Learn More: This article by author/musician Simon Tam explores how leadership is an integral part of being a musician. Tam includes five leadership lessons that students can learn through music and links them to real-world examples. Share these with your students to develop their leadership skills.

Music helps students develop a range of important social and emotional skills that will prove useful not only during performances but also throughout their lives. There are many ways to incorporate SEL into your musical instruction, and doing so will have lasting benefits for your students.

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