HomeAcademics & ActivitiesAcademic Skills

Your second grader and music

In a rich music program, second graders develop their understanding of pitch and melody, play instruments and learn about famous musicians.

By Miriam Myers , GreatSchools Staff

In Your Child's Classroom

Exploring music

Second-graders work on developing their understanding of pitch, melody and rhythm by singing, playing instruments and exploring creative movement. You can also expect your child to learn about famous musicians and the instruments that make up an orchestra. Through these activities she develops her understanding of the artistic, cultural, scientific and mathematical foundations of music.

Research has shown that the benefits of music education include improved reading and reasoning ability, self-esteem and vocational preparation. Paul Bakeman, our teacher consultant and award-winning music teacher, adds: "Recent research done at the University of California, Irvine, indicates that young children involved in consistent music instruction have a greater ability to grasp concepts that are also essential to the understanding of math and science."

Music may not be taught as a separate subject in some schools, but most states require that it be included in the curriculum in some fashion. Most states have music standards that are based on the National Standards for Arts Education.


Second-graders typically sing traditional and folk songs. Many songs will be connected to holidays or themes that your child is learning in class. Typical songs include "Liza Jane," "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Tideo." Your child sings alone and in a group, learning to blend his voice with others and sing in rounds. He sings expressively, on pitch (high and low) and with correct dynamics (loud and soft). He sings an increasing number of songs from memory and with improved accuracy. He may create songs based on a poem or nursery rhyme.

Playing and listening to instruments

Second-graders can begin to play the rhythm of the words in a song. You can also expect your child to work with rhythm to find the steady beat. He will be able to maintain the beat while playing instruments alone and in a group. Paul Bakeman explains: "Second-graders can more effectively play instruments like drums and xylophones that often require crossing the midline (reaching from one side of the body to the other). This involves playing with two hands and alternating back and forth."

Your child learns the characteristics of the musical instrument families: string, woodwind, brass, percussion and keyboard. He listens to the instruments, plays them and learns how they work together in an orchestra.

Moving to music

Your child gets many opportunities to move to music. She may invent hand and body movements to accompany songs, showing her understanding of rhythm and the mood of the music.

Learning the vocabulary

Second-graders use the vocabulary of music, learning terms such as tempo, melody, echo, solo, beat, form and dynamics. They also learn to understand how music communicates feelings. Your child will use words such as happy, sad, excited or scary to describe the emotions portrayed in music.

Comments from readers

"Please please please please try to refrain from exposing 2nd graders to rhythmic notation until they have a full understanding of rhythmic solfege."
"Lovwed this. I downloaded on Itunes every musical instrument solo then play it in the car and make my grandson identify the instrument. thanks Sandra"
"any music programs around to get involve in Fishers, Indiana group"
"Thank you for providing such an insightful summary of music in the classroom and the various ways in which our children are being stimulated and encouraged to learn. This summary actually supports my daily inquiry and conversations with my daughter about what she's learning in the classroom. Thanks, An Out of State Dad "