The power of music… and Twitter

Exploring a theme through music is not something that I have really done before in teaching, but it is certainly something that I will do more of in the future. I underestimated how powerful it can be. After throwing Twitter into the mix as well, this became one of the most impactful learning engagements of this year.

This learning engagement followed on from the refugee simulation and connections were made between the two sessions. This song was shared by Nicole, one of my Year 4 colleagues. The connection between the song, the simulation and our class story (Boy Overboard) was clear and the song struck me as a compelling one which was worth exploring. When teachers are intrigued, it usually means that the students will be too.

When I played the song for the first time (just the music without the video), the room was silent. You could hear a pin drop. The students were totally captivated by the song and the lyrics. The first time, I asked them to simply listen and write their first reactions after it had finished. The second time, I asked them to quickly sketch during the song to show what they thought was being portrayed. This was Danielle’s idea and I’m glad that she shared it. Most images showed similar themes such as sadness, war and family loss. Two particularly heartbreaking ones are shown below.


I then asked the students to analyse the lyrics in small groups. Some students chose to do this using a shared Google Doc and the commenting tool. Specifically, they were trying to make connections, inferences and ask meaningful questions about the song and its very serious theme. Many of the students highlighted the same phrases to show that they did not understand the meaning. They also raised further questions about ‘the lost boy’ and I too wanted to find out more.

Then it got really exciting. I was reflecting on Twitter (as I so often do) and decided to write a post about this amazing song. Trying my luck, I asked Greg Holden if he had the time to answer their questions. Contacting professionals is not a new idea in education, but it is now easier than ever due to social media. My students have had success in the past writing to authors and even the UK Secretary of State for Education. However, these replies took weeks or even months and had less impact as more time passed. In the meantime, we had no idea if we would even get a reply. This was a time before Twitter. Greg replied to me within a couple of hours, despite being at the other side of the world. I sent him seven of the students’ questions and he very kindly took the time to create this video for my students:

The students were overjoyed to receive their video message, made even more personal by his greeting to me and our school. They listened with genuine interest and disbelief as the chart-topping singer/songwriter answered their questions. His in-depth responses allowed them to think deScreen Shot 2016-04-07 at 4.43.18 PMeper about the topic and, in true inquiry fashion, raise even more questions about refugees and current affairs.

I have recently posted about how fantastically easy it is to connect with other teachers around the world via Twitter (you can revisit that blog post here). Twitter also makes it easy to connect with other professionals and experts in various fields, even famous ones. This learning engagement was made possible mainly because Greg Holden is evidently a genuine, lovely guy, but also because of Twitter and how brilliantly small and connected it has made the world. And of course, it’s an incredible song to start with.


  1. A wonderful lesson brought alive Adam in every sense of the word…. I was also moved by the piece ‘The Piano’, remember where the man goes through phases of his life – that too was a great literary stimulant, shame I never took it further and wrote to the composer – a lesson learnt there.

  2. Wow, what a great idea for a lesson that gets children really thinking about what is happening in our world. I can’t wait to try this out.

    1. This is just one example of how students can benefit from global connections. It’s so easy nowadays! I want my students to connect with other teachers, classes and students in the near future. The world is tiny now! Adam

  3. Music has been a very powerful tool in my classroom in the past. I find it works exceptionally well at secondary level. The 16+ age range is more difficult to tap into at a meaningful level. I usually use music as a starter in KS3/4 lessons. I’m impressed that Holden replied with such immediacy, that must have been very rewarding for the students involved; it gives the learning a very clear purpose and an immediate reward for their efforts. I will attempt to embed music in my practice to some degree at college level and assess its impacts.

    1. Please come back and share what you do. I look forward to hearing about it. Your contributions are really appreciated on here. It’s great to get regular contributions from a secondary teacher. Thanks a lot and please keep up the good work! Adam

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