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  • Writer's pictureTeacher's Workshop

50 Songs to Start Class

Updated: Jun 5

This year, the start of class is that awkward time when we’re saying hello and waiting for everyone to virtually trickle in. When everyone is in school, the start of class is exciting. I usually greet students at the door and watch the madness of students trying to socialize and get to class on time. It’s a time I wander around the room telling students what work to get out or make random comments about their snacks. I don’t know why, but I love looking at and talking about what they’re eating. This year, I will sometimes comment on what’s going on behind the camera. A week ago, I said hello to a lizard and yesterday, I had a quick conversation with a student’s six-year-old brother. He told me about his favorite sports and what he had for breakfast, rice. Not a bad idea.

I’ve been trying to find ways to be normal with my students and laugh about this weird situation. One of my students uploaded a screenshot of me and my 7-month-old son on Zoom in a Jamboard. It was a close reading of one of Hamlet’s soliloquies, and they made some connection to life and death and Ophelia wanting a family. A stretch, but it was funny.

Yesterday, before I started an activity related to Ophelia, I asked my students if they heard the song “Ophelia” by The Lumineers, so I played a clip for them. It wasn’t until class was over that I discovered some of my students were posting comments in the chat. One person said, “What song is playing?” and then someone else “Mr. Cameron has excellent taste in music.” At the beginning of another class, I saw that a student had the words “New York” on her wall. To be funny, I asked “Is that a reference to the song?” She laughed and asked, “What song?”, so I played “New York” by Alicia Keys.

On my way home, I thought, is this it? Is music how I can make this year fun? This year, my students either see me with a mask on, or they see me from behind a screen. It’s hard to create a positive classroom culture without a real classroom where we can smile to communicate a joke or that we like what they said. It might not solve all our problems, but here’s my 50 songs to start class (sorry if it’s 90’s heavy):

1. Bob Marley “Three Little Birds”

2. Janis Joplin “Raise Your Hand”

3. Counting Crows “Mr. Jones”

4. Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode”

5. Ariana Grande “NASA”

6. Aretha Franklin “Respect”

7. Beyonce “Love on Top”

8. Ace of Base “The Sign”

9. Mariah Carey “Fantasy”

10. TLC “Waterfalls”

11. Taylor Swift “Seven”

12. Boyz II Men "On Bended Knee"

13. Talib Kweli “Going Hard”

14. Arrested Development “Mr. Wendal”

15. Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”

16. Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”

17. Bob Dylan “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

18. Fleetwood Mac “Don’t Stop”

19. Ella Fitzgerald “Flying Home”

20. Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

21. Smashing Pumpkins “Today”

22. Ariana Grande and The Roots perform “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

23. Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys “New York”

24. Yo-Yo Ma “Attaboy”

25. The Grateful Dead “Sugar Magnolia”

26. “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” Us3

27. “Up on Cripple Creek” The Band

28. Dave Matthews Band “Ants Marching”

29. Stevie Wonder “Superstition”

30. Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule “I’m Real”

31. Outkast “Rosa Parks”

32. Pearl Jam “Daughter”

33. Janet Jackson ”Someone to Call My Lover”

34. Elvis Presley “I’m All Shook Up”

35. Tom Petty “Last Dance with Mary Jane”

36. Mos Def “Mathematics”

37. Travis Tritt “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”

38. Lisa Loeb “Stay”

39. Michael Jackson “Man in the Mirror”

40. Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi”

41. Jimi Hendrix “Fire”

42. Cream “White Room”

43. Blues Traveler “Run Around”

44. Louis Armstrong “On the Sunny Side of the Street”

45. Aerosmith “Livin’ on the Edge”

46. Creedence Clearwater Revival “Fortunate Son”

47. The Who “Baba O’Reilly”

48. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood”

49. James Brown “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

50. Meatloaf “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)

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