Music and Social Emotional Learning:

A Dynamic Duo


Hawaiʻi is one of only seven majority minority states in the country. More than any other state, Hawaiʻi stands out when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity, because it never had a white majority (Goo, 2015). We, as teachers, are in a position to preserve these unique yet diverse identities by presenting music materials using a culturally responsive learning process and instilling the ho’ihi value—respecting cultural differences—in our keiki. Through the skillful use in our classrooms of a dynamic duo—music and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)—we can help our children self-regulate, recognize their identities and potential, make wise decisions, be responsible to their communities, cultivate a well-being mentality, and exhibit the Aloha spirit and a vigorous sense of Hawaiʻi.

The following details a project for teachers to incorporate SEL into the music classroom. It is suitable for all elementary/middle/intermediate school students, regardless of previous music experience, including students who completed general music in elementary school and students new to music at the intermediate level. Under the National Core Standards, the latter will be categorized under the intermediate NOVICE level. The project units are NOT actual lesson plans. Teachers are invited to sequence the activities creatively and to supplement them with other activities appropriate to the level of their students.

The project consists of a music component and an SEL component: The music component covers elements such as harmony, texture, form, dynamics, tone colors, and styles. The contents page lists the concepts in the sequence they are presented. The sections detail materials used to teach each concept. Materials include Asian Pacific pieces such as Samoan, Hawaiian, and Korean; various styles such as folk, pop, jazz, protest, and classical music; and tone colors of classical instruments.

The SEL component follows the CASEL “framework wheel” that includes self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making (Casel, 2023). Teachers may use music activities to help students express their emotional feelings with their peers, which is especially helpful during challenging times.

The suggested activities are music-based; we use SEL as an approach to be integrated into the music lessons rather than as a methodology. Also, we enhance the SEL component by relating the HĀ: BREATH outcomes to SEL’s five competencies. Connecting both standards to music teaching creates a powerful tool for teachers to use to explore in-depth how students relate music to their emotions.


See full article here.


  • Unit 1 & 2: Katherine Alarcio, Janice Boychuk, Lauren Fagaragan, Chet-Yeng Loong, and Kevin Morita.
  • *Unit 3-9: Chet-Yeng Loong

Mahalo for feedback and suggestions from Katherine Alarcio, Janice Boychuk, Holly Cowdery, Lauren Fagaragan, and Kevin Morita.


Copyright 2023.

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